The Dodgers need to sign Zack Greinke.
Yeah, it’s the hottest of fan reaction takes with David Price off the board. Yeah, it sort of reeks of overreaction and fear. Yeah, it’s also completely correct.
Understandably, many fans are currently concerning themselves with quotes from the front office about the state of the Dodgers pursuit of starting pitching at the recent press conference for new manager Dave Roberts.
Zaidi: "We have enough alternatives with free agents and the trade market that there's no time pressure for us to land a starting pitcher"
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) December 1, 2015
The worry is that the quotes appear to be hinting that the Dodgers don’t want to spend big to retain Zack Greinke. How could they?! But given how this front office has generally run a tight-lipped ship, and how they’ve just blatantly lied to the media days before major signings/trades before, I doubt those quotes are any cause for concern.
That said, despite the usual (dumb) panic reactions that fans demand, this time the point held by the majority of Dodgers fans is the correct one: the Dodgers should absolutely should sign Greinke even if it means an overpay.
The Dodgers likely need at least a dominating second starter behind Clayton Kershaw in 2016 and beyond, just for the sake of rotation stability. As the team proved in 2015, even with injuries elsewhere and things not generally going according to plan, two elite-level pitchers can give a roster a lot of leeway for mistakes. And with Price now off the board, and with Johnny Cueto still coming in a bit below him and Greinke in terms of performance, re-signing Greinke makes a lot of sense to fill the current void.
Greinke is likely to command a five-to-six year deal worth over $30 million annually, and it absolutely makes sense to be skeptical of any deal that ends when the pitcher is in his late-30s. Thus, from a value standpoint, a contract like this absolutely wouldn’t make sense for a team that has to manage its budget carefully and extract value out of deals. Thankfully, then, the Dodgers are not one of those teams.
While I don’t think Greinke will validate what will probably end up as a six-year deal around $192 million, the Dodgers can afford to pay for what hopefully will be elite pitcher for the next few years and then more of a mid-rotation option for the rest. Furthermore, the team just cleared future payroll room thanks to their 2015 moves, so it would make sense to use that luxury of cash to invest in the best player on the market that would fill the biggest hole on the roster.
Quite frankly, it’s hard for me to see a scenario where re-signing Greinke doesn’t make sense. Sure, there’s injury risk involved, but every free agent signing comes with injury risk, and Greinke is likely one of the least risky investments from that perspective. Sure, there’s always the potential of a trade instead to get the front of the rotation starter they need, but even if they have a trade lined up for a Sonny Gray or something similar, they should throw money at Greinke anyway. Unless the team has other plans for the ~$160 million they just cleared off the payroll for this year, I don’t see a much better investment for the funds, especially since even this mega-deal likely doesn’t bump their payroll up enough to take them out of other high-profile free-agent sweepstakes (like Jason Heyward). Besides, at the rate free-agent prices are inflating, if Greinke stays healthy the deal might not even end up bad anyway.
The bottom line is that sometimes the most clever and smartest thing one can do is use the available financial muscle to pay the best player on the market and fill a currently gaping hole in the roster. Fortunately, it seems that the Dodgers are in the process of doing just that, with the chase coming down to the Dodgers and the Giants in a decision that’s rumored to be made this week. It’s a move that won’t draw any praise for the front office because it’s obvious, and it can only backfire in the long-run if the player doesn’t live up to expectations, but re-signing Zack Greinke is also the best move they can make.