Why The Dodgers Should Let Zack Greinke Walk


Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been an influx of Zack Greinke discussion recently, maybe that’s because of a long offseason, maybe it’s because of real concern that Zack Greinke is going into the last year of his “6 year 147 million dollar contract” he signed in December of 2012. So there’s one thing for certain, that barring a serious arm injury, or severe underperformance (like a 4.50/4.50 FIP season), he’s going to opt out.

In fact, him NOT opting out would be just about the worst case scenario the Dodgers could hope. Assuming he stays healthy, and productive, him staying on a deal that offers him the least amount of job security and the least amount of earnings does not sound like a Greinke type move. What i’m getting at, is that Dodger fans should be rooting for Greinke to opt out. I’m also getting at the idea that it’s probably not the worst move for Greinke to opt out of his contract.

Take a look at the free agents available in 2016: Jeff Samardzija (31), Jordan Zimmermann (30), Rick Porcello (27), David Price (30), Mat Latos (28), Doug Fister (32) Johnny Cueto (30) and Greinke (32). These are most of the elite/high upside arms that will be available save for the wild cards like Justin Masterson (31) and Clay Buchholz (31). So that’s a nice list of options available next season, all of those names save for Fister are younger than Greinke, and there are at least 2 options that are better right now, and as many as 5 names that would probably be better than Greinke from his age 32 season onward.

A year of a player’s prime season is worth a LOT, it’s the reason why teams care so much about the “service time” dilemma. Remember the Pirates and Gregory Polanco? It was to retain a year of prime Polanco, these discussions happen all the time, meaning that the difference between 32 year old Greinke, and 30 year old David Price is pretty significant assuming that both will get hefty contracts next season.

The Dodgers are going to need to sign a front line starter, well, this:

First off, i’m not ready to pencil in Kershaw as being the best starter in baseball in 2016 because that’s another year away, and a lot can happen over the course of a year, second, assuming Ryu to throw 180 innings in any season is a clouded question because of his injury history (don’t forget the tommy john surgery back in high school), and McCarthy still has a lot to show before he’s considered to be a cornerstone in the rotation. You can play this game with any team including the Nationals, but the value that is lost by losing a top flight starter like Greinke is significant. And if you’re banking on Julio Urias becoming a front line type starter in 2016, well I have a bridge to sell you.

The point is, this team is built around pitching, and 30 year old David Price is going to be the hottest name available, moreso than Cueto, and Greinke, Price has a chance to eclipse 200 million dollars, and I’d be happy if the Dodgers gave it to him.

Price’s ERA- numbers the past 5 seasons: 69, 90, 66, 88, 88. Price’s FIP- numbers the past 5 seasons 86, 86, 77, 81, 76.

Greinke’s ERA- numbers the past 5 seasons: 110, 99, 87, 73, 77. Greinke’s FIP- numbers the past 5 seasons: 79, 76, 78, 89, 84.

These are pretty stellar pitchers, but one is 2 years younger than the other, was drafted by the Dodgers initially, who’s current president of baseball operations actually negotiated with him through most of his arbitration seasons, and called him up to the major leagues initially, and was very adamant on not trading him until last season where the speculation was insurmountable that he was gone.

And of course, the sentiment that Price/Zimmermann/Greinke/Cueto/Shark/Porcello/etc would be to upgrade the team only in the short term is wrong. McCarthy was signed for the future, and any arm signed next offseason would be signed for the future, the above average rotation options for 2016 include Stephen Strasburg, Andrew Cashner, and Jered Weaver. That’s a horrendous list that would be made more palatable if the Dodgers signed David Price. The options in the upper minors just aren’t that appealing either. I am one of Zach Lee‘s biggest fans, but i’m a fan of him being a productive starter maybe a Scott Feldman type arm, or something like that production wise. He’s not a frontline option, neither is Chris Anderson who just does not have the control/command combination or even 3rd pitch someone like Mat Latos does. After that you’re talking about Chris Reed? Carlos Frias? The front office has structured the Dodgers just like it should be structured around, pitching and defense, so expect that to continue.

This isn’t declaring that the Dodgers should sign David Price, this isn’t discounting Zimmermann, Cueto, Samardzija, or Porcello, more of a thought provoking exercise regarding one of the best free agent signings in Dodger history.

I love Greinke, he has been one of the best Dodger pitchers i’ve ever seen, he’s likely the best free agent Dodger pitcher ever, and that’s very special. Maybe this post is simply getting enamored with the possibility of David Price, a top 5 left handed pitcher in the game joining the club on an enormous contract. But speaking practically, I don’t expect Greinke to opt into his contract, I don’t expect this front office -who dealt Matt Kemp partly because they expect him to decline, who sold high on Dee Gordon, who never really got serious about resigning Hanley Ramirez to play SS for another season- to chase an older pitcher who has battled elbow inflammation the past 2 seasons. Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman seem far more likely to take the 3 excellent years Greinke has gave the Dodgers and look elsewhere. Given the familiarity between Price and the current President of Baseball Operations, Price’s ground ball rate, walk rate, and clean injury history, I do expect them to allocate the funds saved from a Greinke deal and chase David Price.