SAN FRANCISCO — With two of the top four starting pitchers off the market, the Giants now have their hopes squarely pinned on Zack Greinke, who is expected this week to choose between the Giants and rival Dodgers. A Greinke decision should come quickly now that David Price is off the board, having agreed to a record $217 million deal with the Red Sox.
The Giants were one of several teams in on Price but no team was going to match the deal Boston ultimately gave the left-hander. Greinke has been the priority anyway, and he discreetly visited San Francisco last month. The Giants, per league sources, also hosted right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who appears to be their top remaining target after Greinke, and Jordan Zimmermann, who signed with the Tigers.
Greinke, 32, went 19-3 last season with an MLB-best 1.66 ERA and finished a close second in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, he is said to be looking for a five or six-year deal with an annual average value above the $31 million Price got from the Red Sox. That would give Greinke the highest yearly salary in the game.
The top two teams in the National League West have spent the last month trying to lock Greinke up.
"We want him back,” Dodgers part-owner Magic Johnson said Tuesday, per Yahoo Sports. “He's our priority -- our No. 1 priority -- of the offseason."
If the Giants lose out on Greinke they’ll be left facing a pitching market headed by Johnny Cueto, who has been one of the best starters in the National League for years but is considered a riskier bet. Cueto has dealt with several health issues in the past three seasons and struggled after a midseason trade to the Kansas City Royals. Cueto has been a notch below Price and Greinke, along with Zimmermann, who was a Giants target before signing a five-year, $110 million deal with the Tigers.
Given what’s left after Greinke, the more appealing Plan B may be to try and lock up two starters from a deep second tier. All has been quiet on the Mike Leake front, but the Giants have kept tabs on Samardzija since the start of free agency. The 30-year-old is coming off his worst season as a starter (4.96 ERA for the White Sox) but he’s not far removed from dominance. Samardzija posted a 2.99 ERA for the Cubs and A’s in 2014 and has thrown at least 213 innings in three consecutive seasons.
That durability is appealing, and it doesn’t come with a lot of innings on the odometer. Because he wasn’t a full-time starter until 2012, Samardzija has thrown just 991 2/3 big league innings. Greinke already has thrown 2,094 2/3 innings, Price is at 1,441 2/3, and Cueto at 1,420 1/3.