7 Reasons Zack Greinke Will Be a Huge Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers
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CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman has confirmed that the deal will become official on Monday once Greinke passes his physical.
The 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner already is regarded as one of the game’s best young starting pitchers. Now that Greinke is pitching for one of MLB’s premier franchises, the spotlight is about to shine a whole lot brighter.
Greinke is joining a Dodgers franchise that has been building a virtual All-Star team since Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and the rest of the Guggenheim Baseball Management team took control of the organization last spring. Many falsely assumed that Los Angeles was going all-in on a World Series run in 2012, but the Dodgers really had their sights set on contending in 2013 and beyond.
The acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford meant that Los Angeles was essentially set with its everyday lineup. There were still plenty of questions about next season’s starting rotation, but the Greinke signing brings some clarity to that situation.
With another All-Star in the fold, the Dodgers are prepared to make their first World Series appearance since winning it all in 1988.
Here are seven reasons why Greinke will raise his profile significantly while leading the Dodgers back to the top of the MLB mountain.
7. Greinke Has Proved He Can Pitch in Los Angeles
Greinke won't have to move far to join his new team.
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Whenever a player switches teams, it is natural to wonder how he will adjust to playing for a new team in a new market and, in Greinke’s case, a new league. However, his move to the Dodgers represents one of those rare occasions when it will appear as if the player never left. Consider the following:
1. Greinke has already answered any questions about his ability to handle the pressure of pitching in a major market for a playoff contender. In 13 starts for the Angels, he was 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He was even better down the stretch, going 3-0 in six September starts with a 2.11 ERA and .209 batting average against.
2. Greinke is not new to the National League. He got off to a slow start in 2011, beginning the season on the disabled list as he recovered from cracked ribs. But over a season and a half, he still managed to go 25-9 in 48 starts for the Milwaukee Brewers.
3. He retains the benefit of pitching in one of the league’s most pitcher-friendly stadiums. Dodger Stadium, Greinke's new home park, ranks 25th in the major leagues in park factor, while Angel Stadium of Anaheim ranks 27th.
Such familiarity should make Greinke’s move up the I-5 among the easiest transitions of any member of this year’s free-agent class. The similarities between his stint with the Angels and his new home with the Dodgers don’t end there.
6. Greinke Becomes the No. 2 Starter the Dodgers Desperately Need
Greinke joins 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw as the best starting pitching duo in MLB.
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The Dodgers used Clayton Kershaw and smoke and mirrors to put together a starting rotation that finished third in the majors in starters’ ERA in 2012. Los Angeles knew, however, that the magic was unlikely to continue for another full season.
That’s where Greinke steps in.
The Dodgers have been waiting for years for one-time ace-of-the-future Chad Billingsley to emerge as the unquestioned No. 2 starter behind Kershaw. He finally looked to be growing into the role before an elbow injury in July shut him down for the remainder of the season.
Billingsley is expected to be ready for Opening Day, but signing Greinke allows Los Angeles to lean less heavily on Billingsley’s fragile arm. It also means the Dodgers won’t require the other starters to drastically exceed expectations in 2013.
Los Angeles now has a starting rotation that will likely feature Kershaw, Greinke, Billingsley and Josh Beckett. That gives the Dodgers the luxury of exploring trade options for Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and/or Aaron Harang.
All three are 34 or older, and they are all entering the final year of their contracts.
Greinke has the stuff to be a staff ace, but he has also proven that he is OK with being a team’s second-best starter. He had no problem ceding the spotlight to Jered Weaver in Anaheim, and he will be just as comfortable allowing Kershaw to be the alpha dog for the Dodgers.
5. Greinke Is Just Now Approaching His Prime
Greinke's best years may still be ahead of him, having just turned 29 in October.
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Next season will be Zack Greinke’s ninth pitching at the major league level (he missed the 2006 season to focus on his struggles with social anxiety disorder), but he just turned 29 in October. His unique combination of youth and experience suggests that his best years are ahead of him.
Greinke was labeled a can’t-miss prospect when he was taken in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft. But it wasn’t until 2008 that he finally began to realize his potential as a major league starter.
Greinke has made at least 28 starts in five consecutive years, while pitching 202-plus innings in four of those seasons. He has also struck out 200 or more batters three times during that span, while posting an ERA of 3.83 or less in every season except 2010.
Despite his recent consistency, this will be the first time since 2009 that Greinke will begin a season with the comfort of a long-term contract in hand. Unlike the four-year, $38 million contract he signed with the Kansas City Royals before the start of that season, Greinke will have no concerns about eventually being traded because his team can no longer afford him.
For the first time in a long time, Greinke can focus on nothing other than being the best starting pitcher he can be. The results should be nothing short of outstanding.
4. He Gets a Chance to Pitch in the Playoffs Again
Zack Greinke's first trip to the postseason with the Milwaukee Brewers was less than spectacular.
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Greinke has only had the privilege of pitching in the postseason during one of his nine seasons in MLB, and the results were not good. In three playoff starts with the Brewers in 2011, he went 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA and 1.62 WHIP as Milwaukee lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers, in recent months, have shown a commitment to making trips to the postseason a regular occurrence. Greinke should now have many more opportunities to prove himself on the game’s biggest stage.
3. Dodgers Cement Their Status as the Kings of Baseball in Los Angeles
The Dodgers' recent moves have thwarted Los Angeles Angels owner Art Moreno's attempt to take over the L.A. basball market.
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As important as Greinke’s signing is to the Dodgers on the field, it has just as much value for what it symbolizes to baseball fans in the Los Angeles area.
