The market for free-agent ace Zack Greinke is “quietly heating up,” tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Both the Dodgers and Giants are looking for some clarity in regards to their pursuit of the right-hander, according to Crasnick, who hears that the Excel Sports client is seeking $30MM annually.
As Crasnick notes, that annual target is a challenge for teams interested in Greinke not only due to its own enormity but also due to the fact that Greinke is older than the typical free-agent starter, set to embark on his age-32 campaign in 2016. Most recent multi-year deals of the magnitude Greinke is expected to command conclude in the pitcher’s age-36 season (at least in terms of guaranteed money), but that would cap Greinke at five years. Considering the historically excellent season he just delivered in 2015, however, it’s easy to envision Greinke’s camp seeking six or more years on a free-agent deal.
After all, Greinke’s 1.66 ERA was the lowest single-season mark by a qualified starting pitcher in the past two decades. He logged 222 2/3 innings in the regular season, averaging 8.1 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 and went on to toss 13 2/3 very solid innings in the playoffs as well. Greinke has been nothing short of brilliant in his three years with the Dodgers, compiling a 2.30 ERA with 8.3 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 in 602 2/3 regular-season innings, plus a strikingly similar 2.27 ERA in 35 2/3 postseason innings.
Greinke’s age and the fact that he rejected a qualifying offer are both knocks against him when compared to his primary competitors — David Price and Johnny Cueto — but Greinke is also coming off the best season of the three. Beyond that, the general consensus among scouts seems to be that Greinke will age better than many of his elite peers, somewhat lessening the sting of committing a contract of significant length. In addition to the Dodgers and Giants, Greinke has also been linked to the Red Sox and Cubs, though other large-market, high-payroll teams figure to have privately expressed some interest as well.