The Hot Stove is lit. Baseball’s free agent and trade markets are open, the annual General Managers Meeting, where big moves are occasionally made ahead of next month’s Winter Meetings and KC Royals GM J.J. Picollo is hopefully hunting new talent, begin today, and predictions of transactions big and small are beginning to crowd baseball media.
Everyone knows the Royals could stand improvement, especially in the starting rotation and bullpen. Whether Picollo tries to bolster his pitching staff via trades, Kansas City’s preferred method of acquiring players, remains to be seen. He might test the free agent waters, but the franchise’s usual financial constraints mean he won’t give a minute’s thought to ultra-expensive hurlers like Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, both of whom are on the market.
But that doesn’t mean the Royals won’t pursue a veteran free agent starter.
Their decision to do so should be quick and easy.
The KC Royals should try to bring back starting pitcher Zack Greinke.
The business of building a stronger rotation for 2023 won’t require the Kansas City brain trust to look far. Right in their own back yard is future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke, who reunited with the club after an 11-year absence when he signed a one-year deal with KC last March.
Proximity and familiarity can help keep the process simple. So can the number of their own free agents the Royals have to worry about.
One. Greinke is Kansas City’s only free agent, which means Picollo and his front office team can focus on Greinke without having to split their attention, time and resources between him and others.
The Royals also don’t have to worry about a Qualifying Offer, which MLB has established for this winter at $19.65 million. The QO the Dodgers extended him seven years ago extinguished his eligibility to ever receive another. And it’s likely Greinke and the Royals can agree to a contract number less than the $13 million he earned this season.
Can it get any easier? Yes—Kansas City has the exclusive right to negotiate with Greinke for the first five days of free agency, which haven’t yet passed.
Is there mutual interest, though, in getting a deal done?
The KC Royals and Zack Greinke both seem interested in Greinke coming back.
Greinke expressed his affection for the club and city late this season, telling MLB.com KC beat writer Anne Rogers:
"“I wouldn’t say there’s over-the-top amount of talent, but there’s a lot of talented players here. Lot of position players and pitchers. They’re great with my kids. They treat the family good. We like the city. A lot of good things in Kansas City.”"
And Picollo hasn’t made any secret of the organization’s desire to bring Greinke back.
His 2022 numbers also justify signing Greinke to a new deal. His 3.68 ERA was second only to Singer’s 3.23 among regular members of the rotation, and his control—1.77 BB/9—was good. And while only four of his 2022 decisions were wins, he was, like other Royal starters, too frequently the victim of bad run support.
That Greinke can still pitch and get batters out is obvious. But there’s more to him than that—he was by all accounts a leader and valuable mentor and tutor of the Royals’ young hurlers this season, commodities not easily found in active players. Such added value is something KC shouldn’t let get away.
Picollo needs to bring Greinke aboard for next season.
Kansas City should re-sign Zack Greinke.