COMMENTARY | Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, Zack Greinke is not taking up residence in Los Angeles anytime soon.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play in plenty-far-away-enough Orange County, remember, and while the free-agent right-hander may opt to commute from the actual City of Angels to the stadium of his former team, he's not donning the uniform of the Blue for the next five or six years.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have better options to choose from, thank you very much.
Besides, the Angels, having jettisoned Dan Haren and Ervin Santana voluntarily, and with C.J. Wilson coming off elbow surgery (however minor), the Angels need Greinke more than they're letting on. Way more, and despite their current posturing -- that's all it is, posturing -- the Angels haven't dropped out of the picture just yet. If any team is going to overpay -- and when I say overpay, I mean $150 million at a minimum -- it's Arte Moreno's American League West squad that's swallowing hard.
So, why not the Dodgers? Well, first of all, Greinke's not that good. He's good, but he's not that good. I'm sorry, he's just not. Say what you will about Los Angeles becoming the West Coast version of the New York Yankees with money to burn -- they aren't actually burning it; they're investing it. And if there's an organization in baseball that gets and appreciates pitching, it's your Los Angeles Dodgers.
Greinke's produced one great season during his career; one standout year out of nine. It was in 2009, when he was not only a true ace but the AL's best pitcher by far. In that Cy Young Award season, the Kansas City Royals benefited big time, watching as their young starter led the league in ERA (2.16), ERA+ (205), WHIP (1.073), HR/9 (0.4) and WAR (10.1). In three years since, he's led his league in exactly one category: SO/9 (10.5) in 2011.
There's no minimizing that 2009 season in any way, shape or form, but "form" is the operative word here, and this particular starter hasn't been able to match it or come all that close since. Not really. ERAs of 4.17, 3.83 and 3.48 in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively, with WHIPs of 1.245, 1.200 and 1.196 are fine and going in the right direction, but they don't add up to what the Dodgers require for that kind of money.
It's funny how these things work out. I mean, if Greinke saved his 2009-like best for 2012, we're not having this discussion, and $150 million is almost chickenfeed. But Greinke didn't save his best for last, and he hasn't impressed in the postseason (6.48 and 1.620) enough to make up for it.
Look for Los Angeles to sign either Kyle Lohse or Haren -- maybe both. As Dodgers chairman Mark Walter said famously, "pitchers break." Not that he wouldn't sign them, but the phrase "buyer beware" seems to apply to the club's thinking.
Sure, Lohse could "break," and some would say Haren already has with his back and hip in question now. But the Dodgers can have both men, or Lohse and another second-tier starter for a fraction of what they'd have to pay Greinke, with a shorter commitment to boot. That's the smarter course, and they might just get better pitching in the bargain.
Lohse defines the up-and-down major-league pitcher, which is to say he's a major-league pitcher. Most guys are up and down, and Lohse has been just that for 12 years. He recorded a couple of solid but far-from-spectacular seasons early in his career with the Minnesota Twins, and then struggled primarily in stints with the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies before finding himself with the St. Louis Cardinals and pitching coach Dave Duncan.
His 15-6, 3.78 2008 campaign looked to be the breakout year, but Lohse couldn't keep it going, winning a total of 10 games the next two seasons with ERAs of 4.74 and 6.55 in 2009 and 2010. He bounced back in 2011, however, going 14-8 with a 3.39 and 1.168 for the World Series champion Cards.
In 2012, Lohse bounced farther back -- he soared is what he did -- to a 16-3 record, 2.86 ERA and 1.090 WHIP. Know how you get to a 1.090 WHIP, do you? One way is to walk a grand total of 38 men. All of 38.
In fact, Lohse last walked as many as 50 in 2007, and he has been under 40 three out of the last four years. Don Mattingly and the Dodgers love stingy pitchers, especially when it comes to the base on balls.
I'm betting the Dodgers make a play for Lohse during the Winter Meetings beginning December 3 in Nashville, Tennessee. I imagine they can get him for, say, three years and $50 million, a good deal for both parties (better for Lohse, admittedly), and no more than a third of what Zack Greinke's most likely getting from the big boys. Bigger boys, that is. And they'll have this writer's endorsement.
Howard Cole is the Director of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) and has been blogging about the Dodgers since 2000, at Baseball Savvy, The Orange County Register and Cole On LA.
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