What is Zack Greinke Going to Do?

Greinke

Multiple sources are reporting that the Milwaukee Brewers have made a contract offer to pitcher Zack Greinke in an effort to retain him for future seasons.  Budget, payroll and revenue issues aside, I’ve been in the camp that if you have a starter of Greinke’s caliber, you try your best to keep him.  Even with a record-high payroll around or over $100 million for 2012, the team would probably have to pay Greinke nearly 1/5 of that total annually to keep Greinke around.  That is a ton of money for a team that doesn’t benefit from the huge TV deals we’ve seen with other clubs.  Still, after the departures of CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder in recent years, watching another star walk away from Milwaukee over money would be frustrating.

The reported extension has the Brewers offering Greinke money in the Matt Cain realm, over $110 million for five years.  It’s extremely costly to sign elite pitchers like Greinke, and he shows no signs of being open to a discount for the Brewers.  I get that he’s interested in testing the market and not taking a deal that would be frowned upon by the players’ side of things, but I’m a little surprised (or just disappointed?) that Greinke hasn’t already worked out a contract with the Brewers.  I suppose I was naïve to think that Greinke was a special case and that he liked the situation in Milwaukee enough to not let his pending free agency become a distraction.  But really, that’s exactly what this has become.  Greinke apparently confirmed that the Brewers made an offer.  If the reports are true, the team has made a serious offer for his services.  However, the actual details of the offer remain elusive.  Not that Greinke created this, but the longer the uncertainty around his status lasts, the more unsettled the team’s situation.
Skeptics will note that the Brewers are probably just making a doomed ‘we tried’ kind of offer, similar to what we saw with Sabathia and Fielder.  That could very well be the case.  But unless the team has some really creative solutions up its collective sleeve, it will be difficult to bounce back into contention after whatever becomes of this year without Greinke in the fold.  We all saw how brutally far away from real contention the team was when it had a high-powered offense but no solid starting pitching.  After losing shortstop Alcides Escobar and starting pitcher prospect Jake Odorizzi in the Greinke trade, it would be nice if the team could keep Greinke around for longer than the failed run in 2011. 

A potential 2013 rotation without Greinke (and possibly no Shaun Marcum, or Randy Wolf) begins to look very thin when you consider it could be Gallardo, maybe Mike Fiers, and other fill-ins.  A team with playoff aspirations, let alone expectations, probably cannot go into 2013 without at least two experienced, reliable starters at the top of the rotation.  The Reds, Pirates and Cardinals are going to be back at it again next year, and the Astros will be in the AL.  Marcum is a good pitcher when healthy, but the team would be taking a large gamble if it brought Marcum back next year instead of Greinke.  Despite all the chaos and confusion over Greinke’s next projected start and the unclear reasons why they chose to skip his turn in the rotation, Greinke is a horse.  He has been rock solid for the most part and even though the price tag is sky high, I don’t see how they’ll be able to reproduce his excellence with other pitchers.  The financial part of it seems like too much of a risk for the Brewers, but they could find themselves way out of contention should Greinke head elsewhere.

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