The Los Angeles Dodgers' spending spree, which may only be interrupted by the heat death of the universe, continued in huge fashion this weekend with their reported agreement with free-agent starter Zack Greinke and signing of Korean lefty Hyun-jin Ryu, whom they had won negotiating rights to via the posting system. Greinke gives them one of the best nominal No. 2 starters in the game, an ace in most rotations, while Ryu will join the back of the team's rotation but could eventually end up in the 'pen.
Greinke was the top free-agent starter available this offseason and his reported six-year, $147 million contract -- now the highest ever for a right-hander -- was probably driven up by three other factors. One, the Dodgers are operating their own currency system independent of the U.S. Treasury, inspired no doubt by my great-great-great-uncle John. Two, Greinke was far and away the best starter available in free agency this year, the only one with even the potential to post a 6-WAR season. If you wanted an ace, it was Greinke or bust, with the next group of arms all looking more like good mid-rotation guys. Three, perhaps most importantly of all, baseball teams are swimming in cash, with no place else to put it but into the major league roster.
The current CBA curtailed spending on amateur talent even as the value of that talent has been increasing. If you can't put all this extra cash into the Rule 4 draft or into Latin America, you're going to put it into improving your big league club -- unless you own the Miami Marlins, in which case you're going to put it in your pockets.
I have never bought into the argument that Greinke's history with social anxiety disorder and depression makes him a poor fit for a large market -- there's a joke to be made here about the number of therapists in L.A. -- and I'm glad to see that the Dodgers don't buy it, either. Greinke is capable of pitching at a high level in any market, and he's an unusually good bet to stay healthy because his delivery is low effort and he tends to pace himself during games, preserving his best stuff for higher-leverage situations. No starting pitcher is likely to outperform the contract Greinke just got, but he's got a better chance than most to make it look good in the end, just as Mike Mussina did for the New York Yankees on his seven-year deal.
I've received widely varying reports on Ryu's potential here in MLB, ranging from reliever to future No. 3 starter. I fall more into the former camp based on video I've seen and the specifics of his scouting report; he's a bad-bodied left-hander with an out-pitch changeup, average to above-average fastball and fringy breaking ball. The Dodgers gave him a six-year, $36 million deal after paying a $25.7 million posting fee.
The pair of signings gives the Dodgers a surplus in their rotation, even assuming Chad Billingsley bows to fate and has elbow surgery and that Ted Lilly isn't healthy, either. Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano aren't league-average pitchers but could be above replacement level for someone on what is for each a de facto one-year deal. The Dodgers don't have to worry about money, apparently, so they could agree to pay those pitchers' full salaries and get a prospect or a fringy big leaguer in return.
The Dodgers have the best team on paper in the division at this point, not just due to their offseason but due to the potential to have Matt Kemp fully healthy for the first time since April. The San Francisco Giants have moved to bring back the same team that won the World Series in 2012, but haven't upgraded the roster anywhere, with very little upside from their lineup at this point and no Melky Cabrera in left.
Although it's anathema to the way GM Brian Sabean has run this club, it might make sense for the Giants to look at dealing Madison Bumgarner, who looked fatigued late in the season, for a young bat. Bumgarner has five years of team control left at $35 million in total salary, with two club options beyond that.