Dodgers Dugout: Here’s the only way the Zack Greinke news turns out OK for the Dodgers
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I just realized that Zack Greinke is going to be impossible to shop for this Christmas.
Greinke goes to Arizona
So now that we have all had a couple of days to let it sink in that Zack Greinke won't be here next season, let's try to look at this rationally. Emotionally, I wanted Greinke to come back. He's a great pitcher who would be a great influence on the younger arms coming up, and gives us two Cy Young candidates every season. But logically, here is how I look at it.
There had to be a line drawn someplace as to how much to spend on Greinke. They apparently offered him a five-year, $165-million deal, or $31 million a season. The Diamondbacks offered him six years, $206.5 million, or $34.4 million a season. The extra year and the extra money was a sticking point, so the Dodgers let him walk.
I would have let him walk too. You have to draw the line somewhere, and if I was the Dodger general manager, I would have drawn the line there. For a couple of reasons: 1. That's a lot of money to give to a pitcher with a history of a balky elbow who will be almost 38 when the six years are up. More important, 2. We've had him three seasons and I don't recall any World Series parades in L.A. any of those seasons.
I know what you are saying: "But he gets us into the playoffs, and then anything can happen." Well, unfortunately, there are no guarantees in baseball. Having Clayton Kershaw and Greinke doesn't guarantee us anything, and it obviously doesn't guarantee us a World Series title. And the goal every season should be to win the World Series.
"But pitching is the most important thing and we would have had two of the best pitchers in the game, maybe even the best two." Quick, name the starting rotation for the Kansas City Royals last season. And then tell me how many World Series the 1990s Atlanta Braves, with Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, won. That's right, one.
So, emotionally, losing Greinke is tough. But logically, it doesn't mean the Dodgers won't win the World Series.
Here's the important part for the Dodgers: They now need to make some moves to upgrade this team, because if they just stand pat and count the money they saved, then they are making a mistake. They can now sign a couple of starting pitchers from this group: Johnny Cueto, Wei-yin Chen, Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Hisashi Iwakuma or Kenta Maeda, among others. They might revive trade talks for Carlos Carrasco or Shelby Miller. They could see if they can pry Sonny Gray away from Oakland for some prospects. And they will probably be able to promote Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon to the rotation sometime next season.
So, there are things out there to make the pitching better than it stands today. The Dodgers will also need to upgrade the offense. Even if Greinke came back, the Dodgers are not winning the World Series with the offense they have. They can roll the dice and hope Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal and Yasiel Puig have better seasons, and hope that Justin Turner's knee problem isn't chronic and that Adrian Gonzalez can stave off the effects of age another season, or they can sign someone like Ben Zobrist, or really swing for the fences, give up a prospect or two and bring in someone like a Giancarlo Stanton to really shake things up.
So, all is not lost. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi still have ample time to make this team better and to show fans they are serious about winning now, not five years from now (by the way, there's no law that says you can't do both). If Friedman and Zaidi are reading this, I hope they realize that most fans have lost faith in them. And if you just sign a couple of low-level free agents and don't improve the offense at all, expect a lot of Dodgers fans to be unhappy.
And if Friedman and Zaidi think that is unfair, well, Dodgers fans will think it is unfair that ticket prices went up with nothing to show for it, and that most of us still can't watch the Dodgers on TV despite the team pocketing an $8.35-billion TV contract. Dodger fans can be persuaded that it doesn't make sense to give almost a quarter of a billion dollars to a pitcher over 30. But do nothing, and the front office and ownership will have to convince Dodgers fans why they should continue to spend hundreds of dollars on tickets to a game, parking, food, drinks and a souvenir.
The ball is now firmly in the Dodgers' court. What they do in the next couple of months will tell us whether letting Greinke walk was a good move or not. There's still time to salvage this. Don't blow it.
This just in
And the team is already trying to recover from Greinke’s loss. On Monday, reports are that they acquired closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds for two prospects. Over the last three seasons, Chapman is 8-12 with 107 saves and a 2.05 ERA in 184 innings. He has also struck out 334 of the 738 batters he has faced, or 45.3%. Chapman, along with Kenley Jansen, gives the Dodgers two lights-out pitchers in the bullpen. But it also means they need to lead after seven innings for this trade to be significant. Perhaps they trade one of them for a slugger? Stanton?
Over the weekend, they agreed to terms with Chase Utley, who will return as a backup infielder and make games against the Mets more interesting. Bringing Utley back does not improve the offense, but maybe he can tutor Jose Peraza on how to play second base.
The team was also said to be closing in on a three-year deal with right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Over the last three seasons with Seattle, Iwakuma, 34, was 38-20 with a 3.17 ERA and an ERA+ of 117 (compared with Greinke’s 156). Iwakuma should be a good No. 3 or No. 4 starter, but it's interesting they didn't want to pay Greinke when he was 37 but have no problem paying Iwakuma, who also has a history of injuries.
It’s a start, but they would still not be as good a team as the one that ended last season in the NLDS. The baseball winter meetings take place this week in Nashville, so there may be more moves this week. I will run them all down in the next newsletter after the meetings end.
Times baseball columnist Bill Shaikin takes a look at the Greinke deal here. Dylan Hernandez's news story is here. And Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports writes that the Dodgers didn't blow it by not signing Greinke, they blew it by not trading for Cole Hamels at last season's deadline.
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