The realistic answer is "neither." You know this. But we at least have to state our terms and pick one. It makes the gnashing of teeth so much gnashier and cathartic.
There are two premium free agent pitchers on the market. There used to be three, but Johnny Cueto fell into a gopher hole, which all pitchers eventually do because the human arm isn't supposed to do that. And yet we're here, talking about giving other pitchers hundreds of millions of dollars. Isn't cognitive dissonance wonderful?
David Price is outstanding. Zack Greinke is outstanding. In five years, neither of them is likely to be outstanding. In two years, though? How about three? That tipping point means so much, yet is so unpredictable. For next year, though, both are likely to help their respective teams win more than just about any other pitchers in baseball.
It's time to pick one. The Giants aren't likely to sign either, really, but they presented a very competitive offer for Jon Lester, so maybe? At the very least, it's fun to explain which one we prefer.
The beauty of this argument is that both pitchers are ridiculously close in value. Both pitchers since 2010:
That is freaky-close. Both pitchers have stayed healthy. Both pitchers have Cy Youngs. I chose 2010 as an endpoint because that was Price's first full season as a starter and because Greinke was a demigod in 2009, which would have skewed everything. Feel free to use it as a tiebreaker.
Price is two years younger, though. That might be the very best tiebreaker. That's an extra two years of mileage on him, which makes a huge difference. That bit up there, where every pitcher will eventually fall into the gopher hole? Greinke might be two years closer to his fate.
Unless he is an ageless warlock. Which is possible. Henry Schulman looked at Greinke on Wednesday, and included this tidbit:
Second, although Greinke is 32, some in the front office believe his stuff would play well even in the later years of a five- or six-year deal because he has an deceptive array of ways to get hitters out even if his fastball dips from the current 94 mph to 90 or 91.
In other words, they could envision Greinke becoming another Greg Maddux.
Earlier today, I used Bartolo Colon as the comparison (without the catastrophe in the middle of his 30s, at least), but the overall point stands. If Price and Greinke both lose a few ticks off their fastballs, it's a lot easier to imagine Price thinking "AAHHH WHAT THE HELL WHAT DO I DO WHAT NOW" and Greinke seamlessly transitioning to "Okay, so I'm a slim Livan Hernandez now. There is a pile of money in the corner, and a cabinet filled with sinkers and cut fastballs. Exits are N, W, and E. What will you do?"
On the other hand: two years age difference. That's a big difference! Not to mention that Price is a tall, strong, Bumgarnerian man. Greinke is wee in a baseball-player way (not in a real-life way, said the short person). If you're looking for a prototypical pitcher's build, Price has it.
There is the not-so-minor matter of the 2016 Draft, too. The Giants would give their first-round pick away to sign Greinke (and give a compensatory pick at the end of the first round to the Dodgers, too), whereas Price would not cost a draft pick because he was traded in the middle of the year. As a tiebreaker, you could do a lot worse. If the Giants signed Jason Isringhausen in 2001, they don't draft Matt Cain, remember.
A lesser consideration: Greinke seems like he goes through your suitcase when you're sleeping in the other room. Price seems cool. Though it should be noted that teammates generally report getting along with both.
Let's pretend that every so often, I emerge from my squalid blog cave and interact with people in their physical form. Let's pretend that in September, I actually talked with someone important who will have a big say in who the Giants go after this offseason. Let's pretend this person asked me this very question, "Price or Greinke?", and that I answered Price, with the durability/age/frame as my reasoning. And, finally, let's pretend that when I gave my answer, I could totally tell he felt the exact opposite way and I got a weird vibe that the Giants' plans totally revolve around a Greinke pursuit.
I mean, we're just pretending, right? You know I don't ever emerge from my squalid blog cave. Ha ha.
Have a sneaking suspicion that the Giants prefer Greinke, though. Age and build be damned, I think he offers a consolation prize even if he doesn't sign that Price doesn't. That consolation prize is hosing the Dodgers and squeezing more money out of them. Which is always worthwhile. And by signing Greinke, the Giants would really hose the Dodgers. It would be just dandy.
I'm starting to come around to this point of view. I could see Price getting eight years and Greinke getting six, so there goes that age advantage. And I can't shake that idea of what the pitchers will do when they are forced into the second stage of their careers. Will they embark on a roundly panned "Jazz Odyssey", or will they get weird and find different ways to remain productive, like Tom Waits? Greinke seems like a better bet to do that latter.
Let me just attach the poll right now before I forget. Have at it.