He's gonna be so rich (Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE)

Zack Greinke Is Getting Expensive

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Zack Greinke was already scheduled to be the top free agent pitcher in this offseason’s Hot Stove league before he got into a groove. After Cole Hamels re-upped with the Phillies for six-years and $144 million and Matt Cain signed a six-year $127 million extension with the Giants, Greinke will enter free agency as the prettiest pitcher at the dance.

The Angels gave up a nice package of prospects (three of their top 10 coming into 2012 ranked by Baseball America) to land Greinke for the playoff push. Greinke got off to a rough start in the AL. In his first five starts, Greinke allowed 22 runs on 38 hits and 13 walks while striking out 27 over 32.0 innings. And five home runs but the Angels starters are good are charitable with the long ball, currently fifth in baseball with 124 homers allowed.

Since August 24, Greinke has been downright nasty including the brief yet dominating start Tuesday night. Greinke only went five innings against the Mariners because when you refuse to pitch to contact because you’re striking everybody out, the pitch count gets up there in a hurry. Greinke struck out 13, including four in the fourth, but threw 110 pitches by the end of the fifth. Dustin Ackley struck out three times against Greinke and finished off the Golden Sombrero swinging in the eighth against Kevin Jepsen.

Over the last seven Greinke starts, you can see why the Angels gave up their second best prospect Jean Segura. Greinke has allowed nine earned runs on 36 hits and 47 strikeouts to 11 walks in 50.0 innings. Another five home runs but never more than one in a game. Greinke has settled in nicely which is good for the Angels now and potentially bad for them this winter. Greinke is prepared to test the free agent market but the Angels are expected to make a push for the 28-year-old righty. The Angels also hold options on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez has his finger on the pulse of the future of the Angels rotation

The Angels’ preference, I’m told, is still to resign Greinke. A source familiar with the team’s thinking told me recently that he expects the Angels to cut ties with both Santana and Haren this offseason and focus their efforts on signing him to a multi-year extension. So, I expect the Angels to decline their team options on Santana ($13 million) and Haren ($15.5 million) during the exclusive negotiating window and go hard after Greinke (six years, $125 million is the price tag many have associated with him). But if they can’t resign him, perhaps then — and only then, in my mind — they try to bring back Haren and/or Santana.

Personally, I’d bring back Haren for another year either way. With a $3.5 million buyout, it’s basically gambling $12 million on Haren’s beautiful track record and betting he rebounds from a down/lingering-back-injury 2012.

Greinke seems to be in line for that six year, $125 million contract after already passing on a pair of five year, $100 million deals from the Brewers and Nationals. Even Jon Heyman agrees it’ll take six, $125 million so, I guess, that means something.

The Angels will have Torii Hunter‘s $18 million coming off the books (even with rumored interest in re-signing him) with Santana’s declined option and whatever they’re still paying Bobby Abreu. But signing Greinke to that six year, $125 million deal may prevent them from keeping Haren too with the luxury tax sticking at $178 million in 2013.

Greinke has been in elite company since hitting the majors in 2004. I’ve heard the grumblings that he’s not a true ace but it’s hard to argue with his results. Lazily using Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement, only 12 pitchers have accumulated 29+ WAR since 2004. Greinke makes the list despite missing all but 6.1 innings in 2006 because of the affective disorder.

Rk Player WAR From To Age IP H ER BB SO ERA ERA+ HR
1 Roy Halladay 46.0 2004 2012 27-35 1840.2 1740 624 311 1452 3.05 141 149
2 Johan Santana 41.7 2004 2012 25-33 1629.1 1363 546 401 1590 3.02 142 179
3 CC Sabathia 41.1 2004 2012 23-31 1960.1 1814 725 518 1736 3.33 131 171
4 Mark Buehrle 35.4 2004 2012 25-33 1929.0 2072 830 415 1097 3.87 116 224
5 Roy Oswalt 34.4 2004 2012 26-34 1708.1 1690 644 396 1353 3.39 125 149
6 Justin Verlander 33.8 2005 2012 22-29 1546.2 1349 587 468 1446 3.42 127 137
7 Cliff Lee 31.8 2004 2012 25-33 1777.0 1765 712 392 1468 3.61 117 184
8 Felix Hernandez 31.5 2005 2012 19-26 1609.0 1467 570 475 1471 3.19 129 130
9 Carlos Zambrano 30.1 2004 2012 23-31 1629.0 1416 666 733 1372 3.68 119 141
10 Zack Greinke 29.4 2004 2012 20-28 1484.2 1476 621 377 1329 3.76 114 148
11 Dan Haren 29.1 2004 2012 23-31 1792.2 1724 717 373 1531 3.60 118 208
12 Matt Cain 29.1 2005 2012 20-27 1524.2 1271 557 522 1270 3.29 124 128
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/26/2012.

Hey look, Dan Haren. Okay, okay. I just really want a Jered Weaver, Greinke, C.J. Wilson, Haren, Garrett Richards rotation in 2013. It’s not my money.

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Tags: Dan Haren Monster Rotation Zack Greinke

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