Zack Greinke doesn't see the need for an agent currently, but Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel not to read into that. "I think he may end up doing a lot of this himself. Then, if it gets to a serious nature, he might get somebody to help," said Melvin.
Melvin said he first needs to talk to owner Mark Attanasio before he discusses a possible extension with Greinke. The GM implied he'd prefer not to talk contract during the season. Melvin cited four signed pitchers who I assume he considers comparable to Greinke; let's look more closely at each situation.
- Greinke, 28, has a 3.82 ERA over 1279 2/3 career innings, though his 8.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9, as well as his 2009 Cy Young award, suggest he's better than his ERA. A deal for Greinke would entirely cover free agent seasons, a key difference compared to some of the other contracts Melvin mentioned. Greinke would have been a free agent after the 2010 season had he not signed a four-year, $38MM deal with the Royals in '09. He's already made big money, unlike the comparables Melvin listed. We don't know if that will give Greinke the security to seek top dollar or compel him to do the exact opposite.
- Jered Weaver, a Scott Boras client, signed a five-year, $85MM extension with the Angels in August. The contract included his final year of arbitration, so it was $70MM over four free agent years, a $17.5MM average annual value. Weaver was also 28 at the time of the signing, and he had better career numbers than Greinke. Two factors suppressed Weaver's price and term significantly: he strongly preferred to stay close to home, and he was a year and a month away from free agency. Cole Hamels' agent has already stated the Weaver contract won't be a comparable, and Greinke might choose to toss it out as well.
- Justin Verlander, a client of SFX Baseball, signed a five-year, $80MM deal, and Felix Hernandez, an Octagon client, signed a five-year, $78MM deal. Both contracts covered two arbitration years and three free agent seasons, making them even worse comparables for Greinke. Verlander received $20MM per free agent year and Hernandez got $19.3MM. Verlander was coming off a better season than Greinke is, though he still had a 3.92 caree ERA at the time of signing.
- C.J. Wilson, a client of Select Sports Group, recently signed a five-year, $77.5MM deal with the Angels. Like Weaver, it appeared Wilson took less money because of his desire to play for the Halos. Wilson's contract was signed on the open market following two seasons as a starting pitcher. This seems closest to a legitimate comparable for Greinke, among the contracts Melvin named.
Despite the differences in service time in these comparables, the fact remains that Melvin cited a bunch of five-year deals in the $80MM range. The Brewers' ceiling probably isn't much higher. If Greinke is confident he can post a mid-3.00s ERA over 200 innings in 2012, he can land a six-year deal exceeding $100MM on the open market, even with the draft pick cost attached and possible competition from Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Anibal Sanchez. And if Greinke doesn't go for a typical agency relationship, he'll save millions on commission.