Greinke made clear in an interview with CBSSports.com that, in picking the Dodgers over the Rangers in free agency, as well as voiding a trade to Washington a year earlier, his primary goal was to find out just how much money he and his agent Casey Close could get on the open market.
“I wanted to see” the free agent process, Greinke said. “If it was going to be only one year for $1 million, I wanted to see for myself.”
Instead, only CC Sabathia ever got more guaranteed money to pitch. But Greinke also joined a team with some of the most gifted salary-dump problem children and damaged-goods ex-stars with big contracts ever collected in one room.
Greinke didn’t mean to symbolize the 2013 season. But he may have done it anyway. If you are a fan of the Dodgers, Blue Jays or Angels, three of the top five favorites to win the World Series, then this is the year of the high-priced teammate with baggage and the mega-budget clubhouse full of strangers with troubles. For those teams, it’s a season to gamble on talent.
However, for seven of past year’s 10 playoff teams, the offseason theory has been exactly the opposite. The World Series champion Giants and pennant-winning Tigers — as well as the Nationals, Reds, A’s and Orioles, who won 98, 97, 94 and 93 games last year — have tried to keep the chemistry they already had. Some had financial constraints. But most stood pat by choice or else added players on short contracts with “good makeup,” such as Torii Hunter (Tigers) and Dan Haren (Nats).
Las Vegas odds show that gamblers think falling in love with team synergy is tantamount to cheap complacency. The O’s and A’s, who did almost nothing in the offseason, are 40 to 1 and 30 to 1 to win the Series. The Giants and Reds, who had slight net-negative winters, are just 12 to 1. The Tigers, 8 to 1, and Nats 17 to 2, with selective additions, get respect. The view of the smart money is clear: Follow the cash. Character optional.
In the past eight months, the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Angels have assembled players with every headache known to the sport. Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Josh Hamilton have three traits in common: big talent, fat contracts and thorny issues that led previous employers to trade them as part of salary dumps or else pursue them tepidly when they became free agents.
The Dodgers are pure reality TV. Every day brings a different tough question. How much has Gonzalez’s power slipped? His homers have dropped from 40 to 31 to 27 to 18 last year. And he hit just three in 36 games for the Bums. Hitting at Dodger Stadium never helps. L.A. owes him $127 million.