When Zack Greinke was taken off the mound in top of the 6th of the KC Royals' last game of the 2023 season, the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation. Everyone in the unusually full Kauffman Stadium knew it would be his last appearance as a Royal, the team that drafted him in 2002, and most assumed that it would be the last time they'd ever see him pitch. Although Greinke never directly announced an intention to retire, it wasn't an unfair assumption to make that 2023 would be his last season; he was 39 years old and at the end of a one-year contract with the team he'd debuted with 20 seasons earlier. Securing one last win at home in Kansas City seemed like the perfect bookend.
However, it seems like Greinke isn't done. Last week, he announced his intention to pitch in 2024 after some equivocating following the end of the season. The Royals, who have already spent $105 million this offseason on free agents, including two starters, seem unlikely to take him back, despite the well-deserved fondness for him in Kansas City. Greinke could be seen as a risk in a lot of ways — he's 40 years old and he struggled this year with the Royals — but there is also upside. He's a veteran, has never pitched less than 120 innings in a season apart from the COVID year, and his ERA just last year was a respectable 3.68.
If the Royals don't take Greinke back, there are still teams who might be interested in his service. Here are three who he might suit up for in 2024.
3 teams Zack Greinke could return with after Royals farewell bombed
The Twins reportedly offered Greinke a deal in 2022, prior to his homecoming re-signing with the Royals that brought him back after 11 seasons. Might they be inclined to extend him an invitation again? Minnesota has lost two members of their starting rotation to free agency this year: Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, moving Chris Paddack, if he can stay healthy, and Louie Varland, if he can step up as a starter, into projected backend rotation roles unless the Twins sign replacements for Gray and Maeda, which they haven't seemed inclined to do so far this offseason.
Adding Greinke as a possible sixth starter to alternate with Varland could give the team the best of both worlds. Varland is young, but he struggled through 68 innings in short starts and relief this season. Greinke is old, but he has consistently been able to give his teams 130+ innings of work every season, has an old reputation as a fearsome pitcher, and would almost certainly sign a one-year contract worth less than $10 million (his last contract with Kansas City was one year, $8.5 million). Putting them together as a joint No. 5 could give Varland some more innings to get his feet wet, while also giving Greinke the additional year in the majors he's looking for.