We all knew this was coming.
If you were a reader of this website last year, you know we've been saying it. The insanity of this free agent market, particularly the starting pitching market, was going to be crazy and should be taking no one by surprise. It is exactly as we thought it would be.
Elite starters are earning more than $30 million a year on contracts stretching into the 2020s. Some of the second-tier starters are getting major money, and many of the third-tier guys are getting huge paydays as well.
I mean, just look at this.
Price: 7 years, $217M Greinke: 6 years, $206M Zimmermann: 5 years, $110M Samardzija: 5 years, $90M Based on those, Cueto should get $150M+.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) December 5, 2015
It's an insane market, and for anyone who is shocked by it, I'm sorry to have awoken you from your slumber.
One of the teams left out in the cold so far in free agency is the Los Angeles Dodgers. They felt confident they would be able to re-sign Zack Greinke to a deal after he opted out of his previous contract. Instead, he signed a mega deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks that shocked the entire industry. And with David Price and Jordan Zimmermann off the board, Los Angeles appears to be up a creek without a paddle.
Zack Greinke, he is not.
Just after the San Francisco Giants, one of the other teams rumored to be in the mix for Greinke, signed Jeff Samardzija to a panic deal of five years and $90 million (for a player that posted a 4.96 ERA, gave up a league-worst 228 hits, 118 earned runs and 29 home runs, and had a bWAR of 0.2), I though about the Dodgers' plight and tweeted this out.
Someone try to tell me the Dodgers still shouldn't have traded for Hamels.— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) December 5, 2015
And then, a couple hours later, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted this.
I have literally never been happier in my life.
This is exactly what we were saying on this website all last summer. Of COURSE it made more sense for the Dodgers, and any other team in the market for an ace starting pitcher this winter, with money to spend and prospects to spare, to trade for Hamels last year.
Los Angeles absolutely should have given up one of their top young studs, and a couple other pieces, to trade for Hamels as a third ace starter for last year's playoff run, and then to replace Greinke this year. Why? Because Hamels is an ace on a contract who would cost a fraction of what guys like Greinke, Price and Zimmermann are costing right now, as noted by Rosenthal.
The D-backs will pay Greinke an average of $34.33 million annually. The Rangers, because of the way they structured their trade with the Phillies, effectively will pay Hamels slightly more than $13 million annually for the next three or four years, depending upon whether they exercise his option.
That, in baseball's new math, is practically J.A. Happ money.
However, I disagree with Rosenthal in that a deal headlined by Dodgers prospect Jose de Leon would have been enough for the Phils to bite AND throw in some extra cash. It would have required one of Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias. And maybe someday, the Dodgers will look back and say they made the right call.
But it is not this day.
Evaluator on LAD: "They spent $62 million on an unknown" --Hector Olivera-- "but were outbid by $30-40 million on a known star (Greinke)."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2015
Is Dodgers' team president and head of baseball operations Andrew Friedman out of his depth in that market? He's heading a team with unlimited financial resources and a nearly $300 million payroll, yet he's hoarding prospects like he's still the head of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Did the Red Sox make the right call by giving away an ungodly sum to Price when they conceivably could have had Hamels for far, far less. After all, they do have one of the deepest farm systems in the game.
And it's not as if either team was hamstrung by Hamels' no-trade clause, because the Red Sox and Dodgers were two of the nine teams to whom Hamels could not block a trade.
In the end, the Dodgers felt they had a good chance to re-sign Greinke, even if it was at an exorbitant price, and retain all their prospects. But it didn't work out, and now they're scrambling. The Red Sox broke the bank and paid Price. The Giants (who never had the prospects to make a Hamels deal work) panicked and overpaid Samardzija. Only the Chicago Cubs appear to have played the market correctly at the moment, signing John Lackey to a nice two-year deal.
And don't look now, but the sometimes great, sometimes terrible, maybe injured Johnny Cueto is going to get $150 million from someone. You wanna be the team to gamble on a six-year deal on him?
The Texas Rangers are looking really smart right now. And teams like the Dodgers and Red Sox, well, not so much.
Folks, this isn't revisionist history. We said this until we were blue in the face last year.
Thanks everybody, for finally coming around.