White Sox fans know Zack Greinke all too well.
He spent seven of his 15 years in the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals and has made 27 appearances against the South Siders. And in those 27 appearances he racked up more strikeouts of White Sox hitters than all but one other team he's faced in his career: 147 punch outs against the White Sox versus 186 against the Colorado Rockies.
Well, how would those fans feel about him finding his way into a White Sox uniform?
According to a Wednesday report from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who currently have Greinke under contract for three more seasons, could be planning a major selloff this winter.
The Arizona #Dbacks could be the most popular team this winter among GMs with the Dbacks expect to strip down the team and rebuild, with virtually everyone on the trade block. They'd love to move Zack Greinke, and will even listen on franchise icon Paull Goldschmidt.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 10, 2018
The White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this offseason, with a gaping hole in their rotation thanks to Michael Kopech's Tommy John surgery. Kopech will miss the entirety of the 2019 campaign, and if the White Sox opt not to bring back James Shields, that will make for another spot that needs filling.
There are a couple routes the White Sox could go. They can add one-year fill-ins and wait until Kopech and Dylan Cease join the rotation in 2020 (perhaps Cease could follow a similar path to Kopech and end up in the majors by the end of the 2019 season). Or they can add higher caliber pitchers on longer term deals as a safety net for their young starters, who might still be experiencing growing pains two seasons down the line.
Acquiring Greinke — or another D-backs starting pitcher, Robbie Ray — via trade would fall under the latter strategy.
Greinke would certainly improve a White Sox rotation that led baseball in walks and had a 5.07 ERA during the 2018 season. He finished with a 3.21 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 207.2 innings this season, making his fifth All-Star team. He's got four Gold Gloves under his belt and finished in the top 10 in NL Cy Young voting four times from 2013 to 2017 (he also won the AL Cy Young Award in 2009).
Ray, meanwhile, had a sensational 2017 season, posting a 2.89 ERA and logging 218 strikeouts for the second straight year. He made the All-Star team and finished seventh in the NL Cy Young vote. His 2018 wasn't as good, as he dealt with a pair of injuries and was limited to 123.2 innings. Still, his K/9 was nearly identical to the NL-best 12.1 he put up in 2017. He finished this year with a 3.93 ERA.
However, neither addition would be a no-brainer for the rebuilding White Sox. Greinke will be 35 in a few days, not exactly putting the "young" in "young and controllable." While Ray just turned 27, he's missing the "controllable" part of that combination, with just two seasons remaining until he hits free agency.
Obviously there's the cost in prospects in making such a trade. If the D-backs are planning a full-scale rebuild, well White Sox fans know what the trades that jump start that process look like. Adding either guy would cost a pretty penny in prospects. And while the White Sox have the prospect depth to one day pull off such a trade that could vault them into contention mode, it still seems a bit early for that kind of deal.
Also, as would be the case with any long-term addition made at this point in the White Sox rebuilding process, it's a mystery how much contending would actually be happening during the years these pitchers would be under control. Contending by 2020 is a possibility for the White Sox, but is it enough of one to trade away valuable prospects for a two-year shot with Ray? Or what if the White Sox are still putting the finishing touches on the rebuild when Greinke's contract runs out?
There's another side of that coin, though, and that's a player the caliber of Greinke or Ray moving the process along and getting the White Sox to contention mode sooner.
Looking at the free-agent market doesn't yield a ton of exciting possibilities for the White Sox to fill the holes in their starting rotation, though, and that's where the trade market could become an interesting option. Here are two All-Star pitchers who could be heading to that market who we weren't thinking about until now.