The Angels, under the ownership of Arte Moreno, have been pushing to become the region’s most popular and successful major league franchise. The Dodgers' new owners will not let that happen. Stealing Greinke away from the Angels is the latest sign that they mean business.
Dating back to their origins in Brooklyn, the Dodgers became one of MLB’s most iconic franchises. They integrated the game by signing Jackie Robinson, constantly battled the New York Yankees for baseball supremacy and routinely rolled out rosters full of All-Stars and future Hall of Famers.
The Dodgers' brand has remained strong in the 55 years since the team moved to Los Angeles, but the Angels have emerged as the more successful franchise over the last decade.
Since purchasing the team in 2003, Moreno has used his considerable wealth and marketing prowess to raise the Angels’ profile and put a consistently strong product on the field. He successfully lobbied MLB commissioner Bud Selig to add “Los Angeles” to the team name in 2005. But Moreno made his biggest move yet last offseason.
After luring free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson away from the AL West-rival Texas Rangers, Moreno authorized general manager Jerry Dipoto to sign Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract that is the third largest in MLB history.
The Angels failed to make the postseason in 2012, but it was not for lack of trying.
While the Angels spent last winter reaffirming their place among MLB’s power players, the Dodgers faced an uncertain future.
Former owner Frank McCourt was forced to sell the team during bankruptcy proceedings that carried over into the beginning of this year. But in the eight months since GBM took over the team, they have made a concerted effort to return the Dodgers to greatness.
Dodgers fans have not seen this level of commitment to winning since the O’Malley family sold the team to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 1998. As the franchise continues to rise to its previous heights, so too will the status of players like Greinke, who will help them achieve the desired results on the field.
2. Greinke Will Help the Dodgers Catch Up with the San Francisco Giants
2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval led the Giants to their second championship in the last three seasons.
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The rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants is one of the longest-running and most competitive in all of professional sports. By winning two of the last three World Series titles, however, the Giants are threatening to establish themselves as the clearly superior franchise.
By adding Zack Greinke to an already stacked roster, the Dodgers are hoping to close the gap before it gets any wider.
Before the 2012 season, the two franchises were tied at six championships apiece, dating back to their respective roots in New York City. San Francisco’s 2012 World Series victory put it one ahead of the Dodgers and also marked its second championship since the two teams moved to California after the 1957 season.
The Giants have now won two championships (2010 and 2012) since the Dodgers won their last title in 1988.San Francisco has also made two other trips to the World Series since L.A.'s last appearance.
They were swept by the Oakland A's in the 1989 "Bay Bridge Series", which was memorable because of an earthquake that delayed the series for ten days. The Giants blew a 3-2 series lead against the Angels in 2002, costing Barry Bonds his best shot at a championship.
All told, San Francisco has made four World Series appearances in the past 23 years while the Dodgers remain stuck in a 24-year drought.
Since escaping the circus-like atmosphere that dominated the Barry Bonds era (1993-2007), San Francisco has created a sustainable blueprint that will lead to long-term success.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean has done a masterful job of building a roster—mostly through excellent drafting and first-rate player development—providing manager Bruce Bochy with a roster full of players who suit his formula for winning. That formula consists of good defense, excellent pitching and timely hitting.
The Dodgers would like to return to using sound player development to put a consistently good product on the field. That used to be one of the organization’s strong suits and is responsible for producing home-grown talent like Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
Unfortunately, the results of good scouting and excellent player development don’t show up on the major league level for years. Los Angeles does not have that kind of time.
The organization is working hard to replenish a minor league system and international scouting department that were severely neglected during the six-year McCourt regime. In the meantime, the Dodgers must rely on their considerable financial resources—derived largely from a television broadcasting rights deal with Fox that has yet to be finalized—to make trades and bring in free agents who can help L.A. win now.
Greinke is the latest example of the Dodgers going for it all, but his contract is consistent with their long-term strategy for winning.
He won’t turn 35 until after the sixth year of his new deal, so Los Angeles will likely avoid wasting millions of dollars on an ineffective player at the end of Greinke’s contract. That’s the kind of thinking that has allowed the Giants to prosper, and the Dodgers have apparently taken notice.
1. Los Angeles Officially Joins the Short List of World Series Favorites
Greinke gives the Dodgers their best shot at winning the World Series since their last title in 1988.
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In this November 28 article, I provided a more comprehensive breakdown on why Zack Greinke would make the Dodgers favorites to reach the 2013 World Series. Now that his signing has become a reality, nothing that has transpired over the last 10 days makes me inclined to change my position.
The Giants recently re-signed free agents Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro in preparation for their title defense. The Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers have all made significant free-agent signings—Dan Haren, B.J. Upton and Torii Hunter, respectively—in an effort to improve on their 2012 postseason runs as well.
You can bet that the St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees will make some roster tweaks as well, especially now that one of MLB free agency’s biggest dominoes has fallen.
But the Greinke signing was a game-changer for the Dodgers, and not just because he was the best pitcher available in a shallow market for starting pitching. He addressed one of the few real needs for a team that won 86 games in 2012 and was already poised to make a strong run at the postseason without Greinke.
The Dodgers were crushed by injuries in 2012, and the nine players they acquired from mid-July on had less than half a year to get acclimated to their new environment. That includes left fielder Carl Crawford, who never suited up for Los Angeles after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery before he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox.
Adding Greinke, who will require little if any adjustment period as he returns to the National League, undoubtedly puts the Dodgers toward the top of the short list of World Series favorites entering the 2013 season. Regardless of how the remaining free-agent chips fall, Los Angeles will begin next year with its highest expectations in years.