Zack Greinke enters the Dodgers organization as one of the players most critical to the team's success, both immediately and in the near-term future. But he also takes a secondary role on a couple of levels, which ultimately may not be a bad thing for Greinke, or the Dodgers.
Greinke signed a contract that made him the highest-paid pitcher by average annual value in baseball history, but despite that $147 million outlay he really wasn't the signature move by the new Dodgers ownership group. That distinction fell to the trade with the Red Sox last Aug. 25, affectionately referred to as the Nick Punto trade, the nine-player deal that saw the Dodgers assume over $260 million in salary commitments.
Greinke won't even head the starting rotation, as he will slot behind ace Clayton Kershaw on the Dodgers' pitching staff. But Greinke still holds an important spot for the Dodgers.
He can give the team another ace alongside Kershaw, giving the club a formidable duo for any playoff series. If Greinke's peripherals can line up with his performance, that is. I wrote this when Greinke was signed in December:
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).
The Dodgers are betting on Greinke hitting numbers closer to those peripherals have shown than his actual numbers. While a repeat of 2009 from Greinke would be ideal, he just needs to continue to his established performance level for a big boost to the Dodgers rotation.
Greinke talked about the high expectations the Dodgers have created with their spending spree and payroll north of $230 million.
"They're creating a lot of buzz, that's for sure. You do wonder when things are going to stop," Greinke said in December. "But when it was getting closer to which team I was picking, I wrote down all the players on each team to decide which lineup was best. When you compared them, it made me realize how good the offense is on this team. It's as deep as any of the other teams were. Before I did that I didn't realize they were that good."
Perhaps the USC football team becoming the first preseason No. 1 team in history to lose six games, followed by the Lakers making underachievement an art form as they struggle to stay even in the playoff chase, has made the Los Angeles sports fan a little gun shy when it comes to expectations. After all, when reviewing the Dodgers' offseason my list of five questions could have easily been stretched to 10 with little thought.
But as Greinke noted, the Dodgers' offense could actually be quite formidable. Perhaps instead of concentrating on what could go wrong with the team, we should look at what could potentially go right. At the top of the list of potential superlatives is Greinke, who should excel in the National League West.
Greinke and Kershaw give the Dodgers two Cy Young Award winners in their starting rotation for the first time since 1990, when Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela were a part of the staff.
Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million contract to join the Dodgers on Dec. 8. Greinke received a $12 million signing bonus, $5 million of which was deferred to 2014, and will be paid a salary of $17 million in 2013, the first year of the contract.
|2013 Projections - Age 29 Season|
I think Greinke shines in his first season in Los Angeles, and goes 17-7 with a 2.93 ERA in 224 innings, with 231 strikeouts.
Be sure to guess how you think Greinke will perform for the Dodgers in 2013. Include ERA, strikeouts, and whatever else you wish to guess.