Coming off the best season of his career, and one of the best run-preventing seasons of the modern era, Zack Greinke will opt out of the final three years and $71 MM remaining on his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now 32, Greinke will likely finish first or second in the NL Cy Young vote this year. With the rise in open market value of a top-flight ace, opting out makes sense for Greinke. His next deal will be for at least $25 MM per season, and possibly more. The only reason Greinke is not a $30 MM per year pitcher is his age.
Once Greinke opts out, don’t expect a lengthy negotiating process. The Dodgers need Greinke. Greinke needs the Dodgers. More specifically, he needs Dodger Stadium, one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in the league. In three seasons with the Dodgers, Greinke has a 51-15 record with a 2.30 ERA. In 47 career starts at Dodger Stadium, Greinke is 29-5 with a 2.00 ERA. The right-hander has three straight sub-3.00 ERA seasons with the Dodgers. Greinke had only one sub-3.00 ERA season in his first nine years in the league — his 2.16 ERA, AL Cy Young winning 2009 season.
The Dodgers need Greinke. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the league. The rotation’s depth drops off dramatically. Brett Anderson is also a free agent. The Dodgers will also look to re-sign the groundball machine. Then it’s Alex Wood. Then it’s…Bueller…Bueller…Mike Bolsinger?
For a team that shells out $300 MM per season, bumping Greinke up an additional $5 MM per year is a drop in the bucket. There could be concerns about giving him a contract that will run up to age 37. Greinke has had some minor injury concerns, but nothing huge. Since 2008, there have been only two seasons in which he failed to surpass 30 starts. Greinke is not a power pitcher, and his ability to locate, change speeds, and move the ball around in the strike zone will still play even when he loses a few more ticks on his fastball. Pitching in Dodger Stadium suits Greinke, and he pitches to contact and lets the ballpark hold hits down.
The opt-out is a formality. Greinke is just doing what makes the most sense for him financially. He can get two extra years with a few million more per. Who can blame him? Los Angeles works for Greinke, and he has become comfortable there. There’s very little reason for him to leave. Plenty of teams will come calling on Greinke, but at the end of the day, expect him to return to the Dodgers to serve as a very capable 1A to Kershaw’s 1.