Free agency has officially begun and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace, Zack Greinke, is free to sign with any other team after he opted out of his 6 year, $147 million contract he signed with the Dodgers in 2012. He’s at or near the top of any available free agent list and typically starts any conversation on how free agency might go.
While there are reasons to question handing nine figures over to a pitcher on the wrong side of 30, his motion and relative health make the gamble worthwhile.
Greinke was something who, as Dodgers fans, we all craved for, and following the sale of the team to the Guggenheim group, was actually within reach. Gone were the days where signing an impact free agent was confined to our imagination. Zack Greinke was the acquisition that ended the nightmare days during the bankruptcy years, and began the years of throwing money around like Hanley Ramirez at his worst.
Zack was extremely successful in his 2013 and 2014 campaign, but it was his historic 2015 season that will earn him a huge deal this offseason. Whether it is the Dodgers that sign him or somebody else, Greinke wades into free agency waters in what will most likely be his final contract as a player entering his age 32 season.
The reasons to sign Greinke are plentiful and we are all familiar with them. Greinke’s ERA of 1.66 in 2015 was the lowest by a pitcher since Greg Maddux posted a 1.63 ERA in 1995. He is also an extremely projectable player. His easy and effortless mechanics cause minimal stress on his body. His arm slot and release are identical for all four pitches in his arsenal. This bodes well for an aging player that doesn’t necessarily have to rely on power from his fastball to be effective. The deception this creates for a hitter is something one cannot measure.
Based on his peripheral numbers and repeatable mechanics, there is no question that Zack deserves to receive a big payday. The more important thing to consider is how will he perform over the course of the contract?
A reasonable contract for Greinke going forward may look something like six years and $160 million. With that in mind, it is important to identify the red flags in possibly giving him another huge deal. In 2013, you may remember in spring training him being flown to Los Angeles to get his elbow examined. The same problem once again came about in 2015 during spring training. Greinke also missed a start in September in which it was believed to have just been a standard day of rest, but the issue had reportedly been related to his elbow.
As a player who has torn his UCL twice, a sore elbow cannot be ignored. It is something that can go away, and peep its evil head out of nowhere to break your heart.
Even though Greinke’s elbow is structurally fine, it is something to keep in mind. If you are handing a guy a mega deal for six years, it is in better interest for the club to ensure that he is as healthy as possible before signing him. Ideally, you want to maximize your yield on his production and minimize your risk.
The Dodgers have already dealt with a couple of injuries to key pieces in their rotation in Brandon McCarthy and Hyun Jin Ryu. McCarthy was thought to be a risky contract given his injury history and tore his ulna collateral ligament after only four starts in 2015. Ryu had a torn labrum that he had reportedly been pitching through for quite some time. If Greinke was re-signed and something were to happen to his elbow, it would be a tremendous step back for the Dodgers.
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