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.