On the day Zack Greinke was introduced at Dodger Stadium, the one word that could sum up the mood was impressive. The Dodgers were impressed with Greinke, and the pitcher likewise with the organization. But the overwhelming feeling Tuesday was that the Dodgers viewed Greinke as someone they could not be without.
"We looked at our staff and saw a real good staff, but we thought we needed someone who could sit alongside Clayton Kershaw," said general manager Ned Colletti. "Those types of pitchers are very rare. As we looked at the list, one name continued to come back to us: Zack Greinke."
"We looked at this year and the next couple of years, at who was likely to be free. We didn't think we'd be able to find a pitcher like this. So we stretched," said Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten. "I've never signed six-year contract for a pitcher."
That six year contract totals $147 million, making Greinke the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history.
Greinke was down to the Dodgers and Rangers in the end, and while he said there were several factors in his decision Los Angeles was ultimately able to outbid Texas.
"At one point Texas was ahead," said Greinke. "But it changed."
Was money the deciding factor?
"That's what it gets to at the end," he said.
With Greinke in the fold, the Dodgers have spent roughly $650 million in player salaries since May, and will have a payroll north of $230 million in 2013.
"They're creating a lot of buzz, that's for sure," said Greinke.
Ownership partner Magic Johnson was asked if in the team's organizational philosophy if money was no object.
"We want to win," Johnson said, bluntly.
Colletti and Kasten were present in a meeting with Greinke near the end of November at Dodger Stadium, with manager Don Mattingly, in Kasten's office. Greinke came alone, without agent Casey Close. Greinke came prepared.
"This guy looked at everybody’s draft. He was able to tell you your entire minor league stockpile … He had a pretty good idea of what his analysis was," said Close. "He was just getting a good comfort level for the competitive nature of the club long term, not just what is going to happen in the first, second or third year of a contract."
The meeting was scheduled for an hour. It went over three hours.
"The main thing I was talking about was their team. I talked a little bit about the younger guys coming up, talked about what they saw would be the case two ore three years from now. We talked a lot of nonsense too, not even serious talk," Greinke said. "We talked about how I like to get certain hitters out. We went through the Dodgers lineup if I were facing them and what my strategy would be to get them out. We talked strategy. We talked other sports too, and business."
The Dodgers were impressed.
"I wrote a memo afterward and my summation of the meeting was, 'Beyond impressive'," Kasten said. "As a scientist, as a pitcher. ... We talked about just about everything."
"He's sharp and it's so much more than the pitching that this kid is about. He was able to, in my mind at least, express it without a filter and tell us how he felt. We had great questions for him and he had great questions for us," said Colletti. "It was probably the best free agent meeting I've ever had in decades of doing this. It was just pure.
"He was stunning. When he left that day, and I'm glad we didn't tell Casey this until now, we all looked at each other and said, 'We've got to figure out a way to get this kid here'."
Six years, and $147 million later, the Dodgers figured out a way.
But the Dodgers weren't the only ones impressed. Greinke went out of his way to praise his new team.
"I don't want to make his head too big, but I thought Stan Kasten was like the smartest guy I've ever talked to," Greinke said. "With him in charge, I thought they had a good chance to keep things going good."
"I don't know what meeting he was in," Kasten joked.
Greinke was also impressed with Mattingly, whom he has seen in passing through the years as an opponent.
"When I was here this year I asked some of the guys about their coaching staff and how they liked it because I knew it would be a possibility when the year was up. He seems pretty laid back," Greinke said. "Some of the things he said I really liked because it sounded like he's striving to be better and is still learning. I think it's impressive when a manager, or anyone, admits that there's more to do, even if he's already really good that he's still trying to be even better."
All in all, Tuesday was all smiles at Dodger Stadium, with Johnson perhaps summing up the excitement best.
"Dodger pride is on the way back," he said.