ZACK GREINKE, 31, starting pitcher.
Final 2014 stats: 17-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings, .247 opponent batting average in a team-high 202 1/3 innings. Also batted .200 with six doubles.
Contract status: Will be in third year of six-year, $147-million contract and earn $23 million in 2015. Can opt out of contract at end of season.
The good: The Dodgers’ other ace. Won a career-high 17 games. Went 5-0 with a 2.34 ERA in his last eight starts. Tied for fifth in the National League with 207 strikeouts. Threw seven scoreless innings in lone playoff start against Cardinals. Led the team with 32 starts.
Finished seventh in N.L. Cy Young voting. Won the Gold Glove, committing only one error and assisting on 30 double plays.
The bad: Nothing to really complain about. He slightly bettered most of his numbers from his first season with the Dodgers. Never had a truly poor stretch.
What’s next: Should offer one more outstanding season, before he likely takes advantage of that opt-out and departs for even greater riches. If he does not, is scheduled to receive $24 million in 2016, $23 million the next year and $24 million in his final season.
The take: Greinke and Clayton Kershaw combine to give the Dodgers arguably baseball’s finest top two starting pitchers. Greinke had a terrific 2014 that was simply overshadowed by Kershaw’s dominant MVP season. It was nearly equal to his own Cy Young season with the Royals in 2009 (16-8, 2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP).
There seems to be a growing sentiment that Greinke will opt out of his Dodgers contract after next season and chase a possible last big contract. But he’ll still be owed an additional $71 million if he stays, and he seems to like it here. He’s a unique guy and there’s no way of knowing until he does. And since he’s typically brutally honest, that’s a question away.
He remains a great student of the game and should he eventually lose some mph on his fastball, he figures to know how to adjust better than most. Next year seems secure, and the Dodgers will again build around their rotation. After that with Greinke, it figures to get even more interesting.