The Zack Greinke dance is officially over, and the ace starter has chosen the Los Angeles Dodgers as his partner of choice. It wasn’t an easy process, as the 29-year-old righty was heavily linked to his most recent team, the Angels, and the persistent Texas Rangers before eventually deciding to take a chunk of that Dodger cash everyone’s been talking about lately. Greinke’s deal is for six years and is worth a robust $147 million, which as you have no doubt read by now is the largest sum of money ever given to a pitcher who throws with the normal hand. Left-handed people are weirdos.
Greinke is also now (barely) the highest-paid pitcher in baseball when it comes to average annual value, edging out the gigantic CC Sabathia by $500,000 a season. Traded from the Brewers to the Angels for prospects back in July, Greinke had his typical nice season in 2012, logging a 3.48 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 3.22 FIP. He struck out 8.48/9, walked 2.29/9, and wound up being worth 5.1 WAR per FanGraphs and their WAR system that actually measures what pitchers have control over. Greinke has been remarkably good since 2008, putting up war totals of 4.9, 9.3 (!), 5.1, 4.0, and 5.1 in the individual seasons since that point.
This is obviously just a massive contract, and it’s not surprising the Dodgers were the team to give it out. They’ve shown an extreme willingness to let the dollars fly where they may, and at least in Greinke’s case they acquired a man who was widely considered the best player available on the free agent market. There are all sorts of risks to be found in contracts this hefty, and as good as Greinke is, he’s going to have a hard time earning that payday. Still, there is something to be said for what the Dodgers just did. The team has money to spend, and this time they decided to give it to an actual ace still firmly in the prime of his career. Between Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, that’s an incredible top of the rotation. This isn’t the same thing as giving Brandon League elite reliever money or taking on bad contracts from the Red Sox.
Greinke isn’t going to provide the Dodgers with surplus value here, but I think there’s actually a pretty good chance he will make this contract work for the team that signed it. Much like the giant chunk of money Sabathia got from the Yankees, Greinke is one of the rare dependable starting pitchers who can command this much money and make good on it. Seeing as how I’m not a complete judgmental asshole, I’m not worried about Greinke “melting down” in Los Angeles; he’s been at the elite level for a long time, and it’s not like he hasn’t already been on a very visible stage what with him, um, pitching in the Major Leagues. Anything could happen over the course of a six-year deal, but Greinke will only be 34 at its conclusion and seems a safe bet to maintain his dominance over that span.
The Greinke signing has plenty of ramifications, as the remaining solid starters on the free agent market may start getting snatched up at a rapid pace. With Greinke off the table, guys like Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse can safely gauge the real interest of high-spending teams without having to worry about them waiting on the guy they really wanted. Since the Rangers missed out Greinke, they may also have the money to keep Josh Hamilton around if he doesn’t decide to do something totally weird and go to the Mariners. It should be a lot of fun to see how all of this plays out over the next few days or even weeks, and I think we may all end up surprised at the final results.