It’s December and the MLB Winter Meetings are getting ready to rev up, which means free agency is in full swing, and two of the biggest pitchers available have been signed. Early in the week, the Red Sox signed David Price to a seven-year, $271 million contract, which works out to an average annual value of $31 million. On Friday, the Diamondbacks signed Zack Greinke to a six-year deal, valued at $206 million or $34.3 million per year. So what do these deals mean for the teams that signed them and their competitors? Let’s take a look.
The Red Sox finished in last place in a competitive AL East this season, and when that happens they usually look to improve their team rather than standing still and not doing anything. In joining the Red Sox, Price vaults to the top of the team’s starting rotation, making Clay Buchholz a strong No. 2 behind him. Price’s career 3.09 ERA is particularly impressive considering he has spent his entire career in the American League, forcing him to face designated hitters rather than opposing pitchers.
The rest of the rotation has question marks, as Wade Miley and Rick Porcello have proven to be inconsistent in their careers. The current No. 5 starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, is young but had a decent first season in the majors, going 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 21 starts. The team has already bolstered its bullpen this offseason, trading for elite closer Craig Kimbrel, who has a career 1.63 ERA and 0.93 WHIP to go along with his 225 saves.
The Price signing puts the Red Sox right in the middle of the race for the division title in 2016. He is right up there with the Rays’ Chris Archer and the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman has the best aces in the division. Neither the Orioles or the Yankees has a No. 1 starter up there with those three. The Red Sox had a good offense, and if that continues into 2016 they have a good chance of at least competing for a Wild Card spot in David Ortiz’s last season in the majors.
Social media-savvy Price has already taken to Twitter to indicate he’s ready to help the Sox win.
The Diamondbacks pulled off a coup by signing Greinke, who opted out of his contract with the Dodgers after pitching for them for three years. Most rumors and reports had the Dodgers and Giants as the front runners to sign the 32-year-old starter, so the Diamondbacks getting him not only helps their rotation but hurts their NL West rivals, especially the Dodgers, who now have a whole to fill atop their rotation.
Greinke posted a career-best 1.66 ERA and 0.84 ERA in 222.2 innings in 2015. He struck out 200 batters, marking the fifth time in his career he has met or surpassed that milestone. Arizona didn’t have a standout starting pitcher last season, so Greinke plugs that hole, but the team doesn’t have a strong No. 2 to throw the day after Greinke starts. The best ERA among starters was Robbie Ray’s 3.52 ERA. Of the five pitchers who started the most games for the Diamondbacks this season, three posted an ERA of 4.30 or worse.
Despite losing Greinke, the Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw leading their rotation and money available to go after another pitcher, should they choose to do so. The Giants, meanwhile, have their own ace in Madison Bumgarner. Overall, the Giants may have the best rotation at this time with veterans Jake Peavy and Matt Cain behind Bumgarner.
Unlike the Red Sox signing Price, I don’t think Greinke puts the Diamondbacks in contention to win the division yet, as they still don’t have enough help around him to improve much on their third-place finish this season, especially with the lack of a star reliever to close out Greinke’s games when he doesn’t go the distance. Add that to the inevitable regression that Greinke is due to experience not only in 2016 but also in the future as he gets older, and I don’t think this is a great signing for Arizona. The Dodgers, to me, are still the best team in the division, with Kershaw, closer Kenley Jansen and a pretty good young offense leading the way.
Stay tuned for further coverage of MLB’s hot stove as more signings and trades happen in the coming days and weeks.