Did you think the Giants were going to sign one of the aces on the market this offseason? Did you think they'd back up the dump truck, unload the bullion, and walk away with a no-doubt star? If so, well, first, they wouldn't walk away because they were in trucks and the proper verb is "drive." Second, they're the Giants. When it comes to the big boy free agents, they come in second. Then they just GO OUT THERE AND WIN because EVEN YEAR and YEAH GIANTS WOOOOOOO.
All of which is just a longwinded way of reminding you that the Giants missed out on Zack Greinke. Greinke has been consistently excellent for almost a decade now, it would annoy the crap out of Dodgers fans if the Giants had signed him, and his hair would fit right in with San Francisco. But there has to be a way to make ourselves feel better, right? There have to be some reasons that we should be happy the Giants didn't make Arizona's offer themselves, right? There have to be, if not red flags, then maybe pinkish ones. Let's take a look.
That's a lot of money
6 years, $206 million. That's about $34 million a year, though if you calculate the effects of deferred money, which I totally did and absolutely did not just look up at MLB Trade Rumors, it's effectively a little less than $32 million a year. Here's a neat way to visualize how much money $206 million is: Here's a cup you could buy at the dollar store.
Now imagine that you bought 206 million of them. That's what Zack Greinke could do. Crazy!
Obviously, spending that heavily on one player for so long (SEE NEXT POINT) has a serious impact on the rest of the roster. The Giants could still shore up two holes this year, while with Greinke they'd have to pick between an okay outfielder and an okay starter. If the Giants don't want to exceed the luxury tax anytime soon, then not having a guy making Greinke's massive income would be a big help. And if they want to make Mission Rock a success, and as I understand it that's LITERALLY the only thing ownership cares about, then they can use the money over there too.
That's a lot of years
The list of pitchers who experienced at least one down year during 6+ year contracts is exactly the same as the list of pitchers who have finished playing out their 6+ year contracts. Zack Greinke will, at some point, have a disappointing year, and when a guy is making in the thirties of millions of dollars per year, that's tough for a team to recover from. Add in that in his final year, Greinke will be 37, and you're seeing even more risk. There have been pitchers who had great years that late in their careers – Randy Johnson's 2001 was spectacular, for example – but it's not something you want to bet on. Even the middle years of the contract are fraught with risk. And now it's risk that the Giants don't have to deal with. That's not a bad thing.
Here's another way to look at six years: six years ago, in 2009, 10 pitchers got Cy Young votes. Those pitchers were Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Javier Vazquez, and Dan Haren. Two of them had full, healthy seasons this year. Eight of them were some combination of injured, ineffective, or retired. Pitchers age hard, man.
That's a lot of baserunners who didn't come around to score
One way to make yourself feel better about the Giants losing out on a free agent is to comb through his statistical profile and pick out the things that indicate he's not as good as he seems to be. Greinke's strand rate, for example, was a ludicrously high 86.5%, meaning that of all the runners he allowed to reach base, fewer than one in seven scored. This is an unsustainably high number, wildly out of line with not only what the rest of the league did, but also with his own historical pattern. It mostly indicates luck, and while Greinke would have had a very good year last year even with average luck in that area, it wouldn't have been the otherworldly masterpiece that was his 2015. Additionally, his BABIP was absurdly low, and he gave up home runs at a rate which you would expect to increase next year even if he stayed in Dodger Stadium, instead of Chase Field, which in terms of park factors is essentially Coors's understudy.
For all these reasons and more, next year Greinke will be (looks at FIP) awful.
(FIP glares at me, shaking its head)
YEP, AWFUL AND NOT CONTINUING TO BE VERY GOOD, THAT'S WHAT THE STATS SAY, NEXT TOPIC.
He's the kind of person who would voluntarily spend six months in Arizona*
Like, who does that? The Giants pride themselves on having strong clubhouse chemistry, and you'd have to think that allowing that kind of irrational temperament into that locker room would add a distasteful element. We always knew Greinke was kind of a weirdo – Joe Posnanski collected a series of anecdotes, including one about him and Jeremy Affeldt back when they were Royals together – but this takes it to a whole new level. Arizona. Arizona.
*Please ignore that probably half of the Giants live in Arizona
The downside of losing out on Zack Greinke is that he is as likely as anyone in baseball to be a fantastic pitcher for the next couple of years. The upside is the rest of this article. Most of us judged the cost to be worth it, and maybe it would have been. But there's something to be said for not having to pay it at all.