According to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (relayed via MLBTradeRumors) the frontrunner for Zack Greinke (the number one starter – and only true ace – available on the free agent market) is the Los Angeles Dodgers – a team that I expected to be tapped out after taking on so much in the way of long-term salary obligations midseason.
Many times – especially when it comes to starting pitching (or positions of depth) – the offseason resembles a game of dominoes. #2 doesn’t get a deal until #1 is off the market, #3 doesn’t get a deal until #2 is off the market, etc… Greinke is #1, Anibal Sanchez is #2 – and we can expect whoever fails to sign Zack Greinke to go after #2 through #5 pretty hard, which is going to be rough for teams like Detroit (but by no means limited to Detroit) that have interest in Sanchez but not Greinke.
Personally I’m more than a little surprised that the Dodgers would be pursing any big-money free agents, or looking into any moves of any kind that would cause a significant increase in payroll. If they do nothing, they’re already very close to (or exceeding, depending on how commitments to pay players not on the current roster work) the luxury tax threshold. I understand that they have rotation concerns (largely health related) despite having six quality veterans under contract for 2013 (Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang) but I would have expected them to be worrying more about 3rd base. Shows what I know, right? The Angels – it has appeared – put an awful lot of eggs in a single basket (Greinke) when they dumped Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. Now they need to fill one rotation hole, and will be looking like distinct underdogs in the AL West if they don’t add another. If Greinke isn’t the first one, then I’d expect the Angels to move fast on both Hiroki Kuroda (who, it is said, wants to play on the west coast) and Anibal Sanchez. For Sanchez especially, his free agency looks like largely a matter of waiting until somebody actually agrees to his unreasonable contract demands – and I think that if they miss out on Greinke the Angels are going to agree in a heartbeat.
I’m not entirely sure that re-signing Anibal Sanchez (for, say, 5 years and $80 million) would be the best move for Detroit. He’s the kind of guy who is just a little better than the also-rans that nobody gets excited about, but gets paid like he’s just a little worse than a genuine ace. Missing out would mean running Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly back out there in 2013 – and hoping that Porcello has a nice rebound (and he very well might). As John Verburg noted not long ago – the big concern wouldn’t be so much with the quality of the Tigers’ top 5 but with the complete lack of acceptable fallback options. It may get no harder to find a retread to take a minor league deal, but if you would prefer to sign a 5th starter and plan on holding Smyly in AAA (or the bullpen, I suppose) that’s going to get tougher if the two LA teams snap up the three best starters on the market. On the other hand – if we predict that the second domino is going to be 5 and $80 for Sanchez in LA and predict all those follow-through effects down the line – the smart move might just be to give Sanchez what he’s asking for now. When the slim pickings at the top of the pitching market are gone, we might see a lot of trade interest from those teams that still have serious holes to fill.
I’m particularly curious to see what lengths the Yankees will have to go to in order to get a rotation capable of even contending in 2013 if Hiroki Kuroda signs in California…