Greinke deal signifies baseball's shifting landscape
It's the Dodgers.
In the end, Greinke is ending up where most everyone thought he'd end up. Oh, he undoubtedly was "blown away" by his engagement with the Rangers -- it's easy to be fascinated when you're a pitcher who loves the game and you get to talk to Nolan Ryan and Greg and Mike Maddux.
But in the end, it's the Dodgers, baseball's destination event for whom petty cash is no object. Mark Walter and The Guggenheim Group paid the Red Sox $260 million for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. They have more than $500 million tied up in five players. And after agreeing to make Greinke the highest-paid right-handed pitcher with a six-year, $147 million deal, know that in the coming months he will be only the second-highest-paid pitcher on the staff.
Step aside and let a boy do a man's job, because Clayton Kershaw is 24, has finished first or second in the National League Cy Young Award balloting the past two seasons, is 61-37 with a 2.79 ERA for his career and is going to zoom past CC Sabathia's record $161 million deal -- perhaps even before he turns 25 in March.
If you're following, the Dodgers' owners paid $2.15 billion for the team, their payroll may rival the GNP of some small countries, and they're going to make money. (Make that two more rounds of sashimi).
They beat out the Rangers and Angels for Greinke, topping Matt Cain's previous record for a right-handed pitcher's contract of $127 million, a winter after Albert Pujols got more than $250 million from the Angels.
Yes, there is a pattern here. The game is trending West. In the week that the bidding for Greinke heated up, the Yankees were beaten out for Jeff Keppinger and Nate Schierholtz.
Now, there are going to be a lot of people within the industry who can rattle through the reasons for their disbelief with Greinke's contract. Five of the six years will be after he turns 30. He is 41-25 with a 3.83 ERA since winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2009. He has a lifetime 3.77 ERA -- 3.53 for the Angels after his trade to Anaheim was thought to insure a playoff berth in Orange County. Greinke has made three postseason starts in his career and allowed 15 runs in 16 2/3 innings. His WAR ranks 21st among active pitchers.
But Greinke was the best pitcher on the free-agent market, and the deals Cain, Cole Hamels and Greinke have signed in this calendar year speak to how difficult it is to get to free agency healthy and productive enough to let the bidding begin.
And now we can watch for the market to unfurl: Will the Rangers now turn their attention to Josh Hamilton and go three, four or five years? That likely would put an end to any hope of the Yankees or Red Sox pouncing on him with a two-year deal. It also will impact Texas' attempts to trade for Justin Upton, although that was so real Wednesday night that one Rangers official called an Astros official and told him they had Upton. Will this begin a run on Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse and remaining free-agent pitchers? Dempster has been holding out for three years, which is logical. Sanchez's requests have been scattered, but if the Dodgers believe he'd be a nice fit as a third starter -- with Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly question marks and Ryu Hyun-jin still in negotiations -- who knows what Sanchez could get? Now that agent Casey Close has negotiated this Greinke deal, what can he negotiate for Kershaw? Now that the Rangers have lost out on Greinke, will they turn around and give the Mets two or three prospects for R.A. Dickey? Earlier in the week, there were indications that Rangers folks believed they would end up with Hamilton and Dickey and still possibly trade for Upton. What will the ever-creative Rays now extract for James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson?
The baseball world changed when former owner Frank McCourt went into bankruptcy. The cash spinning around the industry is so staggering that the $260 million the Red Sox got from Los Angeles hasn't bought them A-list players. Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara are nice players that Boston signed out of a Tiffany catalog, and the Red Sox may do the same for Sanchez, Dempster and/or Stephen Drew. But they haven't been able to put a Joe Mauer or Shin-Soo Choo on their company credit card.
If you're the Rays, Indians, Marlins or Pirates, turn off the Lessons and Carols from the King's College Choir for a few moments, and listen to Warren Zevon's "if California slides into the ocean like the mystics and statistics say it will" -- and try not to think about what a David Price might someday look like on a Dodgers mobile device.