The vilification of Zack Greinke has already begun

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Zack Greinke started on Monday night in NLDS Game 3 against the Dodgers. He didn’t have his best stuff, but managed to hold the Dodgers — which won a major league-best 104 games and had one of the National League’s best offenses — to one run over the first four innings. Greinke yielded a solo home run to Cody Bellinger, who set the National League rookie record for home runs with 39, in the fifth and another to Austin Barnes to lead off the sixth before exiting.

Greinke’s final line — five-plus innings, three runs, four hits, five walks, four strikeouts — wasn’t pretty, but he still managed to keep the D-Backs in the game. They were never truly out of it until Paul Goldschmidt swung and missed for the final out.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, however, argues that “Greinke’s role in the Diamondbacks’ demise can’t be understated.” Hernandez wrote, “What Madison Bumgarner did in leading the San Francisco Giants to the World Series in 2014, Greinke did the exact opposite over the past week,” also referencing Greinke’s subpar performance in the NL Wild Card game against the Rockies. Later, Hernandez concludes that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was “vindicated” for not re-signing Greinke when he opted out after the 2015 season.

Friedman didn’t exactly choose not to re-sign Greinke. He offered the right-hander a five-year contract approaching $160 million. Greinke wound up taking a six-year, $206.5 million deal from the Diamondbacks. It was more that Friedman didn’t want to tack on an extra $9-10 million per year. He still wanted Greinke badly.

Furthermore, it isn’t as if Greinke is anathema to postseason success and would’ve prevented the Dodgers from getting to the NLCS. In 2013-15 with the Dodgers, Greinke made six postseason starts, putting up a 2.38 ERA with a 41/5 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. The Dodgers went 3-3 because they scored a grand total of 21 runs in those games. Greinke struggled in his two postseason starts this year in part because he faced really good offenses. The Rockies led the league averaging 5.09 runs per game. The Dodgers were sixth at 4.75. In the playoffs, one faces a higher level of competition. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. It’s usually not deeper than that.

As far as Greinke being the anti-Bumgarner, what of Paul Goldschmidt and his one hit (a home run) in 11 NLDS at-bats? David Peralta went 1-for-13. A.J. Pollock was 1-for-9 with a homer. The D-Backs scored 11 runs over the three games but five were scored on solo home runs and another five came on Goldschmidt and Brandon Drury home runs in Game 2. Only one run was knocked in via non-homer in the entire series. Greinke’s lackluster performance didn’t help, but he was just one actor in the disappointing show the D-Backs put on over the past five days.

When you make $206.5 million, you’re going to be one of the first targets for criticism and will probably be used as a prop for narrative-building. That Greinke is already being vilified after helping lead Arizona to its first playoff appearance since 2011 is not surprising. But acting like his struggles retroactively paint Friedman a genius is faulty and the D-Backs certainly aren’t regretting bringing him into town.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.