Every time I see Zack Greinke pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks I still wonder, “what might have been had he stayed with the Dodgers after 2015”? Would he have been a difference maker in the 2017 World Series? Greinke was outstanding in his career with the Dodgers and a big question was, how do the Dodgers replace him? As with most things with the Dodgers, cost is a major factor in building a team; maximizing the value of each player. They spend more than most teams but try to build depth by getting the best value out of their roster, not only the 25 man roster but the 40 man roster. I am going to look at the value of Zack Greinke with his new contract and the pitchers that were acquired to fill in for Greinke.
The pitchers I am considering as replacements for Greinke are Scott Kazmir, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish. I am throwing in Brett Anderson because I wonder if they’d have offered him a qualifying offer had they signed Greinke to an extension in the spring of 2015. I did not include Kenta Maeda as it is my belief the Dodgers were going to sign him anyway.
The below table shows the contract outlays for Greinke and the amount the Dodgers spent on the others (thanks to True Blue LA for the contract details). These details are the cost against the luxury tax which is the average of the contract including bonuses and contract deferments.
Here’s a summary of what Greinke did for the Diamondbacks since leaving and what his replacements have done:
- Zack Greinke – The 2016 season was his worst season since 2011 while missing about 6 starts. He bounced back strong in 2017 that was more in line with his previous seasons. However, his 2 post-season appearances were pretty mediocre and not what would even be close to what would be expected from a so-called ace. His 2018 season has been pretty strong so far.
- Scott Kazmir – In late December the Dodgers signed Kazmir to a 3 year/$48 million contract as the primary replacement for Greinke. He even was slotted into the number 2 spot in the rotation. There was a mixture of results with an assortment of injuries that shut him down near the end of the season. He didn’t make an appearance in 2017 and was traded to the Braves as part of the Charlie Culberson trade.
- Rich Hill – He was acquired from the A’s at the trading deadline in 2016 along with Josh Reddick for Frankie Montas, Jharel Cotton, and Grant Holmes. After recovering from a blister issue he was dominant at the end of 2016. His playoff appearances were mixed but highlighted by 6 shutout innings in game 3 of the NLCS. 2017 brought more blisters but plenty of good starts. He became the number 2 starter in the playoff rotation with solid appearances in all his starts. His 2018 has had more blister issues and had a bad first couple of months. Since coming off the disabled list in mid-June he’s been very good with ERAs of 2.55, 2.42 and 1.50 in June, July and into August.
- Yu Darvish – He was acquired from the Rangers at the 2017 trade deadline for highly rated prospect Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis. His time with the Dodgers was very inconsistent as he started well, went very bad, recovered by the end of the season to be excellent again, until the nightmare World Series. He signed with the Cubs for the 2018 season.
- Brett Anderson – After a good 2015 season the Dodgers offered him a qualifying offer (QO) that he accepted. Supposedly, the Dodgers wanted him to leave and were going to sign Rich Hill if he did. That would have been ideal. Hindsight is pretty obvious in this case. In spring training of 2016, his back went out and only made 4 appearances for the Dodgers. The Dodgers gambled with the QO and lost.
The following table shows how much bWAR (Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement) each accumulated while under contract with the Diamondbacks or Dodgers:
|bWAR as of 8/6/18||’16||’17||’18||Projected ’18||Total WAR|
I then took each value of bWAR and multiplied it by $7 million. This is an assumption I made that each WAR is worth $7 million. FanGraphs used $8.7 million in 2015 (when Greinke was a free agent) but I went more conservative at $7 million. In this case, you can see the total bWAR in my dollar/WAR amounts.
Next, I took the bWAR dollar value and differentiated it with their salary on a per season basis and totaled them to get how much value they were worth based on total bWAR and total salary. As the table shows, Greinke came in way below but now is back to justifying his salary. Rich Hill is right on the money with Anderson and Kazmir being a waste of salary. The post-season factor for Darvish makes it tough to gauge his value. He was great in the NLDS and the NLCS but was tragically bad in the World Series. What type of factor would Greinke have been in the 2017 post-season? He was bad for the Diamondbacks in the playoffs, so, who knows?
|Per Million||’16||’17||Projected ’18||Total|
Lastly I put all the information together and it looks like, in total value, only Darvish’s short time with the Dodgers and Rich Hill has a positive dollar value. The rest have fallen short even though Greinke is decently close. As both of them are older it will be interesting to see what kind of age related decline they end up having with Greinke having 3 more years at $34.4M per and Hill having 1 more year at $16M.
|bWAR as of 8/6/18||’16||’17||Projected ’18||Total WAR||Cost Value for WAR||Total $ Spent||Cost Diff for WAR Value|
If there is really anything that I take away from this, pitching is expensive and the cost doesn’t always match the actual value. It has also cost some well regarded prospects like Calhoun, Cotton, Montas and Holmes to replace Zack Greinke. Finding cheaper alternatives like 2016 Rich Hill’s contract or younger/cheaper starters like Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood or Walker Buehler can bring much better value. However, having strong and established starters in the playoffs does sound good. At the end of the day, getting to the playoffs doesn’t always mean high cost pitchers but do you trust the younger and cheaper starters in those crucial games?
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