Analyzing Zack Greinke's Potential Impact on the Washington Nationals
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The expectation is certainly that the Dodgers will offer more money than any of the other teams showing interest in Greinke. The Los Angeles Angels want to keep Greinke, while the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals are believed to be in pursuit as well.
Wait a minute, the Washington Nationals? Yes, the Washington Nationals.
The team that already has Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler in its starting rotation is looking to add the top free-agent pitcher available? Well, it does need a fifth pitcher to fill out that rotation.
Could the Nats come up with the six-year, $150 million deal that Greinke is reportedly seeking on the open market?
The Nats have also shown a willingness to hand out huge contracts, having given Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2010. At the time, many in baseball felt the Nationals were crazy for giving out that kind of contract. The thought at the time was that the team had to show it was willing to pay top dollar for the best free-agent talent.
Obviously, things have changed in the two years since then.
The Nationals finished with the best record in the NL this season and no longer need to show free agents that they're trying to put together a contender. The Nats won in 2012 with a good mix of developing players and veterans, and boast two of the best young superstars in MLB with Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
General manager Mike Rizzo might also have more money available to spend after making a trade for Denard Span rather than signing an expensive free-agent center fielder like Michael Bourn.
Besides not having to spend big on a center fielder, the Span trade may also have made first baseman Adam LaRoche expendable. Coming off an excellent season, the first baseman is in line for a two- to three-year contract worth at least $10 million in annual average salary.
The Nationals tried to get Greinke two years ago before he was eventually traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. As The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reports, the Nats had actually agreed to a deal with the Kansas City Royals, but the trade fell apart when Greinke turned down a $100 million contract extension.
As it turns out, that was likely the smartest financial move for Greinke. In addition to the money, holding off the Nationals may have ensured that he would play for a better team than the one he could have joined two years ago.
Not only will Greinke become the highest-paid pitcher in MLB, he could also join a World Series contender whose chances for a championship would receive a major boost from adding an ace-caliber starting pitcher.
The Nats would have to be considered a World Series favorite by adding Greinke to their rotation. There are plenty of other strong starting trios throughout MLB, but would any of them match Strasburg, Gonzalez and Greinke? Any one of those pitchers would be the No. 1 starter on most teams. To have them in the same rotation would almost seem unfair.
If Greinke does have some reservations about being the ace of a staff—though he obviously wants to be paid like one—the Nationals would afford him the same luxury that a team like the Dodgers or Angels would. He wouldn't have to carry the staff and be the unquestioned No. 1 guy.
Playing in the D.C. media market might also be less grueling than dealing with the Los Angeles media. No one would confuse the L.A. media with those in New York, Boston or Philadelphia—although Greinke wouldn't have to deal with the likes of T.J. Simers in those cities either.
Maybe it would be different if Greinke was going to play for the Redskins.
Would this be the right move for the Nationals, however?
As mentioned, the team already has a strong starting rotation without Greinke. Rizzo could also use outfielder-first baseman Michael Morse and second baseman Danny Espinosa as trade chips to get a starting pitcher, according to The Washington Post. Reports from those who cover the Nationals say that is being considered by the team's front office.
The money that would go to Greinke could be better distributed throughout the roster, as plenty of other players—such as Strasburg, Harper, Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond—reach arbitration or free agency and need to be signed to long-term contracts.
Ultimately, this discussion could be moot, as the Dodgers have apparently circled Greinke as their top free-agent target and will pay whatever it takes to get him.
If Greinke ends up staying with the Angels or signing elsewhere, it's an indication that issues other than money (comfort level, familiarity, market size, etc.) are important to him. Or perhaps he thinks he has a better chance of winning in Anaheim, Texas or D.C.
Greinke signing with a team other than the Dodgers could be MLB's winter surprise. If he ends up with the Nationals, the balance of power in the NL may not be tipping toward the West Coast as originally believed.
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