About 24 hours ago, it was seemingly a two-team race to sign the most coveted prize on the free-agent market: Zack Greinke. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the favorite to re-sign their right-handed ace and keep the knock-out 1-2 punch of him and fellow (multiple) Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. There were also talks in San Francisco that the Giants were trying to sign the ace. The two NL West powerhouse teams were battling over Greinke and no one was surprised.
Then the Arizona Diamondbacks came in and shocked the world.
As first reported by Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal, the D-Backs were offering Zack Greinke a monster deal to come pitch in the desert. Just how monster? Well, Greinke is going to make $206.5 million dollars over the next six years, which can pay for: my college loan debt 14,750 times, 1,894,495 Zack Greinke jerseys, 8,641 2016 Ford Mustangs, and 24,294,117 churro dogs.
But why would he want to sign with the D-Backs? After all, they have been viewed as one of the three doormats of the NL West, along with the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies. Perhaps it was the lure of the fresh new uniforms the D-backs rolled out a few days ago. Perhaps it was the lure of being able to eat a churro dog anytime he wants.
Or, perhaps, he sees what a great team the Diamondbacks are becoming.
In 2015, the D-backs ranked in the top eight in the majors in runs, slugging percentage, OBP, stolen bases, and extra-base hits (thanks to ESPN.com for the stats). In the National League, only the Rockies scored more runs. ESPN’s Aaron Boone commented last night that the D-Backs defense is on-par with the Kansas City Royals, which is a big compliment. Truly, the weak area of the team was the rotation. They did not have a number one pitcher, or number two for that matter. Adding Greinke gives the D-Backs a lot of reassurance in their rotation.
Of course, getting paid $206.5 million dollars doesn’t hurt either.
It’s kind of a surprising move for the D-Backs to offer such a high contract. They were not a team known for breaking the bank for any reason. But, signs that they were wanting to spend big money came along a few days ago when they supposedly offered free-agent Johnny Cueto a 6-year $120 million deal, which he ultimately turned down. This is a team that, for most of its young existence, has done a great job of relying on their own player development to get the job done. The problem, though, is that for the last three or so years, the players in their farm system were not ready for the big leagues until this past year. 2015 was a special year for the D-Backs because they got to see how good their farm system was. The position players were trickling into the locker room and making a big impact. With several top-ranked pitching prospects on the cusp of being big-league ready, the D-Backs are looking good for years to come. Over the last few years, they have also been shedding pay roll so they could financially make a big move like this. Now, armed with a new 20-year TV deal worth nearly $2 billion dollars, this small-market team is sending a strong message: our time to win is now and we will spend money to make that happen.
Aside from vaulting the team into the post-season conversation, the signing of Zack Greinke does so much more. This signing sends a jolt through the fan-base, showing them that sticking with the team through the lean years and the continuous rebuilding could be well worth their recent suffering. When I got that news alert on my phone last night, I got chills. I was sure I might throw up from excitement. I also began to wonder how long it will be before I can buy a Greinke shirsey. Now, maybe Chase Field will start filling up again. Now, maybe more free agents will want to sign in Arizona. As a D-Backs fan and native Arizonan, I would find myself frustrated with the constant “rebuilding” process and I questioned why the D-Backs operated with such financial frugality, even though they had money to spend. The last few years have been tough, but signings like this make me feel optimistic. That feeling I had last night was a feeling I haven’t felt about the D-Backs in a long time.
I finally felt tangible optimism.
Sure, I’ve been optimistic about this team before, but this is different. This is a feeling that the organization as a whole is turning a corner and that the next few years are going to be really fun to watch.Will they regret his contract five so or years down the road? Probably. I’ve said before it’s stupid to give pitchers over thirty more than a five year deal, but I am a post-season craving D-Backs fan. I’ll deal with it.
So, pending a physical, Zack Greinke will be a Diamondback and I can’t wait.
FYI, Buster Olney of ESPN gave a pretty interesting take on LA’s position in his Insiders column today. Here’s a snippet since not everyone pays for a subscription to the Insiders columns…
“…what is odd about the Dodgers’ parting with Greinke is that, besides their monster deal with Clayton Kershaw, they don’t owe a lot of money to other players beyond 2017. In 2018, they’re on the hook for about $42 million, toAdrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Brandon McCarthy, and in 2017, they’re set to be in the last season of deals with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Alex Guerrero.
The Dodgers, however, would not give Greinke a sixth year in their offer, sticking to a reported $155 million over five years, and when the details of the Arizona deferrals are completed, it could turn out to be that they were outbid by about $35 million to $40 million by a division rival.
The Dodgers’ front office has signaled for weeks that it wanted to go young, but now the Dodgers have to live out that vision, which will be difficult. George Steinbrenner’s Yankees learned three decades ago that a team cannot be the financial bully in the room, with fans expecting an annual shot at championship, and step away from the table for a year or two at a time. Any rebuilding effort must be made on the fly, in concert with an effort to win, and that is the challenge.
And while you can debate the merits of a giving a 32-year-old pitcher a sixth year on top of a five-year offer and walking away from a deal over the difference of $30 million, there is no debating this: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw propped up the Dodgers last year. When either of those pitchers started, L.A. was 43-22, and when anybody else started, they were 49-48.
The Dodgers might sign a cheaper alternative to Greinke, someone like Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir, but now the pressure on Kershaw will be even greater, and the same will be true for first-year manager and front man Dave Roberts, whose coaching staff was already in place when he was hired. They will be the first to feel the brunt of the fans’ frustration if the Dodgers drift backward in the standings and fall behind the Diamondbacks and Giants.
But that unhappiness would trickle upward, quickly, and the politics of failure would manifest, with a course change inevitable, despite the best-laid plans of December 2015. Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington knows all about that.
A storied franchise sold for $2 billion just lost one of the three best pitchers in baseball over the sake of $30 million or so five years from now.”