Will the Dodgers miss the playoffs next year?
The question gained a significant amount of gravity Friday, as the Dodgers received word that Zack Greinke wouldn't return next season.
Greinke agreed to a six-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Greinke's departure figures to be a setback for the Dodgers, whose rotation now consists of Clayton Kershaw and a series of wild cards.
Greinke posted a 1.66 earned-run average that was the lowest in baseball in 20 years. He was 19-3 and pitched six or more innings in all 32 of his starts.
His outstanding season included a scoreless streak of 45 2/3 innings.
The Dodgers, who won their third consecutive NL West championship, were 23-9 in games started by Greinke. They were 69-61 in games started by anyone else.
In three seasons with the Dodgers, he was 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA and served as the right-handed complement to Kershaw, the consensus No. 1 pitcher in baseball.
Greinke, 32, became a free agent this winter by exercising an opt-out clause in his six-year, $147-million contract.
His decision to forfeit the remaining $71 million on his contract and re-enter the free-agent market came as no surprise.
Greinke's decision looked especially wise Tuesday, when David Price agreed to a seven-year, $217-million contract with the Boston Red Sox. Price's contract was the most lucrative ever agreed to by a pitcher, exceeding the seven-year, $215-million contract signed by Kershaw leading up to the 2014 season.
Price's contract, which had an average annual value of $31 million, set the baseline for Greinke's deal.
Because Greinke is two years older than Price, he was expected to receive a shorter contract. However, the anticipation was that he would be paid more per season.
Dodgers minority owner Magic Johnson was aware Greinke would be expensive, but said Tuesday that re-signing him was a priority.
"He is our priority — our No. 1 priority in the off-season," Johnson said. "We are going to put in our bid, just like I'm sure other teams will. He's our priority. We like that 1-2 punch that we have with him and Clayton."
Baseball's best pitching tandem is now a memory.
Kershaw could be burdened more than ever, as there are several uncertainties behind him.
Injury-prone Brett Anderson made a career-high 31 starts this year, but his innings count more than quadrupled from the previous season, raising concerns about his durability for the upcoming season. Anderson, who accepted a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, is under contract for $15.8 million.
Hyun-Jin Ryu is recovering from shoulder surgery and Andrew Friedman, the team's president of baseball operations, has conceded he doesn't know what to expect from the South Korean.
Alex Wood, who was acquired in a midseason trade with the Atlanta Braves, was 5-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 12 starts with the Dodgers. He didn't start a game in the National League division series against the New York Mets.
Between Kershaw, Anderson, Ryu and Wood, the Dodgers have four left-handed starters.
Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is expected back from reconstructive elbow surgery, but not until the middle of the season.
Friedman said Tuesday the Dodgers were looking to add at least one more starting pitcher this off-season.
"I think adding one starter is something that's critically important," Friedman said. "Two will depend on a lot of factors that are not determined at this point."
With Greinke, Price and Jordan Zimmermann agreeing to deals — Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110-million contract with the Detroit Tigers — three of the top four free-agent pitchers are off the market. The other, Johnny Cueto, is suspected of having elbow problems.
If there's any consolation, it's that Friedman said the team has a stockpile of serviceable arms in the minor leagues.
"I think as we sit here today, we're in a much better spot in terms of the depth that we have in triple A than we were last year, which obviously helps navigate a season," Friedman said.
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