The day after Zack Greinke surprised the world and signed an astronomical six-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the reaction among Dodger fans and the media has surprisingly been split.
On one hand, there’s a group who (for lack of better terms) is calling for Andrew Friedman’s head, while the other believes that it was smart business to draw a line and not exceed an already generous limit.
Regardless of the opinions rendered, the truth is that the Dodgers lost an important piece. The starting rotation grade drops from a B+ to maybe a C depending on the recovery of Hyun-jin Ryu. Needless to say, the front office absolutely must make some corresponding moves to compensate.
Just looking at a few cursory numbers, the starting pitching staff in 2015 as a whole posted an overall ERA of 3.44, which was good enough to rank fifth of 15 teams in the National League. Subtracting Greinke’s contributions, the starters ERA calculates to 3.77, which would have ranked eighth. Interestingly enough, subtracting the stats of both Clayton Kershaw and Greinke, the starting pitching ERA rises to 4.16, which would have ranked 11th of 15.
Those numbers are a small sample size that illustrate just how critical front-end starting pitching is for success. However, if any pieces are added offensively, it may take some much-needed pressure away from the starters and perhaps make the loss of Greinke a much lighter blow.
The Dodgers as a team averaged 4.12 runs per game last year, which ranked eighth in the NL. A team batting average of .250 ranked 10th. Surprisingly, the team OPB of .326 ranked first while the OPS (.739) ranked second. All of this seems to suggest that the Dodgers had no problems getting runners on base, but instead had problems cashing them into runs. If Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman see any quick analytical answers within their spreadsheets, an improved offensive RPG average could lessen the burdens of the starting pitching staff.
Perhaps this is the best route to consider, being that it’s impossible to replace Greinke with a single player who remains on the free agent market. With David Price, Jordan Zimmermann and Jeff Samardzija already signed to sizable deals, only a few options remain. Johnny Cueto is available, but the fact that he rejected a reported 6-year/$120 million deal from the Diamondbacks last weekend suggests Friedman and Zaidi may shy away, especially considering his injury history.
Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo, Hisashi Iwakuma and Ian Kennedy are still available, but are very unlikely candidates due to the fact they rejected qualifying offers and will cost the Dodgers a draft pick if signed.
The remaining free agents who may be possible fits are Henderson Alvarez, Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Cliff Lee and Kenta Maeda, all of whom come with obvious financial risks.
Another option is to throw Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias to the wolves and let them join the rotation to see if they are indeed ready to perform at the big-league level. Or, based on the results of last year’s Winter Meetings, the Dodgers’ front office may get super-creative and pull off some type of deal that’s unimaginable to all of us.
It’s easy to defend Friedman for not giving in and attempting to top the offer from Arizona that Greinke eventually accepted. However, the Dodgers do have money to spend, as indicated by the $90 million last year that was allocated to players that were either traded away or DFA’d.
Signing Greinke for six years may have looked bad on paper for the Dodgers, but squandering $69 million on years five and six of the contract in exchange for a World Series run right now may have been worth the investment.
Letting Greinke escape behind enemy lines may be a blow that hurts only temporarily if the front office has a back-up plan and reacts accordingly. However, being in the second-largest market in baseball, increasing ticket prices and parking fees, and the fact that many still cannot view a game on television, Friedman and Zaidi best better redeem themselves quickly.