The Dodgers made the biggest splash in baseball off-season's free-agent signing pond, announcing today they had given the pitcher Zack Greinke a six-year contract. Greinke, 29, pitched last season for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Angels. He did all right and is generally considered an above-average but not elite pitcher; he's had one superstar season, back in 2009. But with a shortage of starters available, Greinke was the top free-agent prize on the market. So the Dodgers made him the top-paid right-hander of all time, even though he will be at best their number-two starter behind Clayton Kershaw. Greinke will be formally introduced at a press conference on Tuesday.
Phil Wallace analyzed the signing over the weekend and found a lot to question about it in a post at Native Intelligence: Greinke isn't worth $147 million, but does it matter?
And while we're on baseball, don't pass up veteran baseball writer Ron Rapoport's guest blog post explaining why his official Hall of Fame ballot contains votes for assumed steroid abusers Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others.
ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law, a former scout for the major leagues, says the Dodgers' signing of Greinke and Korean left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu makes LA the team to beat in the National League's western division:
Greinke was the top free-agent starter available this offseason and his reported six-year, $147 million contract -- now the highest ever for a right-hander -- was probably driven up by three other factors. One, the Dodgers are operating their own currency system independent of the U.S. Treasury, inspired no doubt by my great-great-great-uncle John. Two, Greinke was far and away the best starter available in free agency this year, the only one with even the potential to post a 6-WAR season. If you wanted an ace, it was Greinke or bust, with the next group of arms all looking more like good mid-rotation guys. Three, perhaps most importantly of all, baseball teams are swimming in cash, with no place else to put it but into the major league roster....
I have never bought into the argument that Greinke's history with social anxiety disorder and depression makes him a poor fit for a large market -- there's a joke to be made here about the number of therapists in L.A. -- and I'm glad to see that the Dodgers don't buy it, either. Greinke is capable of pitching at a high level in any market, and he's an unusually good bet to stay healthy because his delivery is low effort and he tends to pace himself during games, preserving his best stuff for higher-leverage situations. No starting pitcher is likely to outperform the contract Greinke just got, but he's got a better chance than most to make it look good in the end.
The Dodgers announcement on Greinke:
The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke to a six-year contract. The announcement was made by Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. “As we set out this offseason to add a front line pitcher who is capable and proven, Zack was the one we zeroed in on,” said Colletti. “We are very pleased to add a second pitcher who has won a Cy Young award to this rotation and organization. We believe he brings a lot to this team and to a pitching staff that was already very good.” Greinke, 29, will enter his 10th Major League season in 2013 after pitching for the Royals (2004-10), Brewers (2011-12) and Angels (2012) during the course of his career. He went a combined 15-5 with 3.48 ERA in 34 starts for the Brewers and Angels last season and finished the campaign on a five-game winning streak, going 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA (13 ER/57.1 IP) in his last eight starts after Aug. 24. In 2011, his only full season in the National League, Greinke tied a career high with 16 wins and his .738 winning percentage (31-11) in 62 starts during the last two seasons ranks third in the Majors, trailing only Justin Verlander (.759) and Jered Weaver (.745). Greinke is one of just 13 Major League pitchers to reach 400 strikeouts (401) since the start of the 2011 campaign and has averaged 9.40 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in that span, the sixth-best mark in the Majors. In 2009 with the Royals, Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award by a wide margin after going 16-8 with a Major League-best 2.16 ERA. That season, he was named to the AL All-Star team and ranked among the big league leaders in quality starts (26, T-2nd), complete games (6, T-2nd), shutouts (3, 2nd) and strikeouts (242, 3rd). All of those numbers represent career bests. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is 91-78 (.538) with a 3.77 ERA in 272 career games (231 starts) and has posted double-digit wins in five consecutive seasons, ranking among the Major League leaders in wins (70, T-8th), strikeouts (1007, 5th) and quality starts (109, 10th) since 2008. During the course of his career, Greinke has been tough against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .244 batting average, a .291 on-base percentage and a .373 slugging percentage. In the field, Greinke has not committed an error since July 16, 2010, a span of 76 games, and posted a .984 career fielding percentage, which is the eighth-best mark among pitchers since 2004. Greinke is a native of Orlando, FL, and he was selected in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft by Kansas City out of Apopka (FL) High School. He was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year following his senior season, when he went 9-2 with a 0.55 ERA (4 ER/65.0 IP) and 118 strikeouts. Greinke and his wife, Emily, make their home in Orlando, FL.
Photo of Greinke: ESPN.com grab