See ya, Dodgers.
Talk about a stunner. Zack Greinke to Arizona couldn’t be more shocking if the ace right-hander showed up with an actual, live Diamondback rattlesnake wrapped around his shoulders on Opening Day talking a mile a minute while sipping cactus juice.
Except for one thing: The Diamondbacks have an Albert Pujols-in-his-prime type in Paul Goldschmidt and the game’s most underrated star in A.J. Pollock, and they’re ready to win right now.
So the Sleeper Pick to win in 2016 nails the Sleeper Free Agent signing on the eve of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.
Quick, Sleep Train, get in here with a sponsorship.
Maybe some people out there weren’t paying attention because, sadly, outside of John McCain’s state lines, who ever pays attention to Arizona? Who even knew the Diamondbacks had the dough to promise Greinke what Bleacher Report sources confirm is $206.5 million over six years?
Truthfully, maybe they didn’t, though in an industry that now is approaching a record $9.5 billion in revenues, nobody is close to going broke. Plus, in this winter of giddy money, who cares? Sources say a chunk of Greinke’s gold rush is deferred, so by the time it comes due, Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa and Co. will be long gone, anyway.
Whatever, the Snakes didn’t hire La Russa to finish fourth in an NL West that suddenly just got a whole lot more interesting.
Until Greinke opted out of his Dodgers contract following the World Series, just as everyone knew he would, the Los Angeles rotation was Kershaw and Greinke and then try to schedule a day for open tryouts.
At the trade deadline, while everyone screamed that the Dodgers should have popped for David Price or Johnny Cueto because they haven’t even played in a World Series since 1988, let alone won one, they instead traded for Mat Latos (LOL) and Alex Wood (chips).
Now, with Price already delivered to Boston (seven years, $217 million), Jordan Zimmermann to Detroit (five years, $110 million) and Greinke splitting town for a division rival, the suddenly pitching-poor Dodgers are dangerously close to sifting through the free-agent market leftovers bin.
Suddenly, Cueto never looked so good.
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, still may sign another starter: Sources tell Bleacher Report that they’re also engaging in conversations with free-agent right-hander Mike Leake, who finished the season in San Francisco after being traded from Cincinnati and who also pitched locally for Arizona State as a collegian.
Don’t laugh, and don’t be yammering on about that cold-blooded Greinke leaving Hollywood simply for the money and nothing else.
The Diamondbacks improved their win-loss record last season by 15 games, the third-biggest jump in the National League behind the Cubs (plus-24) and Mets (plus-21). You might remember those two clubs met in the NL Championship Series.
Plus, Arizona finished the season as the youngest team in baseball, according to STATS LLC, with an average age of 26 years, 341 days.
Greinke can win here. This is a team poised to do some big things if only it could make the correct big moves, and those all revolved around the mound.
Know this about Greinke, too: He is one of the sharpest players in the game, with the analytical mind of a baseball executive.
When he signed with the Dodgers before the 2013 season, he had studied their farm system and knew about a couple of very young prospects (at the time) named Corey Seager and Joc Pederson.
When he pitched for Milwaukee in the spring of 2012, he talked personnel with Brewers executives and joined some of them on a scouting trip over to Arizona State University to watch a game and look at some players.
When he was at the All-Star Game in 2014, he spoke at length the day before the game, reeling off several statistics, accurately, when discussing whether the Dodgers at the time were underachieving or about where they should be. He also spoke knowingly about a couple of the game’s biggest contracts at that time and where some upcoming free agents should land, financially.
“The teams are greedier than the players, just so you know,” Greinke quipped that day.
There surely will be some angry Dodgers fans feeling jilted right about now who will refute that, and maybe some others as well. No matter. The Dodgers, with their $300 million payroll, could have kept Greinke had they wanted to. Industry insiders knew the San Francisco Giants were romancing Greinke hard, and most everybody thought it was coming down to a two-horse race, Dodgers vs. Giants, Hot Stove League style.
So call this the most deceptive curve ball Greinke’s ever thrown, and in his brilliant career, that’s saying a mouthful. He should have won the Cy Young Award this year with that stellar 19-3 season, 1.66 ERA and 0.844 WHIP.
Pitching in the dry desert where balls sometimes carry as if propelled by rocket fuel, no chance the numbers look that sweet for Greinke again in 2016.
But in Arizona, he has a chance to accomplish two things he couldn’t do in three seasons in Dodger Stadium: Make more money in a season than any other pitcher in baseball (the average annual value of his contract comes to $34.42 million a year, according to B/R sources), and win a World Series.
Let that last part roll around in your head for a bit.
The Sleeper Team for 2016 nails the Sleeper Free Agent Signing of the winter. Suddenly, things just got a whole lot noisier for the quiet Diamondbacks. Maybe now, people will pay attention to them beyond Yuma.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.
Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.