Title-Hopeful Dodgers Should Go All In, Sign Both Zack Greinke and David Price

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterNovember 13, 2015

David Price and Zack Greinke in Dodger blue? That could actually work, and it would certainly make the Dodgers scary.
David Price and Zack Greinke in Dodger blue? That could actually work, and it would certainly make the Dodgers scary.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the market for starting pitching, and word is they're willing to go big. They either want to re-sign Zack Greinke or, failing that, sign David Price instead.

But here's a crazy notion: Why not both Greinke and Price? And by "crazy," we of course actually mean "plausible and very much worthwhile."

First, let's be clear that signing both Greinke and Price doesn't appear to be the Dodgers' goal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported that they're the top two free agents on the Dodgers' radar but that there's only an either/or thing going on. Greinke is their top target, and Price is their "fallback option."

You can understand why the Dodgers feel they only need to sign one of them. They're coming off a year in which their starting rotation's excellent 3.24 ERA had a big hand in delivering a 92-70 record and a third straight NL West title. At the heart of that success was the unrivaled duo of Clayton Kershaw and Greinke, who combined for a 1.94 ERA in nearly 450 innings. 

Re-signing Greinke, who led MLB with a 1.66 ERA, would keep the band together and potentially allow the Dodgers to repeat their 2015 formula in 2016 and beyond. Going for Price, whose 2.45 ERA gave him his second American League ERA title, could have the same effect.

But if one of them would be good, signing both would obviously be even better. Doing so would cost a lot of money, but...hey, these are the Dodgers we're talking about here.

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Both Greinke and Price could make over $30 million per year.
Both Greinke and Price could make over $30 million per year.Gregory Bull/Associated Press/Associated Press

Modern times being what they are, there's no mistaking that Greinke and Price are both in line for gigantic contracts. 

In the wake of the seven-year, $210 million contract that Max Scherzer signed last winter, the price for elite starting pitching this winter will be at least $30 million per year. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors is probably right on in predicting that Price, 30, will sign for seven years and $217 million and that Greinke, 32, will sign for five years and $156 million.

If that's where Greinke and Price end up, they'll both be on the hook for $31 million per year. So, if the Dodgers were to ink both, they could be adding a little over $60 million to their 2016 payroll. That's a lot of money for two players. 

But too much? Maybe not for the Dodgers.

Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick are among the players the Dodgers are no longer on the hook for.
Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick are among the players the Dodgers are no longer on the hook for.Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

The Dodgers ultimately spent $310 million on payroll in 2015. As of now, Cot's Baseball Contracts has them on the hook for about $155 million in salary commitments for 2016, and MLB Trade Rumors has them projected to pay about $35 million in arbitration. That adds up to roughly $190 million.

If the Dodgers add Greinke and Price at their projected rates, they'd only be raising their 2016 commitments to $250 million. That's well short of where they can go, giving them room to make more additions even after dropping a couple king's ransoms on the kings of the free-agent pitching market.

And this is without even assuming that the Dodgers could backload Greinke's and Price's contracts so that the real money doesn't kick in until later. With the club's guaranteed salary commitments set to fall below $100 million as soon as 2018, that's something they could do.

Another thing to keep in mind: signing Greinke and Price would only cost the Dodgers money.

The Dodgers made Greinke a qualifying offer, and his inevitable rejection of it will tie him to draft pick compensation. But if it's the Dodgers who sign him, their first-round pick in 2016 (No. 25) will remain theirs. And because Price was traded in 2015, he was barred from receiving a qualifying offer. Ergo, signing both of them would not hinder the Dodgers' ability to keep adding young talent via the draft.

In all, we have how the Dodgers can sign both Greinke and Price. Now it's time for the second half of the equation: why they should.

GM Farhan Zaidi (L) and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman (R) can come up with all sorts of plans, but only one right one.
GM Farhan Zaidi (L) and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman (R) can come up with all sorts of plans, but only one right one.Richard Vogel/Associated Press/Associated Press

As it has been in previous offseasons, the Dodgers' goal for this offseason is to make upgrades that will bring them not just more NL West titles, but the elusive World Series title they've been hot after ever since Magic Johnson rescued the team from Frank McCourt in 2012.

To do this, the Dodgers could pursue all sorts of options. It's just hard to think of one better than upgrading their rotation with Greinke and Price.

