LA Dodgers Should Pass on Free-Agent Pitcher Zack Greinke

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LA Dodgers Should Pass on Free-Agent Pitcher Zack Greinke
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The Dodgers should save their money when it comes to Greinke.

The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman recently reported that one of his inside sources informed him that the Los Angeles Dodgers have the inside track on signing free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke. While Greinke is the consensus best available pitcher on the free-agent market, pursuing him isn't a wise move for the Dodgers.

Ever since the Dodgers were sold earlier this year by Frank McCourt to a group led by Magic Johnson for a whopping $2 billion, it seems the new owners have continuously poured money into their new acquisition.

SI.com’s Jay Jaffe wrote that even though the team’s payroll is nearing $200 million for 2013, the team doesn't necessarily have a cap, meaning they are likely willing to go to whatever lengths needed to Greinke into the fold.

Having a high payroll is not an automatic recipe for success. The liberal spending of the Dodgers is reminiscent of what the Yankees and Red Sox have done in recent years. Those teams have begun to feel the negative effects of their loose purse strings.

The Red Sox became a clubhouse of highly paid and polarizing personalities, ultimately leading to a mega trade with the Dodgers and a 93-loss season; their worst showing in over 40 years.

The Yankees looked alarmingly lethargic during this year’s ALCS loss to the Tigers. New York enters 2013 with an aging roster, including rapidly declining players like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, who are still collectively owed more than $200 million.

If Greinke is signed by the Dodgers, it’s a near certainly that it will be a huge contract, as the pitcher is reportedly seeking a six-year, $150 million deal according to a tweet by John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus. Such a deal would add Greinke to Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who are collectively owed over $400 million by the Dodgers through 2017. Presumably, those salary amounts would make them difficult to trade.

Should the Dodgers give Greinke whatever it takes to sign him?

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Having five high-priced players, who will all be 33 or older by the end of their contracts, should be a scary proposition for the Dodgers. Because of his durability and success, Greinke may be tempting for the immediate future, but the new ownership group should have more of a long-term focus on the franchise.

Greinke has struggled in the NL West during his career, giving another reason for the Dodgers to pump the brakes on his pursuit. In 16 career games against non-L.A. NL West teams, Greinke is just 3-5 with a 4.11 ERA.  He is 88-73 with a 3.75 ERA against everyone else.

Nobody should fault the Dodgers for trying to upgrade their team, but they can accomplish that with more fiscal responsibility. If they want to improve their starting pitching behind perennial Cy Young candidate, Clayton Kershaw, there are cheaper options to be had.

ESPNLosAngeles’ Mark Saxon reported that the Dodgers may be the team of choice for free-agent Hiroki Kuroda, who apparently wants to pitch in California again and may only require a one-year contract.

Ryan Dempster, another free agent starter, has been lights out in Dodger Stadium during his career, posting an impressive 1.95 ERA in 10 games. The 35-year-old is not expected to require a contract nearly as substantial as Greinke.

The difference between Greinke and Dempster is not as much as many might think. Since 2008, Greinke has gone 70-43 with a 3.39 ERA and a combined 23.0 WAR, while Dempster boasts a 65-49 record, a 3.74 ERA and combined 16.4 WAR during the same period.

The Dodgers have announced the return of one of baseball’s signature franchises with the new ownership and their willingness to seemingly spend without limits. Without a World Series appearance since 1988, there’s mounting pressure to field a winner. This endeavor must be done with intelligence and financial resources, which the Dodgers need to realize should not include signing Greinke.

Statistics via BaseballReference

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