It wasn’t so long ago that the Los Angeles Dodgers were a pawn in Frank McCourt’s divorce proceedings and were financially unable to do anything. It became a bi-weekly question of whether McCourt would even be able to fill the team’s payroll. That now seems like a lifetime ago. With a new ownership group, led by Magic Johnson, the Dodgers have been on a spending binge over the last few months. After taking on the huge contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett in August’s trade with the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers are only adding to that, as the king of the free agent pitching market, Zack Greinke, is heading to Chavez Ravine.
It appeared that the suitors for Greinke had come down to the Dodgers and Texas Rangers, so it was only a matter of time until one of those teams offered him a contract he was happy with. The record-setting 6-year, $147-million proposal from LA was enough to keep him in southern California. Greinke’s performance last year with both the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels did nothing to change the perception of him as one of the game’s best pitchers. He topped 200 innings once again, went 15-5, and added a combined ERA of 3.48 and 200 strikeouts.
As good as his career has been in the American League with the Angels and Kansas City Royals, he’s been even better in the National League. During his year-and-a-half in Milwaukee, he made 49 starts and had a winning percentage of .735, much better than his AL winning percentage of .479, though much of that can be attributed to some very poor Royals teams on which he played. Even still, his 3.67 ERA is lower than his 3.80 in the AL and he averages 2.3 strikeouts a game more in the Senior Circuit. All of those numbers could get even better in one of the league’s most pitcher-friendly ballparks.
By signing Greinke, the Dodgers are looking at a 2013 opening day payroll of more than $200-million. With that, though, come two Cy Young Award winners at the top of the rotation, including Clayton Kershaw. That is a tandem worthy of giving any team in the league, especially their division rival, the San Francisco Giants, a serious run for their money as baseball’s best 1-2 punch and a two-headed monster that will be tough to beat in October. Even still, though, the Dodgers didn’t want to stop there.
This signing was the first in a weekend-long spending spree on pitchers for the Dodgers. With the deadline nearing to reach a contract agreement with Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin, the two sides agreed to a six-year, $36-million deal. The 25-year-old was a seven-time all-star in the Korean Baseball Organization and had a career record of 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA. The Dodgers won the negotiating rights with him last month with a $25.7-million bid. After both of these signings, the Dodgers’ work will presumably continue as they now have too many starting pitchers. Either one or both of Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang could be the odd man, or men, out in LA and may have a new home before long.
Meanwhile, down in Texas, the Rangers will have to reevaluate their offseason plans. Many people believed the team’s preferred plan was to trade for Justin Upton and sign Greinke, thereby parting ways with Josh Hamilton. Now that Greinke is off the board, the Rangers could refocus their attention on bringing back Hamilton and signing another free agent pitcher or trading for one instead. With the difficulties in making several proposed 3- or 4-way trades work with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Rangers’ reluctance to give up either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, they may turn back to their known commodity in Hamilton. Regardless of how it turns out, the market for all players may finally pick up now that the first big domino has fallen.