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Zach Greinke's Astronomical Fantasy Value


Nothing is ever completely quiet at the deadline, only often boring. But this year it was eerily silent on the day of the new hard trade deadline as only minor tremors shook the market. Sure, the typical moves were made that make fans shrug, as their teams shored up the back of their rotations, bullpens, and bench.  But what everyone really wanted to know was about the BIG move that almost everyone expected was coming. Where would Noah Syndergaard be traded?

Nowhere, it turns out, as the deadline came and passed without the Mets moving either Syndergaard or Zach Wheeler (who also seemed a lock to be traded). Instead, the best kind of big trade happened. The one no one sees coming because the only people who knew about it were the principles involved and they weren't talking.

Having moved on from Thor, the Astros dropped their own hammer as news broke that they had acquired Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks, thus changing the narratives of the trade deadline and the rest of the season, as well as making themselves the seemingly prohibitive World Series favorite, all in one fell swoop.

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Coming Back to America(n)

The American League, that is, as Zack Greinke comes back to the AL after spending almost nine years on the Senior Circuit. Besides the obvious (states, teammates, how chili should be made), what is changing for the 35-year old as he now finds himself on a World Series contender?

Home Park

With the move, Greinke goes from Chase Field to Minute Maid Park, where the Astros will play 29 of their remaining 52 games. Since the introduction of a humidor system in 2018, Chase Field has been reduced from a hitter's paradise to a more subdued hitter's park, with "only" a 103 Park Factor in 2018, reduced from their previous three-year average of 108. Houston, on the other hand, is a sneaky pitcher's park whose 94 Park Factor over the previous three seasons is tied for the third-lowest in baseball.

Greinke: Advantage

Division/Remaining Schedule

Arizona has an unbalanced schedule remaining, with 32 of their remaining 53 games coming at home. While the humidor has reduced the hitter-friendly nature of Chase Field, its 2018 Park Factor was still tied for the league's 10th-highest. Outside the less than friendly home-confines of Chase, Arizona has 21 remaining road games, nine of which come in Cincinnati (third-highest Park Factor in 2018), Milwaukee (15th), and Colorado (as in, Coors).

Arizona also has four games remaining against the World Series contending Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as four against the Mets, who apparently fancy themselves a contender. On the other hand, the Astros end their season on the virtual cupcake-trail, playing 30 of their final 52 games against the non-contending Royals, Mariners, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox, Angels, and Rangers.

Greinke: Advantage

Run Support/Bullpen

It probably doesn't need to be explained that Greinke now has much better hitters playing with him on the division-leading Astros, than he did on the Diamondbacks. But while Greinke's 5.07 runs-per-game of support puts him squarely in the middle of pitchers making at least 15 starts, the true devil is in the details, as Greinke failed to pick up a win eight times after giving up three runs or fewer, with five of those outings being two runs or less. And like an exclamation point on his Diamondbacks career, Greinke ended his Arizona tenure by giving up only five runs in his final three starts while collecting zero wins.

But if Greinke is going to snatch more wins down the fantasy homestretch, his biggest advantage may lie in his new bullpen, as the Diamondback's pen was merely average, sitting squarely in the middle of the league in most important metrics. In contrast, Houston bullpen has the league's 4th-best ERA as well as the lowest xFIP in baseball.

Greinke: Advantage

 

Fantasy Dreaming

All that is well and good but how does that affect Greinke in regard to what's really important? As in, your fantasy team. How does the trade change his value for the rest of the season in redraft leagues? What about for dynasty players?

The Here and Now (Redraft)

Greinke's stuff hasn't changed and it's probably not going to change in the next two months. He was a must-start pitcher with Arizona and he's still a must-start with Houston. In a vacuum, Greinke's fantasy stat-line has the best chance of improving in the wins column, for all the reasons laid out previously. But given the easier schedule, the friendly home park, no Coors, etc...it's not unreasonable to expect bumps in his ratios as well. So if you already have Greinke and plan on keeping him around, then the move to Houston will likely provide a moderate upgrade to his fantasy earnings.

But should you keep him? If contending with Greinke as the lynchpin of your pitching staff, then yes; you should probably hold on unless overwhelmed by an offer. But if Greinke is your number two or three? It might be time to do some dealing as the fantasy trade deadline approaching, with Greinke's value unlikely to ever be higher as everyone is awash and flush with the hype that comes with such a big trade. Selling off Greinke to an owner dreaming of Houston's pitching magic could go a long way towards patching any roster holes you may have as we enter the dog days of the fantasy season.

The Future, Conan? (Dynasty 2019 and Beyond)

While selling high on Greinke may be the best strategy in redrafts, as taking advantage of the margins that lie in inflated markets is one of the keys to fantasy success, targeting him in dynasty may be a better course. Because just as everyone knows that Tinker Bell and all the other residents of Pixie Hollow have a magic tree that makes them pixie dust, everyone knows Tal's Hill was removed from Minute Maid Park only because that's where GM Jeff Luhnow decided to hide the tree that makes the Astros' magic pitching dust.

The Houston-Effect (copyright-pending) is what you'd be betting on if you decide to trade for Greinke in dynasty. And why not? Every year, half the fantasy world decides that this is the year that Greinke will stop getting away with his ever-diminishing velocity and stop being a top-20 pitcher. And yet, he persists. Unless he starts throwing 85 mph (which is certainly on the table), the year-long Houston Astros version of Greinke is unlikely to suddenly fall off a cliff with his skills and regress himself out of the top-40.

Is the 35-year old guaranteed to be in the top-20 again in 2020? Of course not. But if you can acquire him closer to the cost of the average aging pitcher with velocity problems, instead of the statistical metronome that Greinke's been, sign yourself up.

 

Best Bets

In the end, the most likely outcome is that Greinke is about the same pitcher that he was in Arizona but now with more wins. So if you hold on to him this year, you're unlikely to be disappointed. But remember that it's the savvy fantasy GM who doesn't always stay static with the safe plays but instead watches for that bloated market and stays brave when the time to pounce arrives.

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