Zack Greinke is a lucky, lucky man.
It’s unclear exactly where he’ll be pitching in 2013, but it will probably be Arlington or Los Angeles, and the Dodgers, Angels and Rangers appear to be the last three teams vying for his services. However, some of the numbers being bandied about have made there way around the Internet, and they are mind blowing.
The most cited report has Greinke standing to make more overall than the seven-year, $161 million contract that CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees at the conclusion of the 2008 campaign. There are any number of factors that have led up to this point and inflated the 29-year-old right-hander’s value, but there’s really only one conclusion to be drawn from these well-confirmed rumors.
The figures attached to Greinke are absolutely absurd, and any team taking him on for such a contract is being foolish to the point of recklessness.
Now, that being said, there are perfectly logical reasons that Greinke’s price has gone so sky high. He’s a quality pitcher who has won a Cy Young Award in the past, and most importantly he’s stayed physically healthy throughout his career — that case of debilitating social anxiety notwithstanding. But, in terms of this winter, the reason Greinke is poised to cash in is mostly because of a dearth of starting pitching on the free-agent market. There are numerous solid options, for sure, but Greinke is the only option viewed as an ace-quality pitcher.
So, the inflation of Greinke’s value may make sense to a certain extent, but the question is whether he’ll actually be worth what he makes, a proposition that’s difficult to see working out for Greinke’s future team. Of course, there’s a legitimate question as to whether money means anything to his potential suitors.
The Dodgers and Rangers, in particular, are flush with cash. Both have recently or are poised to soon sign new television contracts which will bring them in unending riches. The Dodgers actually will make in five or six games as much TV money as the Braves do over the course of an entire season. So does the luxury tax mean anything to them? It’s entirely possible that it doesn’t.
But it’s not just the dollar commitment to Greinke that’s so troubling, but the years. It’s not just that long-term contracts rarely work out for pitchers, or that Greinke will be 35 or 36 at the conclusion of the deal — both of which are huge concerns. But an overriding worry should be what kind of pitcher Greinke will be at the back end of his contract.
The money that these teams seem to be willing to commit to Greinke doesn’t just represent a dollar commitment, but it represents a long-term commitment to keep him in the rotation. In short, even if Greinke remains healthy, is he still going to be good at that age? If he isn’t, his team is committing to keeping a subpar pitcher around just because of the money owed to him, which is bad practice for obvious reasons.
What’s even more disconcerting about the situation with Greinke is that although he may be the only pitcher viewed as ace caliber on this market, there are numerous second-tier options behind him which may be able to mimic his output from 2012 at a fraction of the cost and duration of commitment.
Sean Marcum, Kyle Lohse and Brandon McCarthy are all examples of pitchers who produced at very similar levels to Greinke in 2012 — granted, with varying injury concerns — and are sure to see only a fraction of the money Greinke will get. None of these pitchers will weigh down a team in terms of dollars or contract length, and they very well might out-pitch Greinke over the next couple years.
In short, the logic of the teams pursuing Greinke — and willing to pay him more money than Sabathia — is horrendously flawed.
Those clubs technically might not have the same monetary decisions that other teams do, but that doesn’t mean signing Greinke for a horrendously inflated price is good business.