The right-hander is coming off a season in which he went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA, leading the National League in ERA, WAR, on-base percentage allowed and other good stuff. In his three seasons with the Dodgers, he went 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA. He’s never missed time with an arm injury; his DL stints have been a result of a broken rib suffered playing basketball and a broken collarbone in 2013 suffered in a brawl with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
At 32, he’s two years older than Max Scherzer was last offseason when Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals, so Greinke may not receive that much. But expect something in the $170 million-$180 million range if he goes for the maximum offer.
Who lands him? This is pure speculation, but since Greinke loves to hit — he hit .224 with two home runs in 2015 and .249 in his Dodgers career — I’m thinking he’ll sign with a National League team. Maybe money trumps all in the end. After all, in his last free agency, Greinke admitted that money is “obviously the No. 1 thing. I could play for the worst team if they paid the most. … If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go for the $200 million no matter what team it was.”
But Greinke is also the unpredictable personality who may want to remain in the NL. With that in mind, here are five possible destinations, all NL teams:
1. The favorite: Los Angeles Dodgers
Over the past two seasons the Dodgers were just one game over .500 when Greinke or Clayton Kershaw didn’t start. Brett Anderson is also a free agent, so Kershaw and Alex Wood (4.35 ERA in 12 starts) are the current holdovers from the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy will be trying to come back from injuries, and prospects Jose De Leon and Julio Urias have limited time above A ball.
The Dodgers obviously have the cash, but you can also envision a scenario in which they won’t want to wait on Greinke’s decision. Maybe they instead go after David Price or Johnny Cueto. Maybe they sign Jason Heyward to a big deal and trade Yasiel Puig. Maybe the allocate their resources in multiple players. That said, everyone seems to think the Dodgers are the favorite to sign Greinke.
2. Big-market team with money: Chicago Cubs
All the early rumors have Price reuniting with Joe Maddon, his manager from his Tampa Bay days. But maybe the Cubs like Greinke better. Maybe they like idea of two right-handed aces in Jake Arrieta and Greinke and one lefty in Jon Lester as opposed to Arrieta and two lefties. Maybe Price’s poor postseason results will scare them off. Maybe they evaluate Greinke’s hitting — worth 0.6 WAR in 2015 — as worth an additional $4-5 million in value.
Or maybe the Cubs are happy with two aces, keep money in reserve to extend Arrieta in the future and spend their money on a center fielder or a corner outfielder if they think Kyle Schwarber ends up behind the plate.
3. You never have enough pitching: Washington Nationals
The Nationals may skimp on paying managers, but they don’t skimp on paying players. The rotation beyond Scherzer was a disappointment in 2015. They’re also losing a lot of money off the books in free agents: Jordan Zimmermann ($16.5 million in 2015), Doug Fister ($11.4 million), Ian Desmond ($11 million), Denard Span ($9 million), Nate McLouth ($5 million) and Matt Thornton ($3.5 million). With Trea Turner and Michael Taylor ready to step in for Desmond and Span, that’s $56.4 million that will go somewhere (other than a savings account for Bryce Harper). Keep in mind that Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are also free agents after 2016 and signing Greinke as a one-two punch alongside Scherzer makes sense.
4. The rival: San Francisco Giants
Tim Hudson retired and Tim Lincecum is a free agent, so that’s $30 million in new change lying around. Some of that goes to increases for Buster Posey (about $3 million) and Madison Bumgarner (another $3 million), and Jake Peavy jumps up from $9 million to $15 million. Brandon Crawford will get a big raise in arbitration. Bumgarner’s team-friendly contract runs through 2019, so re-signing him isn’t an immediate issue. Plus the Giants have a lot of money soon coming off the books: Peavy, Angel Pagan and Sergio Romo after 2016. Marco Scutaro made $6.7 million in 2015 while on the DL. All that is a way of saying there could be room in the payroll for Greinke.
The Giants definitely need help with the rotation, which ranked seventh in the NL in ERA but just 12th in road ERA. Maybe they stick to a midrotation guy like Mike Leake and hope Matt Cain can make a strong comeback, but signing Greinke — and sticking it to the Dodgers — would be pretty sweet.
5. The sleeper: Arizona Diamondbacks
They have some offense; they can catch the ball. They need an ace. The club’s only long-term commitments beyond 2016 are Paul Goldschmidt, whose contract is highway robbery for a star of his stature, and Yasmany Tomas. There’s money here if Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart can convince Greinke to come to the desert.
And if you want a real long shot, how about the Miami Marlins? Greinke is from Florida, he’s played for Don Mattingly, and apparently all Jeffrey Loria has to do is offer the most money.