Of all the questions facing the 106-loss KC Royals, the answer to one seems pretty clear.
Zack Greinke will retire. The signs are there. Despite pitching so well in Sunday's season finale, his 2-15, 5.06 ERA record this year rivals the 5-17, 5.80 he put up in 2005 for the worst of his 20-year big league career. His body isn't what it was — after spending time on the Injured List last season with a right flexor strain and then forearm tightness, he returned there twice this season, first with right shoulder tendinitis, then with a right elbow issue. And he doesn't pitch into the late innings anymore.
Other signs point to retirement. Fans watched as he secured game balls, presumably for souvenirs, from the last two games he pitched, and scanned the stands for his family as he left the mound both times. Players who do those things are often in the process of retiring.
But where all those signs seem to point may not be where Greinke is headed.
Why future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke might come back to the KC Royals
After coming off the IL in late August, Greinke provided evidence that he can still pitch. Relying not on power, but instead on a variety of pitches with which he kept hitters off-balance and guessing, and showing no signs of injury after-effects, he pitched six times down the stretch (four starts and two relief appearances) and posted a 3.91 ERA, his second-best monthly mark of the season. In short, Greinke looked like a pitcher who still offers value.
And speaking of value, Greinke's worth to the Royals off the mound is a matter of record. He's known as a sharp student of the game, an excellent mentor and counselor of younger players, and a veteran role model whose work ethic his teammates admire and respect.
The offseason should also give Greinke the important opportunity to rest, heal, and refresh his right arm and shoulder.
Greinke also appears content and comfortable with the Royals, and they with him; coming back to Kansas City, and not anywhere else in what would surely be his final season, makes sense if he doesn't retire.
What role, though, could Kansas City carve out for Greinke if he returns? Because he's most effective when called upon to pitch just three or four innings, he might be ideal as an opener or mid-innings reliever.
If Zack Greinke wants to return, should the KC Royals have him back?
This is ground we've plowed before in this space and, all things considered, our opinion really hasn't changed: it's probably best if the Royals rely on someone else next season.
But what the Royals should do, and then end up doing, aren't always the same.