Top Five Landing Spots for Zack Greinke Outside of Kansas City

Future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke is looking to prolong his career, but playing for the Royals might no longer be an option.

Zack Greinke
CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 03: Starting pitcher Zack Greinke #23 of the Kansas City Royals reacts as he walks off the field after the sixth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on October 03, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

When Zack Greinke signed with the Kansas City Royals ahead of his age-38 season, he was presumably planning to spend the last year(s) of his career where it all began. The Royals, too, were most likely thinking Greinke would retire in Kansas City, making for a storybook ending to a remarkable career.

Yet after a couple of productive seasons in his old stamping grounds, Greinke remains hungry for more. While he briefly seemed to consider retirement this winter, his agents announced last week that he would seek to play at least one more year.

The Royals, however, might not have a spot for their long-time ace anymore. With the additions of Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo, their 2024 rotation looks to be complete:

Pitcher2023 Stats
Cole Ragans (LHP)96 IP, 3.47 ERA, 2.2 fWAR
Seth Lugo (RHP)146.1, 3.57 ERA, 2.8 fWAR
Michael Wacha (RHP)134.1, 3.22 ERA, 2.6 fWAR
Brady Singer (RHP)159.2, 5.52 ERA, 1.9 fWAR
Jordan Lyles (RHP)177.2, 6.28 ERA, 0.2 fWAR
Stats via FanGraphs

Thus, as his big league tenure approaches the legal drinking age, Greinke might be looking for a new town to call home.

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The 40-year-old no longer comes with much upside, and despite his solid performance over the last two seasons, his advanced age will make potential suitors wary. For those reasons, it’s hard to imagine Greinke will sign with a surefire contender. However, for precisely the same reasons, he would make a great fit as a back-end innings eater and veteran presence on any number of rebuilding clubs.

Moreover, as a future Hall of Famer potentially playing in the final season of his career, his starts will surely draw eyeballs and put some extra butts in the seats.

So, which teams will be willing to dole out a little cash for a former superstar in the twilight of his career? Let’s take a look.

Chicago White Sox

After dealing away two-fifths of their starting rotation last summer, the White Sox need innings — and that need will only increase if they trade Dylan Cease. Here’s a look at their potential 2024 rotation without Cease:

Pitcher2023 Stats
Erick Fedde (RHP)KBO: 180.1 IP, 2.00 ERA
Michael Kopech (RHP)129.1 IP, 5.43 ERA, -0.9 fWAR
Touki Toussaint (RHP)87 IP, 4.97 ERA, 0.4 fWAR
Michael Soroka (RHP)32.1 IP, 6.40 ERA, -0.4 fWAR
Jared Shuster (LHP)52.2 IP, 5.81 ERA, 0.1 fWAR
Stats via FanGraphs

Greinke has played for six teams throughout his career, but he’s never suited up for one of the Royals’ AL Central rivals. It could be interesting to see.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have signed older veterans to short-term deals in the recent past (e.g. Nelson Cruz, John Lester), so there is precedent for a move like this.

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More importantly, this team is almost as desperate for arms as the White Sox. Here’s what their rotation could look like in 2024:

Josiah Gray (RHP)159 IP, 3.91 ERA,
MacKenzie Gore (LHP)136.1 IP, 4.42 ERA,
Jake Irvin (RHP)121 IP, 4.61 ERA,
Patrick Corbin (LHP)180 IP, 5.20 ERA,
Trevor Williams (RHP)144.1 IP, 5.55 ERA,
Stats via FanGraphs

The Nationals aren’t quite as desperate for innings as they are for quality innings. For what it’s worth, the Steamer projection system thinks Greinke will post a lower ERA (4.61) than all but one of Washington’s starters in 2024 – MacKenzie Gore who is projected to finish with a respectable 4.16 mark.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The fit here isn’t quite as perfect after Pittsburgh signed Martin Pérez to a one-year, $8 million deal. Then again, the fact that the Pirates signed Pérez is further evidence that this is the kind of deal they like to make. Over the past three years, they have signed eight veteran free agents age 33 or older to one-year contracts.

This is what their starting rotation looks like with Pérez in the fold:

Pitcher2023 Stats
Mitch Keller (RHP)194.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 3.3 fWAR
Martin Pérez (LHP)141.2 IP, 4.45 ERA, 0.5 fWAR
Marco Gonzales (LHP)50 IP, 5.22 ERA, 0.6 fWAR
Luis L. Ortiz (RHP)86.2 IP, 4.78 ERA, -0.3 fWAR
Bailey Falter (LHP)80.2 IP, 5.36, 0.4 fWAR
Stats via FanGraphs

Without a doubt, there’s still plenty of room for improvement here. This rotation is practically begging for another dependable right-handed starter, at least until Quinn Priester figures things out.

Los Angeles Angels

Perhaps the Angels are technically contenders — or at least they view themselves as such — but their lack of starting pitching depth suggests otherwise:

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Pitcher2023 Stats
Reid Detmers (LHP)148.2 IP, 4.48 ERA, 2.5 fWAR
Griffin Canning (RHP)127 IP, 4.32 ERA, 1.8 fWAR
Patrick Sandoval (LHP)144.2 IP, 4.11 ERA, 2.3 fWAR
Chase Silseth (RHP)52.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 0.2 fWAR
Tyler Anderson (LHP)141 IP, 5.43 ERA, 1.1 fWAR
Stats via FanGraphs

The Angels are counting on Patrick Sandoval and Tyler Anderson to bounce back in 2024, but that’s far from a sure thing, especially for the soon-to-be 34-year-old Anderson. They’ll also be asking a lot of Chase Silseth, who made just eight starts last year and might be better suited for a bullpen role long-term.

If the Angels are truly going to contend next season, they’ll need more top-end talent than Reid Detmers leading their rotation. However, they’re also going to need more arms just to get through the season, and that’s where Greinke enters the picture.

Texas Rangers

One of these things is not like the others…

Needless to say, the defending World Series champions aren’t rebuilding. However, the Rangers could be an interesting wild card for Greinke’s services nonetheless.

With three of their five starters on the injured list for the beginning of the 2024 season, the Rangers need arms. However, they’re unlikely to sign someone who would create a logjam when Tyler Mahle, Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom eventually return. 

Pitcher2023 Key Stats
Nathan Eovaldi (RHP)144 IP, 3.63 ERA, 2.5 fWAR
Jon Gray (RHP)157.1 IP, 4.12 ERA, 1.8 fWAR
Andrew Heaney (LHP)147.1 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.3 fWAR
Dane Dunning (RHP)172.2 IP, 3.70 ERA, 2.1 fWAR
Cody Bradford (LHP)56 IP, 5.30 ERA, 0.3 fWAR
Stats via FanGraphs

Greinke is a dependable arm to eat innings over the first few months of the season, but the Rangers won’t be afraid to move on from him (if necessary) when the time comes. Most likely, they’ll have a role for him all year if he earns it — more injuries will inevitably pop up — but if not, they shouldn’t have a problem trading him or eating the few million remaining on his contract.

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For his part, Greinke might be hesitant to sign with a team that won’t have a guaranteed role for him all year long. Then again, the chance to pitch for a true contender one last time – and possibly win his first World Series title – could outweigh any downside.