Has Zack Greinke turned his back on the Dodgers?
The idea seemed impossible just a few days ago. Ever since the 2012 season ended, the assumption was that Greinke—the top free-agent pitcher available—would sign with the Dodgers.
It's never really been a question of whether or not Greinke fits with the Dodgers or if he thinks he can win a World Series in Chavez Ravine. It's always been about the money. The Dodgers can pay Greinke more money than anyone else, so he would surely sign with them.
But MLB's winter meetings are now over, and the 29-year-old right-hander is still on the market, waiting to sign with a new team. That must have the Dodgers thinking that maybe Greinke actually prefers to play somewhere else.
After all, if Greinke really wanted to play for the Dodgers, why hasn't he signed with them already?
Those are the sorts of doubts swirling around the team's front office right now, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Some Dodgers officials are wondering if Greinke really prefers to play for the Texas Rangers.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Dodgers may be ready to write Greinke off and focus their attention on other free agents:
Sources: Greinke talks reaching critical stage. #Dodgers considering pulling out and moving on to other pursuits.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2012
Perhaps Greinke wants to avoid a large media market like Los Angeles and the scrutiny that comes with it. Maybe the big city isn't really his style. Not that Dallas is a small town, of course, but the lifestyle is presumably slower and less chaotic in and around Arlington than it is in L.A.
Maybe it really is about winning. The Dodgers have the resources to put together a championship-caliber club and have several superstar players, including Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez.
However, the Rangers have been to the playoffs over the past three consecutive seasons, making it to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. Though the AL West has gotten more competitive with the additions the Los Angeles Angels have made and the ascension of the Oakland Athletics, Texas is still a favorite to win that division.
Bringing in the No. 1 starter that was missing last season should make the Rangers a World Series favorite—especially if they follow up signing Greinke with making a trade for outfielder Justin Upton.
So if Greinke is indeed going to spurn the Dodgers, where do general manager Ned Colletti and the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group go from there? Who is going to take the Dodgers' money?
The next logical choice would seem to be Anibal Sanchez, whom many perceive to be the best free-agent pitcher available after Greinke. Rosenthal tweeted that the Dodgers have considered signing Sanchez even if they are able to land Greinke, as the team is looking to add two starting pitchers.
Sanchez is reportedly seeking a six-year, $90 million contract, according to Heyman. The Detroit Tigers put a four-year, $48 million offer on the table, hoping to keep Sanchez, only to be told that wouldn't be enough.
Six years and $90 million presumably wouldn't even make the Dodgers pause, as the bidding for Greinke could reach $70 million more.
We already know Ryan Dempster would love to play for the Dodgers, as he vetoed a deal to the Atlanta Braves and tried to engineer a move to Los Angeles at the trade deadline. Rosenthal tweeted that the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox have all shown interest, but are hesitant to offer a three-year deal.
With the six-year contracts that Greinke and Sanchez supposedly want, giving a three-year deal to Dempster might seem like a relief for the Dodgers. He wouldn't be expected to be a top-two starter, either, with Kershaw and another ace-caliber pitcher leading the staff.
But the market offers plenty of other arms that the Dodgers could sign for the middle of their rotation. Shaun Marcum and Edwin Jackson are two starters that would be a nice fit for the Dodgers.
Perhaps the team could even take a chance on someone like Jair Jurrjens, though the Dodgers already have Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly to fill out the back end of their rotation.
The Dodgers probably also want a left-handed reliever to replace Randy Choate, who signed a three-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, as MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reported. But the market has already narrowed, with Jeremy Affeldt re-signing with the Giants and Sean Burnett going to the Angels.
J.P. Howell might be the best left-hander remaining. He compiled a 3.04 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays this year. Pedro Feliciano would also be a lower-cost option and provide a rubber arm. He appeared in a league-leading 92 games for the New York Mets in 2010, posting a 3.30 ERA.
A new catcher may also be on the Dodgers' shopping list. The team has been linked to A.J. Pierzynski, according to Heyman. That seems curious since the Dodgers already have a starting catcher in A.J. Ellis, who had a fine season with a .373 on-base percentage and .786 OPS.
With that in mind, plenty of backup catchers are available. Perhaps Rod Barajas could return to Los Angeles, after playing for the Dodgers in 2010 and 2011. Kelly Shoppach is another catcher who can provide some power. Jesus Flores and Yorvit Torrealba are also on the market. Any one of them would be a suitable reserve behind Ellis.
Would the Dodgers make a run at Josh Hamilton if they lose out on Greinke? They'd have plenty of money to spend. But there's just not a spot in the lineup for him, unless the Dodgers do something like trade Andre Ethier.
The Dodgers are more predictably looking for a fourth outfielder, probably one who bats right-handed. But Cody Ross wants a starting job. Same goes for Scott Hairston, who would at least agree to a platoon situation. Perhaps Delmon Young is a possibility. And what about Ichiro Suzuki?
Losing Greinke would obviously be a bitter disappointment for the Dodgers, especially because they were so heavily favored to sign him.
But not getting him would hardly doom the team's offseason. There are simply too many pitchers still available, several of whom would be fine additions to the Dodgers' rotation. Colletti also has enough holes in the roster that he could use the ownership's abundant resources to build a complete team, rather than stockpile stars.
No matter what happens, the Dodgers will have to be more patient than they originally planned. Apparently, money can't get them everything. At least not yet.
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