The Dodgers made the biggest splash of the offseason to date on Saturday, as they have reached an agreement with starting pitcher Zack Greinke to a reported six-year, $147 million deal, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It is the highest total contract even given to a right-handed pitcher, surpassing the $127.5 million over six years given to Matt Cain of the Giants in April.
Greinke's contract trails only the $161 million that left-hander CC Sabathia signed for seven seasons with the Yankees four years ago. Greinke's average annual value of $24.5 million is the highest ever for a pitcher, surpassing the $24.4 million average of Sabathia's five-year, $122 million extension with New York.
Greinke will slot into the Dodgers' starting rotation behind ace Clayton Kershaw, forming one of the most potent one-two punches in MLB.
In 2012, Greinke was 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 34 starts between the Brewers and Angels. Greinke struck out 200 and walked 54 in his 212⅓ innings, the third time in four seasons he has struck out 200 or more batters. Greinke's 824 strikeouts over the last four years is fifth most in baseball. Kershaw is fourth in strikeouts during that span, with 874.
The last time the Dodgers had teammates strikeout 200 or more batters in the same season was in 2000, when Chan Ho Park (217) and Kevin Brown (216) finished second and third, respectively, in the National League.
Greinke was magnificent in 2009, as he captured the American League Cy Young Award with his 2.16 ERA, 205 ERA+ (one of 17 seasons in American League history with a 200 ERA+), 242 strikeouts, and 16-8 record for the Royals.
In the three years since his Cy Young Award, Greinke has been solid but also an enigma. He has 582 strikeouts and 154 walks in 604 innings during that span, and is eighth in baseball in FIP (3.16) and fifth in xFIP (3.17) during that span. But despite the peripherals Greinke over the last three seasons is 50th in ERA (3.83) and tied for 31st in ERA+ (106).
Greinke in 2012 had 15 starts of at least seven or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed, tied for sixth most in the game, but also had five starts in which he allowed six or more runs. His batting average on balls in play against was .373 with runners in scoring position in 2012, compared to just .307 with nobody on base. In the last three seasons Greinke's BABIP against is .357 with runners in scoring position and .309 with nobody on.
Can Greinke regain the form he once had, or do his peripherals suggest that Greinke is a victim of bad luck and is still one of the best pitchers in the league?
The good news for the Dodgers is that time is on their side, in that Greinke just turned 29 on Oct. 21, five years younger than Kevin Brown when he became the first $100 million pitcher in 1998, also with the Dodgers.
Greinke was the prized pitcher on the free agent market this winter, a marketplace depleted when Cain and Cole Hamels signed extensions with the Giants and Phillies, respectively, in 2012. The Dodgers have now added over $587 million in payroll commitments in seven months since the Guggenheim Baseball Partners took over ownership of the team on May 1.
The record-setting contract is undoubtedly buoyed by the pending television contract worth between a reported $6 and $7 billion over 25 years. Greinke's status as highest paid pitcher (per season) in baseball history will likely be challenged by his new teammate Kershaw, who will qualify for free agency after 2014, his age-26 season.
We don't yet know the breakdown of Greinke's contract, but assuming the same payout of $24.5 million every year, the Dodgers have roughly $217.7 million committed to 20 players for 2013, which includes $1.15 million for Tony Gwynn Jr., who is not on the 40-man roster. That doesn't include 25-year old left-handed pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, the negotiating rights for whom the Dodgers bid $25.7 million to the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization. The Dodgers have until Sunday at 2 p.m. PT to come to a contract agreement with Ryu, and if they don't then the bid will be refunded.
With Greinke, the Dodgers have approximately $90.75 million committed to seven starting pitchers for next season, though Ted Lilly is returning from shoulder surgery and Chad Billingsley is recovering from a partially torn right elbow ligament.
One the Greinke signing becomes official, the Dodgers will have 39 players on the 40-man roster.