For a guy who doesn’t typically enjoy attention, Zack Greinke is about to get as much as he can possibly handle. Fortunately for him, it’s coming attached with hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money.
A clear star in a top-heavy free agent class that doesn’t profile to include many of them, Greinke, who would probably prefer to stay in the National League, should have just about every team not from New York calling. At 32 years old and looking to win both now and later, Greinke will be able to name both his price and destination, so interested suitors have got to come with more to offer than a wheelbarrow filled with cash.
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San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are going to spend some money this winter, and it’s a strong bet that the focus is going to be on improving the starting rotation. Already familiar with following a dominant lefty in the rotation, Greinke’s arrival would be an emphatic departure from what previously stood behind Madison Bumgarner. Greinke is an exclamation mark, not a question mark, and after posting a downright dominant season in the National League West, the Giants should do nearly whatever it takes to land him. Stealing him from away from the Dodgers would provide both a psychological and competitive advantage to a team that loves to get inside the opposition’s head.
In addition to an obscene amount of money, the Chicago Cubs can offer opportunity and the chance to win on a potentially legendary stage. With a young core firmly locked into place and a lineup that only needs tweaks around its edges, the Cubs should be playing in the postseason for the foreseeable future.
With a pitching staff that already includes two No. 1 options in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, adding Greinke would transform the Cubs’ fire-breathing dragon into a three-headed monster. Greinke is an incredibly intelligent guy, and he’s going to want to see more than a blank check in order to make a commitment. The Cubs can provide exactly that.
Los Angeles Dodgers
If the negotiation comes down to years vs. money, the Los Angeles Dodgers are probably going to lose their most consistent starter of the 2015 season. Although the team is capable of spending however it wishes as evidenced by their $300M payroll, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman is departing from a rampant spending spree strategy with hopes of building a more sustainable long-term future.
With so much already invested in Clayton Kershaw’s left arm, it’s hard to see the Dodgers front office extending to the lengths that it will take to keep Greinke. At 32 years old, this is Greinke’s final chance to sign a big contract, and you know he’s looking to collect all of the security he possibly can.
St. Louis Cardinals
This fit is completely contingent on Jason Heyward’s future, but if the talented outfielder departs St. Louis after a one-and-done season, the Cardinals would be an extremely intriguing fit for Greinke’s next chapter.
Although their rotation would be in good shape even in the event of John Lackey’s free agent departure, adding Greinke would strengthen the overall picture while providing the flexibility to deal from a position of depth. With so many pitching-starved clubs anxious to upgrade their rotation via trade rather than spend in free agency, the Cardinals would once again be in their most familiar position: The driver’s seat.
Projecting Max Scherzer to sign with the Washington Nationals last season looked pretty unrealistic…until it happened. Despite their evolving roster, the Nats always have a hand in the pile when sorting through the top available talent. With Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister likely to depart in free agency and Stephen Strasburg entering a contract year of his own, Greinke’s arrival would provide a nice cushion for the Nats to land on in the event all three starters are ultimately gone. I don’t believe the veteran hurler’s next deal will be north of $200 million; I didn’t believe that about Scherzer, either. Having both Scherzer and Greinke would mean investing around $400 million in just two players, but perhaps Washington will surprise me again.
Other Teams to Watch: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees