Right hander Zack Greinke has been the Milwaukee Brewers' best and most consistent starting pitcher in the first two months of the 2012 season. Through games of June 9th, Greinke was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA. He had 81 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 72 innings pitched. He also will be a free agent after the season. The Brewers should make a serious attempt to sign Greinke to a contract extension before the end of the season.
Greinke has established himself as the ace of the staff this season. His success, however, means that his asking price and leverage in contract talks is rising. If the Brewers are unable to reach an agreement with Greinke before August, he's almost certain to end talks with Milwaukee and test the free agent market. As one of the better free agent pitchers available, I believe it will be very difficult for the Brewers to match or exceed offers from larger market clubs and Greinke will be elsewhere in 2013. The window of opportunity to retain him is closing.
If the Brewers conduct serious negotiations with Greinke now and are unable to make a deal, the club will have a difficult decision to make. The Brewers could try to sign him after he hits the free agent market, as they tried and failed to do with Prince Fielder last year. The other option would be to trade Greinke to a contender before the July 31st non waiver trade deadline. If Milwaukee is out of the race by the end of July and no contract extension is in place, trading Greinke might be the best course of action. Although a trade might be unpopular, the Brewers could get several good prospects in return.
Despite that, I don't think Greinke's departure is inevitable. He has said that he likes pitching in Milwaukee. He's had a great deal of success in Miller Park, and has not lost a start there (15 straight wins) through his first season and a third in Milwaukee. The Brewers don't have the money that the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels have to spend on salaries, but the club has signed several of its core players like Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Yovani Gallardo to multi year deals. Greinke has showed an interest in scouting players and evaluating prospects, and the Brewers could offer him a chance to get involved in that. That would be an unusual perk for an active player, but if he's interested, why not give it a try? It might be enough of an incentive for him to stay.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Brewers since they moved to Milwaukee in 1970.
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