Zack Greinke Free Agency: Top 3 Potential Landing Spots

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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke throws during the third inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Rachael Millanta @rachaelmillanta Jun 16, 2023, 6:49 PM
  • Zack Greinke will become a free agent at the end of 2023.
  • This is his 20th major-league season, having debuted with the Kansas City Royals in 2004.
  • Greinke returned to the Royals in 2022, where he says he hopes to end his career.

During the 2021-22 MLB lockout, veteran starter Zack Greinke told reporters he wanted to finish his career with the team that started it — the Kansas City Royals. Now back with the team for his second stint, that dream farewell may be upon us sooner rather than later.

The Royals selected Greinke in the first round of the 2002 MLB Draft, and he debuted with the team on May 23, 2004. He won a Cy Young Award and received his first All-Star selection in Kansas City, but he reportedly requested to be traded before the 2011 season, citing not wanting to play for a rebuilding team.

Greinke went on to play for the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Houston Astros, but the Royals always had his heart. He signed a one-year, $13 million contract to return to Kansas City for the 2022 season and then a one-year, $8.5 million deal for 2023. Greinke was the team’s Opening Day starter both years.

A six-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner, there’s no denying Greinke has had an illustrious career, and even in his 20th major-league season, the achievements just keep coming. On May 15, Greinke became the fifth pitcher in MLB history to strike out 1,000 unique batters over his career, joining Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux with the achievement.

As of June 16, Greinke’s posted an ERA of 4.65 with a 1.13 WHIP and 54 strikeouts through 14 starts. Admittedly, these are some of the worst stats of his career, but that’s far more a reflection of how incredible his earlier years were than a judgment of his current performance. Age has taken its toll on his fastball velocity (which now sits in the high 80s), but Greinke’s numbers are still a long way from bad. He’s still a fantastic pitcher.

So with free agency looming once again, is it really time for the 39-year-old to retire, or does he have another season in him after 2023?

Zack Greinke: Potential Landing Spots

Kansas City Royals

If Greinke wants to keep playing, I doubt the Royals will turn him away, but they’ll want a very team-friendly deal. Kansas City paid him $13 million in 2022, but that went down to $8.5 million in 2023. If he wants to return next season, the Royals will likely want to pay even less, even if the contract is chock-full of incentives.

The fact that Greinke has returned to the Royals at all, especially considering their current position in the standings, means he’s no longer chasing a World Series title, and money is unlikely to be a significant determining factor either. He wants his career to end where it started, and if he sees another season in his future, I expect Greinke will be quite open to compromise to make it happen.

After all, who doesn’t love a poetic full-circle moment?

Retirement

Greinke has said he would like to end his career with the Royals, and there’s a very real possibility if the team doesn’t offer a new deal (or even if they do), he may choose to retire.

At 39 years old, the ace has had an incredible career, even if a World Series title never quite made it into his trophy cabinet. Greinke is almost certainly headed for the MLB Hall of Fame, and if he hangs up his glove after 2023, he’ll be going out on a high.

St. Louis Cardinals

I think it’s substantially more likely that Greinke returns to the Royals or opts to retire, but if he does end up a free agent, the Cardinals may be interested in a one-year deal.

Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery are both in their final years of club control, and Adam Wainwright is retiring at the end of the season, so the Cardinals are likely to be in the market for at least one starter this winter. Acquiring a reliable and high-performing veteran starter on a team-friendly deal would likely be very appealing, especially with the way they’re playing this year.

St. Louis is having a pretty abysmal season in 2023, and pitching has been a particularly rough area. They’ve dug themselves a hole so deep that I doubt there’s any getting out of it this year, but I won’t be surprised to see some big moves in the offseason to avoid a repeat in 2024. A leader in the dugout never goes astray, and perhaps Greinke is exactly what the Cardinals need.

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About the Author

Rachael Millanta

Read More @rachaelmillanta

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.