When it comes to starting pitchers available in the 2012-13 edition of the Hot Stove League, there's Zack Greinke—and then there's everybody else.
Greinke, 29, split the 2012 season between the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels, finishing the season with combined numbers that were arguably the best he's had since winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2009 as a member of the Kansas City Royals.
While he's unquestionably the most sought-after pitcher around, there's only one Zack Greinke—and ultimately, only one team is going to sign him.
But that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from speculating on all sorts of different scenarios.
Let's try and make sense of it all by starting with what we know, shall we?
Zack Greinke Is Going to Get Paid
ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Greinke very well could become baseball's highest-paid pitcher:
One person involved in the Greinke talks believes there is a good chance he beats CC Sabathia's record of 7/$161m.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 27, 2012
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman doesn't have Greinke's total deal quite as high as Olney, but Greinke won't be scrounging for change in his couch cushions at these numbers:
Baseball executives see star free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke landing a deal for at least six years and perhaps as much as $25 million a year, which could bring Greinke's total haul to $150 million.
At these kinds of numbers, the number of teams who are really going to be serious players for his services is drastically reduced.
With that in mind, let's set some odds for those who have been linked to Greinke and see if we can figure out where he's going to wind up.
Kansas City Royals: 100-to-1
We touched on this scenario back in September, and while seeing Greinke go back to where it all began would be awesome, it's simply not realistic with the kind of numbers that are being bandied about.
Boston Red Sox: 100-to-1
I include the Red Sox simply because they have a ton of available cash and are in the market for a big-time starting pitcher, but they've not been rumored to have much interest in Greinke. As a matter of fact, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes that Boston seems to be distancing themselves from the chatter surrounding Greinke.
Washington Nationals: 60-to-1
Before the 2011 season, Zack Greinke was on his way to the Nationals, contingent on Washington being able to work out a contract extension with him. Greinke turned down a $100 million extension from Washington, and the deal was called off (h/t Washington Post).
A rotation that features Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler would be phenomenal—but the Nationals are likely to spend their money elsewhere this winter.
Milwaukee Brewers: 50-to-1
Before trading Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this past season, the Milwaukee Brewers offered the righty a contract extension worth at least $100 million, reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
Greinke himself later confirmed Heyman's report to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "I can say Heyman is pretty accurate with what he's saying, but nothing else."
More recently, Heyman says that Greinke and Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke, though nothing substantial is believed to have come of their conversation:
#Brewers Melvin talked to Greinke. Said Greinke 'didn't tip hand.' Nor did Melvin. Said he just likes talking ball w/ Zack.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 6, 2012
The unfortunate reality of the situation, however, is that money does not grow on trees for the Brew Crew:
No surprise, (money) an issue for Milwaukee. Asked if they're a long shot for Hamilton, Melvin said "very." Hope may be market, Narron.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 6, 2012
Greinke won't be returning to his former home in 2013.
Toronto Blue Jays: 20-to-1
While the Blue Jays added a boatload of cash to their payroll in their 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins, what if they're not done spending?
They've been linked to Greinke before, both when he was available in trade and as a free agent prior to the blockbuster going down (h/t Fox Sports).
Adding Greinke to a rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow would push Toronto to not only the front of the AL East but perhaps the front of the entire American League.
Texas Rangers: 10-to-1
With no true ace on the staff—Yu Darvish is probably best suited as a No. 2, Matt Harrison a No. 3—and with money to spend, the Rangers simply cannot be ruled out of the running.
Especially when signing him would not only strengthen their team but weaken one of their division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 8-to-1
The Angels clearly had their eyes set on keeping Greinke in the fold for quite some time after giving up three prospects to acquire him at the trade deadline in 2012.
But that no longer seems to be the case, according to CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, who cites sources around the league as indicating that the Angels are resigned to the fact that Greinke's asking price is simply too high for the Angels and that they are focusing their efforts elsewhere.
Still, they did give up three quality prospects to obtain him, and this is the same team who dished out more than $300 million combined to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last winter, so they simply can't be written off until Greinke has officially signed with another team.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3-to-2
Adding more than a quarter of a billion dollars in payroll at the trade deadline was only the first step for the Dodgers and their new ownership group, who seem intent on landing another ace to pair with Clayton Kershaw atop their rotation.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times puts it as well as anyone:
The #Dodgers have the money to say this to Greinke: Go get your best offer, and we'll top it.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) November 27, 2012
Just when you thought it was safe to bid on free agents with the New York Yankees becoming fiscally responsible, welcome to the West Coast's version of the free-spending Bronx Bombers.
He stays in Los Angeles—but returns to the National League as a member of the Dodgers.