Over the last 8 years, no other pitcher has ever gotten close to touching Zack Greinke‘s 2009 season. His 9.3 fWAR was a full win ahead of Justin Verlander‘s highest mark, 1.5 fWAR higher than C.C. Sabathia’s, and 1.6 fWAR higher than Cliff Lee‘s. His 2.33 FIP was the second lowest to just Roy Halladay‘s 2011 season, and his 2.16 ERA was second to Roger Clemens‘ 2005. As great as his 2009 season was, he hasn’t stopped producing, putting up 5.1 fWAR in 2010, 4.0 in 2011, and 5.1 again in 2012. At just 29 years old next season, Greinke is one of the best right handed pitchers in baseball, and although he’s a free agent at this very moment, the Yankees have shown no interest.
With the types of numbers he puts up, you’d think that a player’s makeup issues from 8 years ago would mean very little, but to a team like the Yankees, who play in the biggest market in the MLB, makeup is one of their biggest concerns. In 2005 Greinke suffered severely from social anxiety disorder and nearly quit that same offseason. He felt he had a 10% chance of making his way back to the big leagues, but after he saw a sports psychiatrist and began taking medication, Greinke returned for the 2007 season.
After putting together two solid years of mid 3 ERA ball Greinke would go on to win the Cy Young award in 2009 with a 2.16 ERA in 229.1 IP. In his 2010 season, the righty would regress to a 4.17 ERA, but he didn’t care. Greinke is a student of Voros McCracken, Sabermetrics, and FIPs. His 3.34 FIP in 2010 was right at career rates, and he went on to repeat just about the same numbers in 2011 and 2012.
You’d imagine that most teams see his 6 consecutive years of anxiety-free baseball and think that he’d be ready for a big long term contract. Not the Yankees.
Back in 2010, the Royals offered Greinke for Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez. In hindsight the trade appears to be in favor of the Yankees, but the front office didn’t believe the pitcher was right for New York. Now that he’s available in free agency, there hasn’t been a single peep from the Yankees.
Even with the team looking at a 2014/2015 budget, without makeup concerns Greinke is the type of pitcher you go spend half the remaining salary on. The market seems to be closing in on the Dodgers, but with few other parties involved in rumors, you have to wonder how high the average annual salary will go. Perhaps the Rangers will be involved, but without a New York team or Boston involved, there aren’t many other teams I’d expect to take on $20 million a year.
If the Yankees decided to break the bank they’d have one of the best right handed starter in the game at 29 years old. If he didn’t suffer from his social anxiety disorder it’s probable the Yankees would be targeting him as the #2 pitcher for the next few years. I couldn’t imagine a player the suffers from anxiety problems undergo the ridicule this team took in the 2012 playoffs. If Swisher could break, you have to wonder if Greinke could too. Putting him in pinstripes could end up less of a dream and more of a nightmare.