Being outbid by Arizona for Zack Greinke is disappointing for Dodgers, devastating for fans
The San Francisco Giants, well, you could have understood that. As a Dodgers fan, you would have despised it, of course. But nothing says respect like three parades in six years — and, hey, next year is an even year. If Zack Greinke had signed with the Giants, you would have gotten it, begrudgingly.
The Arizona Diamondbacks? The team that has eight uniform combinations, a pool in the outfield, and an airplane hangar for a ballpark? Those guys?
Greinke left the Dodgers to sign with those guys. That in itself could turn the face of a Dodgers fan red — Sedona red, to be exact.
But the greater source of irritation might well be this: How could baseball’s answer to the Denver mint be outbid by the Phoenix ballclub?
As night fell Wednesday, and again on Thursday, the Dodgers thought they were closing in on a new contract with Greinke, believing the issue was more about how to structure a deal and less about whether there would be one.
The Dodgers pushed well beyond their financial comfort zone — not because they could not afford the money, but because history shows few investments tend to be greater follies than guaranteed money to a pitcher in his late 30s.
Nonetheless, the Dodgers offered close to $160 million over five years, a contract that would have carried the highest average annual value in baseball history and carried Greinke through age 36. They refused to guarantee a sixth year, as the Diamondbacks did.
The Dodgers ultimately were outbid by about $50 million, by a team they did not suspect was deep into the bidding until Friday.
Magic Johnson, who owns a minority stake in the Dodgers, said this week that Grienke was the team’s “No. 1 priority,” with a qualifier.
“We all want him back,” Johnson said. “If somebody comes in and does something that is off the charts and we don’t match that, then he leaves.”
There are no runner-up ribbons in the bidding. In this case, there is a fan base aggravated and aggrieved. The Dodgers have led the major leagues in attendance in every year under Guggenheim Baseball ownership, and the team just increased ticket prices sharply. The Dodgers have a television contract worth $8.35 billion, even if many fans still cannot see SportsNet LA.
It does not make good financial sense to spend more than $200 million on a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. We get that. But it does not make good financial sense to spend $6 on a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola at Dodger Stadium, and fans do it anyway, those fans muttering themselves to sleep Friday night, dogged by a sense of unrequited love from their favorite team.
No one — not the fans, certainly not opposing teams — appeared to take the Dodgers at their word when they kept insisting they would develop a sustainable franchise. The Dodgers are terrified of turning into the New York Yankees of the early 2010s and the Philadelphia Phillies of the last few years, immobilized by too many old guys making too much money.
The $300-million payroll last season attracted all the headlines, but the Dodgers really do want to get younger. This, Dodgers fans, is the painful proof.
They might invest in a Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Hisashi Iwakuma or Kenta Maeda. They might revive trade talks for Carlos Carrasco or Shelby Miller. They almost certainly will dangle Yasiel Puig, and maybe even Joc Pederson, at the winter meetings.
Among the young pitchers, Julio Urias, Jose DeLeon and Jharel Cotton all could arrive sometime next season.
The Dodgers might remain the favorites to win the National League West, although Greinke now is teammates with two position players — first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and outfielder A.J. Pollock — better than anyone he leaves behind in Los Angeles.
But this is about winning the World Series, not winning the NL West. The Dodgers are worse off today than they were last season. The World Series drought is about to turn 28. If Greinke’s arm indeed falls off in five years, well, Dodgers fans will not be throwing the front office a parade to celebrate the foresight.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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