NEW YORK (AP) — The Houston Astros acquired ace Zack Greinke on Wednesday, adding another All-Star to a formidable rotation that already included Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
The AL West leaders got Greinke in a startling trade with Arizona for four minor leaguers, a deal in which the Diamondbacks agreed to pay the Astros $26 million to cover much of the roughly $76 million the pitcher is due. It came right before the deadline to complete deals to have players eligible for the postseason.
"We are just really shocked and ecstatic," Cole said before Houston played at Cleveland, adding, "I'm really proud to be an Astro right now."
Cole said when the players learned of the deal there was "a lot of hooting and hollering at 4:07. We are ecstatic. We're getting a Hall of Fame pitcher, a craftsman."
Greinke pitched five innings earlier in the day at Yankee Stadium, giving up two runs to New York. He is 10-4 with a 2.90 ERA this season.
The 35-year-old Greinke left the ballpark without commenting to reporters. The trade was officially announced after 5:30 p.m., following Arizona's 7-5 loss.
The Astros won the 2017 World Series and lost the 2018 ALCS to eventual champion Boston. They loaded up again with Greinke, getting a six-time All-Star and the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner.
Greinke's addition gives the Astros four starting pitchers with ERAs in the top 15 in the majors this year. Verlander is fifth with a 2.73 ERA, Greinke is ninth, Cole is 11th at 2.94 and Wade Miley ranks 14th at 3.06.
Verlander leads the AL in wins (14) and ERA, and Cole tops with the majors with 212 strikeouts.
Before the team confirmed the deal, Astros manager AJ Hinch didn't want to show too much excitement while knowing he was getting one of baseball's most consistent pitchers.
"I know he's an Astro," Hinch said. "I know he's really good. I don't know him personally, but I'm going to get to know him. We acquired him because of how good he is. Certainly we expect him to be a big part of our push to win the division and keep winning into October. He's an incredible pitcher."
There was a palpable buzz in Houston's clubhouse. Cole credited owner Jim Crane, general manager Jeff Luhnow and the front office staff for their hard work in making the trade happen.
"What a pickup," Cole said. "They nailed it. They did a magnificent job."
Arizona agreed to send Houston $24 million to offset much of the $74,161,290 Greinke is owed in salary plus $2 million to cover the assignment bonus he gets for being traded. The Diamondbacks pay the Astros $2 million on Nov. 1 for the assignment bonus and pay Houston $3,333,333 on Oct. 15 plus $10,333,333 each on July 1 in 2020 and 2021.
Greinke's $206.5 million, six-year contract includes a $31.5 million salary for this year - which has $10,161,290 remaining - plus $32 million in each of the next two seasons. His deal defers $10.5 million in 2019 salary and $11 million in each of the next two years, and Houston assumes responsibility for the deferred money being accrued starting Thursday.
The Astros, who began the day with an eight-game division lead over Oakland, also acquired two other pitchers, getting starter Aaron Sanchez and reliever Joe Biagini from Toronto.
"Houston made some big deals. They're really good. They were good before," Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said.
For Greinke, the Diamondbacks got right-handers J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin, outfielder Seth Beer and infielder Joshua Rojas.
For Biagini, Sanchez and minor league outfielder, the Blue Jays acquired outfielder Derek Fisher. The Astros also sent catcher Max Stassi to the Angels for minor league outfielders Rainier Rivas and Raider Uceta.
Sanchez was 3-14 with a 6.07 ERA. A 2016 All-Star, the 27-year-old righty has been sidelined by fingernail problem in the past.
"One opportunity that I get to do is to go down to Houston and learn from guys like Justin Verlander, like Gerrit Cole, who's had an unbelievable year. Like Zack Greinke who's won a couple of Cy Youngs himself. The opportunity to play playoff baseball and a chance to win a ring," he said. "This is why you play the game. To be able to have that opportunity again, I'm thrilled."
Biagini, 29-year-old righty, was 3-1 with one save and a 3.86 ERA in 49 games.
"You go and look at their roster and they're all... these guys are really good. It's a fun feeling to think that a team like that with such good players would want someone like me to contribute," Biagini said. "And, so I was wondering if I was going to get traded if it would be a team in the U.S. It turned out to be. That was cool. But, I do really enjoy Toronto, and playing for a whole country was really cool, and I hope that I contributed positively."
In 2017, Houston acquired Verlander from Detroit on Aug. 31, which was the last day for deals that season to make players eligible for the playoffs.
The Astros were in the market for another starter this year as the rotation behind their top three has performed inconsistently this season. Greinke provides a pronounced upgrade over the variety of pitchers they've cycled through to start behind their stars.
In a 16-year career with Kansas City, Milwaukee, the Angels, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, he's gone 197-122.
The Diamondbacks added a pitcher for their rotation, getting Mike Leake from Seattle. He recently took a perfect game into the ninth inning, and was 9-8 with a 4.34 ERA.