As it stands now, the KC Royals will likely enter spring training next February, and then the regular season, the same way they did this year—with an unsettled starting rotation marked by uncertainty, inconsistency, and instability.
Manager Mike Matheny recently expanded his five-man rotation to six, but it’s a baseball sextet composed of hurlers capable of pitching superbly, or terribly, on any given night. Carlos Hernandez and Daniel Lynch are presently the best of the bunch, Brad Keller, and Kris Bubic are improving but still unpredictable, Brady Singer’s brilliance flashes but is fleeting (he still resists the changeup) and, despite sharing the club lead in wins (eight) with Keller, Mike Minor has been largely disappointing in the first year of his two-year contract.
Danny Duffy was the closest thing to consistency this season, but injuries sidelined him twice and the club traded him to the Dodgers in July. Jackson Kowar, disappointing in his brief visit to the big leagues earlier this year, may be ready in 2022, but that certainly remains to be seen. His degree of recovery and rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery will determine whether Daniel Tillo can join the KC Royals as a starter.
Could help come from the outside? Will principal owner John Sherman task General Manager Dayton Moore with procuring a reliable, sure-thing veteran starter to anchor KC’s rotation?
If so, Moore should remember it never hurts to ask, and give Zack Greinke a call. The conversation might not last long, but it really doesn’t hurt or cost anything to ask.
Would Zack Greinke consider a return to the KC Royals after this season?
I don’t know what makes Greinke, a man who marches to his own beat and generates a wealth of interesting stories, tick. I also don’t know precisely why the former Royal star wanted out of Kansas City over 10 years ago, but abundantly clear is that it had much to do with wanting to win, and winning was in short supply in KC when Greinke was the best pitcher the club had.
What I do know, though, is Greinke can still pitch superbly. He is, like all hurlers who ultimately must make changes to prolong their careers, not the same pitcher who won the Cy Young with the KC Royals in 2009, going 16-8 with a major league-leading 2.16 ERA. (He had an even better 1.66 ERA when he was 19-3 with the Dodgers in 2015).
He shows no obvious signs of slowing significantly, and proved as much in his two recent starts against the Royals—both were quality starts, and he allowed Kansas City just three runs in 12 innings. His motion is still free, easy, and seemingly effortless. His stuff is still there; so is his steely mound presence. He went 18-5, 2.93 in 2019, the last season statistics meant what they normally do and, other than 2020’s truncated campaign when he was 3-3, Greinke hasn’t won less than 10 games since 2007. His career victories total 219.
And his contract is just about up. It expires when the Astros’ 2021 season does and, unless he signs an extension with Houston, he’ll become a free agent, together with many others, when the World Series concludes this fall.
Although he’s 37 and will turn 38 before this season’s Series begins, Greinke is sure to attract an abundance of suitors if he hits the market this winter.
But will he listen if Dayton Moore calls? Possibly.
Remember, Zack Greinke is his own man who, if he’s wanted there, will go where he wants to go. The idea of a Royal reunion might intrigue him—perhaps he’d relish the idea of helping Kansas City reclaim contender status and helping the club’s young rotation mature and flourish. Coming back to Kauffman Stadium, and maybe even finishing his career with the Royals, would bring his potential Hall of Fame career full circle.
In the KC Royals’ favor is what seems to be Greinke’s lack of ill-feeling for the club. His current contract’s no-trade clause doesn’t include Kansas City. And in his own way, he appears to have paid the Royals a recent compliment:
So, maybe Greinke would consider a Kansas City encore; maybe he’s so financially secure that he won’t require the kind of mega-contract the Royals can’t, or won’t, offer.
It never hurts to ask.
Zack Greinke is headed for free agency. Could he choose to end his career where it started—with the KC Royals?