The Dodgers could upgrade their offense, which may seem like the right idea after it failed them down the stretch in 2015. But President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said recently, via Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, that he sees the team as being "pretty locked in offensively." And he's right.

A full season of Corey Seager could make a huge difference.
A full season of Corey Seager could make a huge difference.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

The Dodgers have solid starters at every position except second base, and what happened at the end of 2015 shouldn't obscure the fact that there's plenty of upside to be found in the Dodgers offense. The Dodgers had an elite offense early in 2015 and could again if Yasmani Grandal and Yasiel Puig can stay healthy and young guns Joc Pederson and Corey Seager make good on their potential.

The Dodgers could also upgrade their bullpen, which hasn't featured a solid bridge to the excellent Kenley Jansen in any of the last three seasons. But outside of Darren O'Day—who ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick says already has the Dodgers' attention—the free-agent relief market is very thin. Most of the action is on the trade market, where there aren't many sensible targets for the Dodgers.

As much as the Dodgers would probably love to have Aroldis Chapman, their young pitching (i.e. Julio Urias and Jose De Leon) may not appeal to a Cincinnati Reds team that needs young position players. Moving young talent to the San Diego Padres for Craig Kimbrel could backfire in the future. Andrew Miller is available, but Heyman writes that it may take an ace pitcher to land him from the New York Yankees. At present, the Dodgers only have one of those. And he's, uh, not available.

So, behold. We're left looking at Door No. 3: the Dodgers rotation.

If nothing else, the Dodgers rotation needs depth. Kershaw is still on top and is still awesome. But after him, Alex Wood is the Dodgers' only healthy established starter. After him come Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, who are both coming off significant injuries.

If the Dodgers were to sign Greinke and Price, they'd be making depth a much more minor concern and, more importantly, upgrading from an elite rotation duo to an elite rotation trio.

How good would a trio of Kershaw, Greinke and Price be? Well, it says a lot that Baseball-Reference.com WAR rates them as three of the league's eight best pitchers since 2013:

MLB's Top Pitchers: 2013-2015
RkPlayerGSIPERAWAR
1Clayton Kershaw93667.01.9222.9
2Max Scherzer98663.12.9419.7
3Zack Greinke92602.22.3017.5
4Chris Sale87597.02.9216.8
5Felix Hernandez96642.02.8616.4
6Cole Hamels95637.03.2515.6
7Jake Arrieta72461.02.5214.2
8David Price93655.13.0113.4
Baseball-Reference.com

Things don't look much different if you focus strictly on 2015, as Kershaw, Greinke and Price rated as three of the league's six best pitchers.

In fact, had they been on the same team in 2015, the Dodgers would have been the first team with three starters with ERAs below 2.50 since they did it in 1985. Even more impressive, they would have been only the third team ever with three pitchers worth at least six WAR.

If a Kershaw, Greinke and Price trio becomes a reality, the Dodgers would have a rotation trio that few teams could match up with. This is certainly true of the National League, where the only competitive unit would be the New York Mets' trio of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. 

And lest anyone doubt that the Dodgers need only arrange an elite rotation trio to have a shot at their elusive World Series title, the Mets are a pretty good example to follow.

Steven Matz (center) also had his moments in the postseason.
Steven Matz (center) also had his moments in the postseason.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Dodgers were the first team the Mets beat on their way to winning the National League pennant, in part because they got excellent pitching out of deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard. Evidently, that left an impression on Adrian Gonzalez.

"I definitely think that in this day and age you need three front-line starters to go deep in the playoffs," said the Dodgers first baseman, via Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

Granted, this is debatable. The Kansas City Royals didn't need three front-line starters to win the World Series. And as Friedman pointed out to Hernandez, the assorted rosters of this year's postseason were "constructed very differently."

What the Mets showed, however, is that a roster constructed around an elite starting trio is indeed capable of going deep into the postseason as long as it has the right supporting cast. In their case, that meant an offense defined by its depth and one shutdown reliever (Jeurys Familia).

That's a blueprint the Dodgers could follow if they put Greinke and Price behind Kershaw. As we discussed, they already have one shutdown reliever in Jansen, and depth will indeed be their offense's defining feature if it's blessed with good health and a couple of breakout performances. If this formula worked for the Mets, it could work for the Dodgers.

To go for it, all the Dodgers have to do is hand out a couple hundred million bucks. And, really, what's that to them?

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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