Fifteen months ago, the Los Angeles Angels got a bargain when right-hander Jered Weaver's desire to stay in Southern California and eschew free agency led to him signing a below-market contract extension for five years and $85 million.
If the Angels are going to pair right-hander Zack Greinke with Weaver at the front of their rotation next year and beyond, it won't be a bargain. Greinke already turned down a contract offer from the Milwaukee Brewers last spring for five years and approximately $112 million (roughly the same deal Giants ace Matt Cain accepted) and speculation has already put Greinke's potential price at $150 million over six years.
Greinke is clearly the best of a thin crop of free-agent starting pitchers this winter with deep-pocket suitors in the Dodgers and Rangers as well as the Angels -- a recipe for driving up the price.
With only Weaver, left-hander C.J. Wilson and right-hander Garrett Richards slotted into the 2013 rotation, the Angels will be looking to add more than one starter. But Greinke is clearly their top offseason priority -- no matter how much GM Jerry Dipoto tries to downplay the importance of wooing the former Cy Young Award winner.
"There's always unease when you have holes to fill," Dipoto said. "But Opening Day is a long way off.
"This isn't uncommon. This is the avenue we chose. There are a lot of interesting names out there. ... We'll cover everything from bargains to marquee players and try to make the best decisions we can."
The fact that Greinke could become the prize in a high-stakes bidding war among well-heeled teams didn't seem to daunt Dipoto.
"You're always going to get inflated expectations at the start of the offseason -- not just for free agents but in the trade market," Dipoto said. "Nobody comes in and low-balls you. We're watching the landscape and will see how things unfold."