Zack Greinke will still pitch in the NL West. But surprise – with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks unexpectedly won the Greinke sweepstakes, beating out the rival Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers for the free-agent ace Friday night. He reached agreement on a $206.5 million, six-year deal, sources told The Associated Press.
The major league ERA leader and runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award boosted the Dodgers to their third straight division title this season. Then, the 32-year-old righty opted out of his contract, leaving $71.5 million on the table- and wound up with the richest deal, by yearly average, in baseball history.
The sources spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because there hadn’t been an official announcement. Fox first reported an agreement.
A top priority of the Giants this offseason was to build up their rotation behind 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. Matt Cain was slowed by further elbow issues after undergoing surgery late in the 2014 season, while right-hander Tim Hudson retired and Mike Leake and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents.
Greinke was the second former AL Cy Young winner to get a mega-contract this week. David Price joined the Boston Red Sox for $217 million over seven years. The moves came as teams prepared to head this weekend to the winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.
Greinke’s new deal contains deferred money. The $34.4 million average will be the sport’s highest, topping Price’s $31 million.
Earlier this offseason, pitcher Johnny Cueto turned down a $120 million offer from the Diamondbacks after he helped Kansas City win the World Series and became a free agent.
Instead, the Diamondbacks reeled in an even bigger prize. They had money to spend – last February, they signed a TV deal with Fox Sports Arizona for more than $1.5 billion over 20 years.
Greinke’s contract gave him the flexibility to find a new home. He was in prime position, too, after setting a career high for wins by going 19-3 and posting a 1.66 ERA that was the best in the majors in 20 years
In December 2012, Greinke signed a $147 million, six-year deal with the Dodgers that included an opt-out clause. He exercised it and walked away from a whopping amount over the next three years.
Out of the playoffs since 2011, the Diamondbacks finished 79-83 last season, 13 games behind the West champion Dodgers and also trailing the Giants, who have won three of the last six World Series.
Arizona scored the second-most runs in the NL last season, but was thin in the pitching department – Diamondbacks starters threw the second-fewest innings in the league.
The Diamondbacks tried this season to clear salary. In June, they traded pitcher Bronson Arroyo to Atlanta to further reduce their payroll.
“It is more of what we are trying to do. The money is definitely important,” Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said at the time. “We said that we are going to try to do what we can to promote our young pitchers but also give ourselves a chance to make some savings so that we can have an opportunity to do things at a later date.”
On Friday night, they did a really big thing. After revealing futuristic uniforms for 2016 earlier this week, Arizona found a star to wear one.
Greinke’s ERA was the lowest in the majors since Greg Maddux had a 1.63 ERA in 1995. Greinke had a scoreless streak of 45 2-3 innings this summer.
Greinke was durable, pitching 222 2-3 innings. A Gold Glove winner who also likes to hit, he teamed with lefty Clayton Kershaw to give the Dodgers a formidable 1-2 combo at the top of the rotation.
The Dodgers had hoped Greinke and Kershaw, plus a roster that added up to the highest payroll in baseball, could lead them to their first World Series crown since 1988. Instead, LA lost in the division round to the New York Mets in October.
Greinke went 51-15 during his three years with the Dodgers.
Losing Greinke leaves the Dodgers with an unstable rotation beyond Kershaw. Brett Anderson returns after his first healthy season since 2009 and young Alex Wood is back, too. But Hyun-Jin Ryu is coming off shoulder surgery that cost all of last season and Brandon McCarthy is out until midseason after Tommy John surgery.
In October, the Dodgers parted ways with now-Marlins manager Don Mattingly and later hired former major leaguer Dave Roberts as his replacement.