Zack Greinke's decision to opt out of the final three years of his contract with the Dodgers could shift the MLB odds to win the 2016 World Series. Where will he play next season?
Former American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke opted out of his deal with the Dodgers on Wednesday. He had three years left in his contract and he is giving up a guaranteed $71 million.
Is This the Right Move for Him?
Greinke made a smart decision because at the age of 32 he is more likely to sign a long-term contract than at 35, when his previous deal would have expired. Right now teams could invest on a six-year contract and get three to four outstanding seasons from him and lose just two or three years at the end of the deal.
What Greinke Brings to the Table
In twelve seasons with the Royals, Brewers, Angels and Dodgers, Greinke has gone 142-93 with a 3.35 ERA, a 3.31 FIP and an 8.1 K/9 ratio.
He is hitting the free agent market at the peak of his value. He went 19-3 last season, leading the majors with a 1.66 ERA and an 0.844 WHIP and posting a 2.76 FIP. His 5.9 fWAR ranked seventh in MLB and it ranks second among free agent pitchers behind David Price (6.4).
Greinke joins an impressive group of free agent starters that includes David Price, Johnny Cueto, John Lackey, Jeff Samardzija, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jordan Zimmermann, Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen and Brett Anderson.
Let's take a look at the teams that could try to sign Greinke.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Money won't be an issue if the Dodgers truly want to retain Greinke. Their dynamic duo of Greinke and Clayton Kershaw led them to three straight division titles and with Brett Anderson also testing free agency and Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy looking to return from injuries, the Dodgers really need reliable starting pitchers beyond Kershaw.
Greinke went 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA in his three seasons with the Dodgers and he could have finished with more wins last year but he had a nine-game winless streak due to lack of run support.
San Francisco Giants
Like the Dodgers, the Giants have a solid ace (Madison Bumgarner) and a need to fill the rotation spots behind him before we can consider them for our MLB picks. San Francisco would love to steal one of the best pitchers in baseball from their bitter division rivals and begin another even-year World Series run (the Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014).
Their winning culture would attract Greinke but the Giants didn't win their titles by spending big money on free agents. The last high-priced free agent starter that they signed was Barry Zito and the results were mixed so it remains to be seen if they will be willing to take the risk again.
Boston Red Sox
Last year Boston's starting rotation ranked 24th in the Majors with a 4.39 ERA and of the three pitchers who made more than 21 starts for them, none posted an ERA under 4.46.
The Red Sox have some pitching depth but they need an ace-caliber pitcher to fill the void that Jon Lester left and Zack Greinke would fit with them. Money is not a problem but this team did spend a lot on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval last season and neither player made a difference. Don't forget that Greinke enjoys hitting, so he may prefer to stay in the National League.
New York Yankees
The Yankees (+1800 MLB odds to win the 2016 World Series at Bovada) will always be connected to the biggest names on the free agent market due to their resources and history and they were 10th in the American League in starters' ERA (4.25) last season, which means that adding an ace to their rotation would really help.
The problem is that New York has more than $180 million in payroll already committed to 10 players next year and they also have to deal with raises through arbitration, so they might turn to less expensive free agent pitchers and this is also another team in which Greinke wouldn't be able to bat regularly.
Potential Mystery Teams
The Cubs spent a lot of resources by signing Jon Lester last year but they are favored to win next year's World Series at +1100 and they have plenty of money.
Other teams to consider are the Tigers and the Angels. The Tigers finished in last place in the AL Central and they're in a win-now mode while the Angels need starting pitching, are known to make a splash from time to time and know Greinke pretty well since he made 13 starts for them in 2012, going 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA.