After a Cy Young-caliber season in 2015, it was all but certain that Los Angeles Dodgers co-ace Zack Greinke would opt out of his deal with the club. Wednesday morning that was made official as Greinke will now be a free agent.
Greinke, 32, finished 2015 with a record of 19-3 while leading the majors with a 1.66 ERA and a WHIP of 0.84. His ERA was second-best in Dodgers history to Rube Marquard‘s mark of 1.56 in 1916.
Prior to the 2013 season, Greinke signed a big six-year, $147 million deal with Los Angeles which included an opt out clause in the contract after three years, which is being exercised. After earning $25 million in 2015, he will be leaving $77 million in guaranteed money on the table.
This move does not come as a surprise as he is in line to earn around the same amount of money, but have some security in a longer deal than just the three years that was left on his Dodgers contract. If he did not exercise the clause, he would have been a free agent at 35 and teams don’t necessarily want to invest in a 35-year-old starting pitcher.
Greinke is not your normal pitcher either. He is more than proficient as a fielder with his Gold Glove fielding ability. He also hit .224 with two doubles and two home runs this season.
Even though he was paired with Clayton Kershaw, making one of the best one-two punches in baseball history, the Dodgers couldn’t quite put it together in the playoffs as they were ousted by the New York Mets in five games in the NLDS.
As for Greinke’s future, he has to be looking at Max Scherzer-type money, but over fewer years. Scherzer got $210 million from the Nationals last offseason while another top-of-the-line pitcher in Jon Lester got $155 million from the Cubs. Greinke is in the running for the NL Cy Young award and you don’t see Cy Young candidates on the free-agent market very often, although this year now has two with David Price as well.
There could be an interesting group of teams interested. The Cubs are a team that could use another solid pitcher, along with the Astros if both of those teams want to take the next step. Adding Greinke would definitely boost their rotations to the next level.
You have to add the Yankees in there because of the money factor and because they could use another pitcher as well. The Dodgers should still be the front-runner for Greinke. They have baseball’s highest payroll, but it just depends how deep they want to go. Behind Kershaw and Greinke, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the rotation for Los Angeles. Price could be a target for the Dodgers, but he seems more suited to a reunion with Joe Maddon in Chicago.
Another dark horse team that could be thrown into the mix is the Giants. Greinke has shown a lot of respect for what has been built in San Francisco, and the Giants also boast a pitcher-friendly park. In the past, Greinke has been very friendly with San Francisco players at the All-Star Game. To put Greinke behind Madison Bumgarner would put the Giants in a great position at another postseason run in an even year, and they most likely have the money to do so.