NASHVILLE, Tenn. – These are the Los Angeles Dodgers' winter meetings because this is the Los Angeles Dodgers' world. Team officials walking around the Gaylord Opryland Hotel get stopped by old friends who treat them as though they've just won the lottery. And very matter-of-factly, they'll nod their heads, affirm the jackpot and move on to the next target they're going to overwhelm with their sheer financial heft.At the top of their list is Zack Greinke, the 29-year-old right-hander who, by the end of these meetings, may end up the richest pitcher in history. The Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals would love him to head their rotations, and the Los Angeles Angels, professional background lurkers, are slow-playing it, hoping the price isn't as exorbitant as expected. Which is altogether laughable because the Dodgers are involved, and they are, as one executive put it, just like Dave Hester on "Storage Wars": giddy to spend as much as it takes to outbid you.
"Everything you do," he said, "they're like, 'Yuuuuup!' "
Assuming Greinke to the Dodgers is a mistake at this juncture. That will happen sometime over the next couple days, and other teams are hopeful a deal comes together quickly, because the sentiment from more than a dozen executives and agents was consistent: The rest of the pitching market is frozen until Greinke signs – and considering the Rangers, Nationals, Red Sox, Angels, Royals, Tigers, Padres and, of course, the Dodgers are happy to brawl over a limited supply, the thaw is going to be a deluge.
[Related: MLB free-agent tracker]
Granted, if the talks between the Dodgers and Greinke end up with a godfather offer, the rest of the market could move. Should a team step up and give Anibal Sanchez his sixth year or Kyle Lohse a fourth year, clack-clack-clack go the dominoes. For now, Sanchez is trawling for a five-year deal and Lohse is waiting for Scott Boras to hold court and do his Scott Boras thing.
The next tier down remains Pleistocene, too. Someone will give Ryan Dempster three years … but those options depend on where Greinke goes and who is in or out of the bidding. Shaun Marcum is a value bet for those who prefer not to take a plunge at Sanchez or Lohse prices, and, accordingly, almost a dozen teams have checked in. The hypothetical market for Dan Haren is just as robust. The worth-their-while commitments are not.
Teams turning to the trade market are finding similar roadblocks. Both Cy Young award winners are available. The Rays want your first-born and major league talent plus prospects for three years of David Price. The Mets want at least a couple of big-time prospects for one year of R.A. Dickey. Bouncing around, too, are Bud Norris (the Astros have heard from plenty of teams who see him as a good backup plan) and James Shields (whose price, though not as high as Price's, doesn't belong at Wal-Mart, either).
Not all of them will be moved. As excessive as the influx of cash into baseball is, agents are savvy enough to understand that a market that gives a .227-hitting catcher $13 million a year and $40 million to an outfielder who a year prior was on the verge of being non-tendered is one that will be fair to pitchers, too. Mike Napoli (the catcher) and Angel Pagan (the outfielder) went to the Red Sox and Giants on Monday, kicking off the meetings' transactions and warming up the stage for Greinke and the Dodgers.
They may do a quick-and-dirty salsa and get the thing over with at north of the $161 million CC Sabathia signed for, or they could do a long waltz and keep the rest of baseball guessing. These are the Dodgers' meetings, yes, and this is their world, sure, but this is Zack Greinke's market, and ultimately he's the one who determines how and when it moves.
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