Greinke Chasing History, Major Payday

Zack Greinke has been nothing short of spectacular this year. With free agency a possibility after the season, the timing could not be better.

It is weird to think that anyone other than Clayton Kershaw could be considered the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers, yet Zack Greinke is making quite the case for himself.

Greinke is 16 2/3 innings away from history and has arguably been the best pitcher in the game this year. His performance has been at an all-time high, which means he will have to make the tough choice of a man living in luxury this coming offseason.

While the hurler is probably preoccupied with chasing down Orel Hersheiser’s record of 59 straight scoreless innings at the moment –  Greinke is at 43 2/3 shutout frames right now – he should also be thinking about the potential payday he is setting himself up for at season’s end.

When the 31-year-old first signed with the Dodgers for six years and $147 million back in 2013, he included an option that would let him out of the deal at the end of this year. Well, as good as Greinke was back then, he appears to be that much better of a pitcher now.

September 23, 2014 - Los Angeles Dodgers Starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) [3081] pitches in the top of the 1st inning during the Los Angeles Dodgers game versus the San Francisco Giants at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. Dodgers defeated Giants 4-2.

Of course, there is still plenty of baseball left to play in 2015 and Greinke would be foolish to reject the guaranteed $77 million he would be owed over the next three years of his current deal without at least giving the scenario some thought. After all, $77 million is a tremendous amount of money. The problem for the Dodgers is that it is nowhere near what Greinke could get on the open market.

To see what could be in store for Greinke, one does not have to look too far off in the distance. Max Scherzer was just a year younger than the Dodger when he signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Washington Nationals this past winter. While Scherzer was certainly dominant in 2014 prior to signing the contract, Greinke is on his way to putting up much better numbers.

Scherzer went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 2014 as a member of the Detroit Tigers. He had a 10.3 K/9 ratio, 2.85 FIP and 5.1 WAR over the course of 220 1/3 innings. Again, there is still plenty of time for Greinke’s numbers to take a hit, but at this point his seem destined to end up way ahead of where Scherzer’s did last year.

With his scoreless streak still going, the National League All-Star team’s starting pitcher is 9-2 with a 1.30 ERA – the best mark in baseball. With a 131 1/3 innings and 19 starts in the books, Greinke has a 281 ERA+, 2.52 FIP, 0.822 WHIP and 8.0 K/9 ratio. With a WAR of 6.0, he has already bested Scherzer’s mark from last year. Greinke is also allowing the fewest hits in the Majors and has demonstrated significantly better control than Scherzer did last year.

27 May 2015: Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer pitching in a MLB game between the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs, at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Il

It’s no longer out of the question that Greinke is worth Scherzer-type money.

The fact that the Nationals’ new ace has been spectacular this year and is earning his enormous contract will not hurt Greinke should he decide to look for greener pastures.

Of course, there is a lot of time and money left on Scherzer’s deal, and as we have seen before, long-term contracts rarely go without a hitch. As great as Greinke has been, a deal like Scherzer’s would put him under contract through his age-38 season.

Greinke’s personality has also been cause for conflict over the years, though his time in LA has been rather tranquil by his standards. Whether that gets in the way or not, Scherzer-type money is always a big risk for the teams handing it out.

The question Greinke has to ask himself is if he thinks there will be another team willing to dish out the type of moola the Nats did. If there is, he has put himself in position to get every penny of it, and maybe then some.

If not, $77 million to stay in Dodger blue the next three years is not such a raw deal either.

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