3:46pm: More specifically, Rosenthal tweets that the Astros are taking on $53MM of the remaining money owed to Greinke.
3:38pm: MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets that Houston is paying about two-thirds of the roughly $77MM remaining on Greinke’s deal.
3:11pm: In a last-minute trade deadline stunner, the Astros have agreed to acquire right-hander Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (via Twitter).
Right-handers Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas — the former of whom is recovering from Tommy John surgery — are headed to the D-backs as part of the swap, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that first baseman Seth Beer and infielder Josh Rojas are also going to the Diamondbacks (Twitter link). ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted that a total of four players are going to Arizona in the deal, so it seems that quartet, which is comprised of Houston’s best non-Kyle Tucker and non-Forrest Whitley prospects, will be the entire deal.
The buzzer-beating trade transforms an already-imposing Astros one-two rotation punch to a genuine postseason powerhouse. The 2019 Greinke trade harkens back to 2017’s acquisition of Justin Verlander for the Astros, and Greinke will now join Verlander and Gerrit Cole as the most formidable 1-2-3 combination in the American League (if not all of baseball).
Greinke is earning $31.5MM in 2019 and is still owed another $10.5MM of that salary between now and season’s end. He’s also under contract in both 2020 and 2021, with a $32MM salary owed to him in each season. He also still has multiple payouts on his prorated signing bonus coming his way — $3MM in 2020 and 2021 — and receives a $2MM signing bonus by virtue of being traded. A third of his salary in 2019-21 is deferred and will be paid out in annual payment of $12.5MM from 2022-26, thus reducing at least some of the immediate financial implications for Houston.
Greinke’s six-year, $206.5MM contract with the Diamondbacks, signed in the 2015-16 offseason, set a then-record for the largest average annual salary ever promised to a player. And while the first season of that deal looked to be an ominous step backward from the former Cy Young winner’s Hall of Fame trajectory, he’s righted the ship and then some in the ensuing two and a half seasons.
Dating back to 2017, Greinke has racked up 551 innings of 3.12 ERA ball with 8.9 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 and a ground-ball rate near 45 percent. He’s been particularly effective in 2019 despite the league-wide home run boom, spinning 141 frames of 2.87 ERA ball with a 0.89 HR/9 average that is actually his lowest since 2015. Greinke was shelled for seven runs in his first start of the season, but over his past 21 outings he has a 2.49 ERA and a 2.77 FIP, underscoring that even with his 36th birthday looming in October, he’s still a bona fide top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
The acquisition of Greinke is all the more vital for the Astros when glancing at their future outlook. Cole is slated to become a free agent at season’s end, as are left-hander Wade Miley and right-hander Collin McHugh. That’s three rotation options all departing, and with Martin undergoing Tommy John surgery and Whitley struggling, the most big-league-ready of Houston’s farmhands suddenly looked less certain to be 2020 contributors. (Whitley certainly still could be, of course.) The organization hopes to have Lance McCullers Jr. back from Tommy John surgery next season, but an immediate return to form is far from a sure thing.
Now, with Greinke and fellow controllable acquisition Aaron Sanchez joining the team, the Astros have a pair of options to team with Verlander and whichever internal options are up to the task. (Sanchez, alternatively, could also work out of the bullpen.) Landing Greinke lessens the organization’s urgency to pay top dollar for Cole on the open market as well; Cole himself seems likely to pursue a $200MM+ contract on the open market this winter and seems like a good bet to secure $150MM+ even if he doesn’t quite attain that rarefied air.
More to come.