Zack Greinke is quite the character. It’s not because he looks like Leonardo DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries or because he arrived to Camelback Ranch this year with silky long hair that would make Kate Upton jealous. It’s because the man speaks his mind with little hedging. He’s honest and direct. The shortest distance between any two points is either a straight line or an answer from Greinke. He is efficient in both speech and action, a straight shooter. Some identify him as aloof. As Brandon McCarthy said on SportsNetLA when asked about Zack, “Like some days he’s a rumor. You know he’s there but you’re not sure where he is. He’s kind of a ninja, just comes and goes.”
He’s a ninja on the mound, throwing deadly stars and laying waste to opposition batters. It’s a powerful image.
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In his two seasons with the Dodgers, Greinke has amassed a sparkling 32-12 record with an ERA of just under 2.70. On any other team in the Majors that didn’t have Clayton Kershaw he would be considered the ace. Now the 31-year-old Floridian is poised to have his best season yet with the primary motivating factor being his current contract situation.
It’s no secret that Greinke is more up front with his focus on monetary reward than most players. It’s part of his candor, his refreshing quality to cut right to the heart of the matter. When Max Scherzer faced the media after signing his astounding 7 year $210 million deal with the Nationals, he said the standard pablum we’ve come to expect from people in his position. “You can offer as much money as you want,” said Scherzer after signing in January, “but if you’re going to lose, it’s not worth it.”
Bravo, sir. You’re signing for buku bucks and you’ll be playing for a winner. Where’s the risk in that?
Contrast those words with Greinke’s statement to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports during his first spring training with the Dodgers in 2013. “[Money is] obviously the number one thing. I could play for the worst team if they paid the most. If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go for the $200-million no matter what team it was.” It’s a straw man argument, of course. Who would only offer $10 million nowadays? But at least he’s honest. As mentioned before, a straight shooter. He obviously learned from Rod Tidwell. Show Zackary the money!
What we have here is Greinke playing the id to Scherzer’s super-ego. It gives a sizeable piece of insight into predicting what direction Greinke will go at the end of the 2015 season. That’s when he’ll be able to exercise the opt-out clause in his current 6 year $147 million contract. That’s an average salary of $24.5 million per year. Compare that to Jon Lester’s 6 year $155 million deal ($25.8 million per season including a $30 million signing bonus, private plane use for his family, and top-notch hotel suites on the road) or Scherzer’s 7 year deal at $30 million per season (most of which comes in the final three years along with a $50 million signing bonus that’s spread out over the life of the contract). These are jaw dropping numbers to be sure, but over the course of these contracts, the per annum averages aren’t too dissimilar. A million here, a million there. Pretty soon we’re talking about real money.
Kings of Kauffman
What Greinke will be looking at won’t be his earnings in the final three years of his current deal (2016-18), but the potential income he could be earning in the three seasons after 2018. If he sticks with his current contract, he will be 35 years old when it expires. That’s certainly not a prime position to be in to negotiate a long-term follow up. However, if he opts out after this season, a season in which I predict he will break new ground on turning batters into statues, he will be able to demand a contract that looks a lot more like Lester’s or Scherzer’s. That will bring him potentially another $70-$80 million above and beyond what he’ll earn if he stays in Los Angeles. At least that’s probably the game plan.
The risk that Greinke might take if he opts out will be the potential glut of high quality starters entering the market in 2016. Possible free agents include Jordan Zimmermann (Washington), Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati), Jeff Samardzija (CWS), and David Price (Detroit) just to name a few. So many options could bring down the value of labor. This is Economics 101, or so I’m told.
I’m not saying it’s a done deal that Greinke will opt out at the end of 2015. What I’m saying is that Dodger fans better appreciate this ninja’s performance in blue while they still can.