Enjoy Your Last Year of Zack Greinke, Probably

I think we knew that, barring serious injury, Zack Greinke was going to exercise his post-2015 opt-out clause from the second he signed his deal back in December of 2012. In fact, I said exactly as much back then:

Rosenthal argues (and many fans would agree) that an opt-out is poor for the team, but I’m actually pretty thrilled with it, especially if a seventh year and a full no-trade were the other options. Remember, no team actually wants to give a pitcher six or seven years; you just have to if you hope to ever sign anyone good. Let me ask you this — if you had the option to sign Greinke for his age 29-31 seasons for three years and $76 million, you’d have taken that, right? And it’s not a stretch to imagine that some segment of fans would have preferred that to the 6/$147 he actually got, I assume.

My feelings on opt-outs have evolved somewhat since then, in that I’ve come to realize they’re a bit more player-friendly than I thought at the time — it’s the team that has all the risk, after all — but whether or not the opt-out is good or bad, the fact is that it was in place and almost certainly going to happen. I mean, it was always going to happen, but now that Max Scherzer has shown just how much a top righty pitcher can get on the market (even if it’s not really as much as has been reported) Greinke is absolutely going to be testing the market next winter.

Greinke’s actually exceeded our expectations in his first two years as a Dodger, proving himself to be far more than just a well-paid second banana to Clayton Kershaw. Maybe he loves Los Angeles, maybe he’s indifferent; I truly don’t know. But we do know that he’s a very analytical person who’s unlikely to let emotion get in the way of economics. I mean, just remember what he said prior to 2013:

“I could play for the worst team if they paid the most,” Greinke said. “If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go for the $200-million no matter what team it was.”

Which is fine; that’s his right, after all. And so (again barring injury) it’s almost certain that Greinke opts out next winter. It’s what the Dodgers do then that really defines what the opt-out means to them. If Greinke departs, well, a 3/$76m contract was a fantastic deal. If they give Greinke a deal approaching Scherzer’s, then suddenly that’s less appealing, especially since I’m constantly worried about Greinke’s elbow. Perhaps there’s a middle ground, like with CC Sabathia, a way to retain Greinke by guaranteeing the rest of his deal and tacking on an additional year or two, while avoiding a true “new” deal like Scherzer’s.

There’s plenty of time to talk about that. For now, we can say one thing with certainty: Greinke is going to use that opt-out. It was always likely, and now, in the wake of Scherzer, it’s basically guaranteed.

About Mike Petriello

Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.