Why the Rangers Should Sign Zack Greinke
The Texas Rangers wrapped up 2015 with a completely unexpected 88-74 record, but as RangerDanger recently pointed out starting pitching was one of the Achilles heels of the season. The starting rotation’s ERA of 4.32 was led by Yovani Gallardo‘s 3.42 mark. The year was marked by a completely missing Yu Darvish and a July trade for Cole Hamels who struggled early to adjust to American League competition but the team rounded out the season by winning 10 straight games started by the former Philly.
The 2016 return of a healthy Darvish in the rotation alongside Hamels is expected to help bring that starter ERA back down into the sub-4.0 range of a typical contender, but there are several holes on the staff including Gallardo’s likely free agency (pending Qualifying Offer), Colby Lewis’s free agency and Derek Holland’s wild up and down roller coaster ride of a season. It’s possible, even entirely realistic, that all three of Gallardo, Lewis and Holland could wear a different uniform in 2016.
Per John Blake, Gallardo has been extended a qualifying offer, and yesterday Colby Rasmus became the first player to accept a QO since the system was implemented in the 2012-2013 offseason. Unless Gallardo becomes the second player in history to accept, he won’t be a Ranger when Spring Training rolls around. If we assume Martin Perez will be prepared to step into a full time starting role, it’s still highly likely that the Rangers have at least one starter role that needs to be filled – possibly two.
The team’s final 2015 payroll was just shy of $152.4 million, which was partly comprised of Prince Fielder’s $24 million, Cole Hamels’ $23.5 million, Shin-Soo Choo’s $20 million, Adrian Beltre’s $18 million and Elvis Andrus’ $15,250,000. From that list, other than the essentially guaranteed presence of Hamels, it’s likely that the 2016 Rangers doesn’t include at least one name. The league’s luxury tax of $189 million is roughly 36.6 million greater than the team’s ’15 payroll, and adjusted for arbitration and all other things being equal, let’s assume that $152.4 million looks more like $158 million or so in 2016. At that point, the team is still $31 million under the luxury tax. Bear in mind, some portion of that salary list above is likely to be traded, although the team would almost certainly be required to absorb part of the player’s salary.
Ray Davis is the fourth wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball with estimated net worth over $3 billion, and Bob Simpson is the 296th richest American with estimated $1.9 billion net worth. Baseball is a business. Davis and Simpson are businessmen. In fact, they’re very skilled and successful businessmen, and businessmen don’t make decisions unless it makes them money. I suggest that signing Zack Greinke is quite possibly the single most brilliant baseball business decision the Davis/Simpson ownership group could make this offseason, possibly the best decision to be made up until this point in their ownership tenure. This isn’t a decision Jon Daniels can make on his own, as a contract Greinke will command is very likely going to exceed the projected 2016 budget even with certain existing salary pieces being traded. That said, Greinke put together a 2015 season where he went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA and 0.844 WHIP and only 6.0 hits per 9 innings. He good.
Some estimates indicate Greinke could receive easily in excess of $150 million over the life of his next contract, with an average annual value (AAV) around $25 million. All things being equal, this kind of contract value would push the Rangers closer to the luxury tax threshold, but even if none of Prince Fielder, Derek Holland, Shin-Soo Choo (please JD, don’t trade Choo) or Elvis Andrus are traded and replaced with internal talent the club would still be under the $189 million tax limitation. If all current contracts remained the same, adding a $25 million new piece still leaves roughly $12 million for arbitration cases in order to remain under $189 million.
It’s fair to say that my proposal is more than a bit pie-in-the-sky, and doesn’t account for important factors like Greinke’s personal preferences, backloaded contract structures or other details, but adding another proven ace to a rotation that’s already set to include Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels … that’s just scary. That rotation is 1990s Atlanta Braves scary. That’s late 1990’s New York Yankees scary. That’s 100+ wins kind of scary, and it’s potentially a massive increase in ticket sales, merchandise sales and media revenue to the ownership group. Zack Greinke would add considerable value to a starting rotation that currently consists of two-fifths proven aces and three-fifths inconsistency. That’s a wise business decision, and it’s also why the Texas Rangers should sign Zack Greinke.