11/09/12 10:00 AM ET
It's good to be Zack Greinke this offseason
Some teams might shy away, but top free-agent pitcher will get big payday
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
As the leading pitcher available on the 2012-13 free-agent market, Greinke is in an ideal bargaining position. Among the teams that want to be his next employer are teams with a proven ability to pay.
Those would include his most recent employers, the Angels, as well as one of their American League West rivals, the Rangers. But there will be more.
Some reports have placed Greinke's asking price at six years, $150 million, which at $25 million a year would be a record annual contract value for a pitcher. A more conservative estimate of his eventual take would be no less than the five-year, $112 million extension that Matt Cain received from the Giants. Either way, what will some team get for what will be a truly large expenditure?
Like every other mortal athlete, Greinke has pluses and minuses. On his side of the equation is his age -- 29 -- and his health. He has never been on the disabled list with an arm problem of any sort.
What has troubled some potential employers is Greinke's social anxiety disorder. Conventional wisdom has been that Greinke could not pitch for a big-market franchise with the attendant media presence and pressure and potential distractions. Greinke certainly pitched capably for the Angels last season, but still, the Yankees and Red Sox of this world are not likely to be seeking his services.
In fact, rather than having his career diminished by his condition, Greinke has pitched effectively in pressurized situations. He pitched with notable success for a division-winning team in Milwaukee in 2011, then was 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA as a high-profile trade acquisition of the Angels in 2012.
Greinke has no problem dealing with the media in relatively structured situations, such as the post-game sessions that are typical for starting pitchers. Large crowds of reporters that are present for postseason games don't bother him, either, in this context.
Greinke has a dry sense of humor, and is relentlessly candid. Occasionally, he may be a little too unfiltered for his own good. During the 2011 National League Championship Series, a frequent topic was the ill will that had been built up between the St. Louis Cardinals and Greinke's Brewers. When Greinke was asked about this subject in an auditorium media session, he said that the Brewers had nothing in general against the Cardinals, but then added, without being asked:
"Nobody likes [Chris] Carpenter. He's a phony."
This forced every succeeding Brewer in the interview room to say something distinctly nice about Carpenter. But apart from that, it only reinforced the notion that Greinke was incapable of saying anything other than what he perceived to be the truth. If this is a failing, let there be more professional athletes possessed by it.
What will the club that lands Greinke get for what figures to be a truly lavish expenditure? The one shortcoming that Greinke has is that he, like every other pitcher but one, is not Justin Verlander. His stuff is not going to be consistently overwhelming. The statistics he put up in his AL Cy Young season of 2009, including a 2.16 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, have not been duplicated or even approached in the last three seasons.
What Greinke has established in the last two years is that he can be a consistent winner on a good team. He was 16-6, 3.83 with Milwaukee in 2011, and 15-5, 3.48 in the 2012 season, split between the Brewers and the Angels.
These are good numbers, but not numbers that automatically summon visions of one of the biggest paydays in the history of free-agent pitchers. But it's all relative.
Zack Greinke is still young, he's still healthy, and he's the leading starting pitcher on the market. Teams needing pitching and possessing ample financial resources want his services. These factors dictate that in the near future, Greinke is going to be extremely well-compensated. In fact, he is likely to be overcompensated. But that won't be his fault. He's been good, and now he's good and lucky.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.