The Dodgers are increasingly seen by competitors as the early favorite to land right-hander Zack Greinke, the best pitcher on the free-agent market -- though it's very early in the process and it isn't even known whether they've even made an offer yet.
Even so, competing execs wonder if the Dodgers, baseball's newest big spenders, might be ready to blow the field away. One hint of possible concern came early with Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reporting that the Angels, who had Greinke as their main target, rather abruptly slid out of the Greinke derby, with a well-placed source telling Knobler that the Angels were now "unlikely to sign him.''
Word was getting around baseball circles that the Dodgers might already be signalling a willingness to go to about $140 million, likely on a seven-year deal. It was reported in this space a couple days ago that executives were already predicting Greinke would get a $150 million deal from someone, a contract which would make him the second-best paid pitcher ever to CC Sabathia (and the best-paid right-hander).
"I think [the Dodgers] will get him if they want him,'' one rival executive said.
The Dodgers are certainly a bona fide force in any bidding competition. Their potential presence in the Greinke derby is what worried Angels people from the start.
The Dodgers showed their financial power this summer, with their $260-million-adding trade with the Red Sox that netted them Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. And they are working on a TV deal with Fox for an astounding $6.5 billion, which would seemingly give them the financial edge over anyone but the Yankees, who are not involved in the Greinke competition.
The Rangers also are in the bidding for Greinke, though it's hard to see them -- or anyone else -- outbidding the Dodgers, who are said intent on adding two starting pitchers. One of them will presumably be Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-Jin after the Dodgers won the right to negotiate exclusively with him with their $25.7 million bid.
The Angels gave up three top prospects to acquire Greinke, who pitched well for them down the stretch, and they've pulled off misdirection plays before. Did anyone see them getting Albert Pujols?
But the Angels have had a reluctance in the past to pay a pitcher more than the $85 million, five-year deal their ace Jered Weaver has. Sources suggest they might sign two middle-of-the-road type starters instead and instead emphasize the pen, starting with their Ryan Madson deal.
Other teams said to have interest, including the Brewers, Royals and others, surely couldn't compete with the Dodgers as long as L.A. is committed to winning this derby for Greinke, the 29-year-old right-hander who went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA and 200 strikeouts between the Brewers and Angels.
Greinke performed well in a nearby market (the Angels play 45 miles south on I-5), allaying any fears he might be better suited for a small-town team. He is said to have loved the Angels but not to mind the idea of a return to the National League, where he can bat.
The Dodgers also have considered star free-agent pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse, but appear to others to be focused on Greinke now. Their people have been asking around almost exclusively about Greinke, giving the impression he is their focus.