In case you missed it, this weekend featured more hot-stove action than the entire span of the Winter Meetings. And the two biggest weekend headlines at least vaguely pertain to the Mets.
First, the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract. Greinke’s a very nice pitcher, but outside of his outstanding 2009 campaign he has hardly pitched like an ace. He routinely posts great rate stats, but his 106 ERA+ over the last three seasons is barely above league average. At 29, he’s reasonably young by free agent standards, and now, thanks to the Dodgers’ absurd new spending habits, he’s extraordinarily rich by every standard.
Based on results alone, Greinke actually pitched a bit like Jon Niese in 2012. The pitchers finished with similar rates in ERA+, WHIP, ground-ball percentage, hits per nine, walks per nine and home runs per nine. Greinke struck out more batters and threw 22 more innings, both of which are important. And Greinke comes with a much stronger resume, since 2012 was by far Niese’s best season to date. But since Greinke will earn as much in 2014 alone as Niese will for the next four seasons, his payday makes the Mets’ contract for the young lefty look like even more of a steal.
Of course, the Dodgers now seem to be operating like the Yankees did in the latter half of the last decade, so it’s not necessarily reasonable to compare the money they’re willing to pay for players to the money other teams should be paying for players. With $115 million already on L.A.’s books for 2017 (!), Greinke’s massive salary looks only like a large drop in a inconceivably huge bucket.
Still, if it sets any sort of precedent for player value in the TV-contract era, it seems to bode well for the Mets in the short term. Assuming Greinke’s contract does not exist in a vacuum, it makes signing R.A. Dickey at even the most expensive rumored terms look like striking oil (presumably with a hard knuckleball that flummoxed a catcher and drilled itself into the ground somewhere). And it means Dickey at his current $5-million rate for 2013 may present even more value to a trade partner than we previously expected.
Speaking of: The second big baseball thing that happened this weekend was a trade between the Royals and Rays. The Rays sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City for prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.
Myers you presumably know about by now: He’s baseball’s top hitting prospect and was the Royals’ best trade chip in their hunt to upgrade their starting rotation. Shields and Davis should do that, to varying degrees. Shields is a very good pitcher who has thrown at least 200 innings in every full season he has pitched in the Majors, and comes to the Royals on a one-year deal worth $9 million with a $12 million option for 2014. Davis excelled out of the Rays’ bullpen in 2012, but pitched more or less like Mike Pelfrey as a starter in 2010 and 2011. He’s only 27 and he’s signed for the next two seasons for $7.6 million total, with escalating options on his contract that run through 2017.
Shields and Davis look to become the Royals’ best and fourth-best starters, respectively, and push from Kansas City’s rotation some of the dreck they started in 2012. If we can attribute any reason to the front office that gave Jeff Francoeur a three-year contract, it looks like the Royals have identified 2013 and 2014 as a window to contend and sacrificed some part of their future to do so.
But on paper, the cost looks huge. In addition to Myers, the Royals sent the Rays two of their best-regarded and nearest to ready pitching prospects in Odorizzi and Montgomery. Odorizzi entered 2012 as Baseball America’s No. 68 prospect and pitched well in Double- and Triple-A. Montgomery, a lefty, entered 2012 as BA’s No. 23 prospect but struggled throughout the year. Both will be 23 on Opening Day, and both will join the Rays’ consistently obscene arsenal of highly regarded starting-pitching prospects, the strength that allowed them to deal Shields.
It’s hard to figure how the Royals value Shields vis a vis R.A. Dickey. Shields is younger and nearly as good with a longer history of big-league success and an extra year of team control, but will be more expensive in the near term. But, again, the huge cost in prospects the Royals were willing to part with for Shields seems to speak well of what the Mets’ could seek in return for Dickey, should they decide to trade the knuckleballer.
So what do you think?