As announced earlier today by CBS Sports, Los Angeles Dodgers pitching ace Zack Greinke has opted out of his contract and for the moment will not return to the Dodgers in the 2016 MLB season, placing him as a free agent. After signing with the Dodgers in 2013 on a six-year deal, Greinke is leaving LAD with $71 million left in his contract. The 31-year-old from Orlando was drafted in 2002 by the Kansas City Royals, before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 and the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. But as his future is unknown, where is Zack Greinke going to go?
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
A team that barely missed surpasing the Houston Astros in the second American League Wildcard spot and the 2015 postseason, the Los Angeles Angels have looked to change some things in their pitching, after an outstanding offense with players such as Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. It was announced last week by new GM Billy Eppler that they would not re-sign Mike Butcher, who's been the Angels pitching coach since he left the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006. It looks as the Angels want to upgrade both their starting rotation and bullpen, and the Cy Young nominee is most definitely the answer to that question. This would make the most sense as they have enough money inside of the franchise to give Zack Greinke the pay he's looking for, and it would not require that much of a major move for his family. Could it be possible we see Greinke in an Angels uniform again, making the competition even more fierce in the AL West?
The Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves was one of the more lackluster teams during the 2015 season, which isn't expected to be much of a threat in the years to come. Atlanta has been home to some of the greatest pitchers this game has ever seen, such as Phil "Knuckleball" Neikro, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. However, despite having All-Star pitcher Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, veteran left-hander Mike Minor, who is coming off a shoulder injury, and youngster Matt Wisler, the Braves will be on the look out for more experience to elevate their pitching staff.
The obvious choices here are Zack Greinke, David Price and Hisashi Iwakuma, who threw a no hitter for the Seattle Mariners earlier this season. At 19 wins in 2015, Zack Greinke essentially seems like that answer to pull the Braves out of the slump they were in when the season came to a close. Anywhere that Greinke goes he will lead the pitching staff, so this is an easy option. But the real question here is, do the Braves have enough money to contract Greinke at such a high pay?
The New York Yankees
The current rumor around the Major Leagues is that Greinke could sign with the Yankees, who much like Atlanta, are searching for an experienced starter, but unlike Atlanta has more than enough money to sign Greinke. The Yankees, who had the second-highest payroll behing the Dodgers, recently lost veteran starter C.C. Sabathia to rehabilitation, leaving a giant void in the rotation that the Yankees are unsure Masahiro Tanaka and company can fill. Greinke in a Yankees uniform makes so much sense, but how big of an impact would this have on the AL East as a whole?
The Chicago Cubs
One thing that Joe Madden's always been good at, whether it was with the Rays (Price, Garza, Shields and Kazmir) or the Cubs and Jake Arrietta, has been using pitching to his advantage, and signing Zack Greinke would be no exception. Greinke, who's up for the National League Cy Young against Cubs pitching ace Jake Arrietta, could very well be seen soon in a Cubs uniform. Since David Price is on the free agent market, he has been immediatley linked to the Cubs because of the Maddon connection. If he doesn't land with the Cubs, Greinke could immediately be targeted by Theo Epstein. One interesting point that could dictate the Cubs aggresiveness on the market is whether they lock up Jake Arrieta to a long term deal to pair with Jon Lester. No doubt the Cubs have money, but would they want three veteran starters making well over $150 million?
The St. Louis Cardinals
One of the most dominant dynasties in the world of sports in the 21st Century, winning The World Series on two separate occasions (2006, 2011) and four different NL pennants (2013, 2011, 2006, 2004), is the St. Louis Cardinals.
Other than Adam Wainwright, they don't have a starter with a pedigree of Greinke. Youngsters Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha have shown the ability this year to be top-of-the-rotation arms, but when you go up against teams like the Cubs and New York Mets, who have several "ace" type arms, you need someone of Greinke's caliber to square off with them.
It's usually not in the Cardinals nature to spend the big money on the free agent market, but Greinke isn't your usual free agent pitcher. He's is the modern day Greg Maddux, and his addition could really elevate what was already a 100-win team in 2015.
The Texas Rangers
One of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs, mainly due to their offense, was the Texas Rangers. The Rangers had a 2-0 lead in the ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays, before dropping three straight to the AL East division leaders. Some say that a lot of that has to do with two noticeable things, the lack of a major starting pitcher and the absence of an injured Adrian Beltre. One of those things is obviously fixable, by adding right-hander Zack Greinke. Much like the Rangers division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Texas Rangers released it's hitting coach Dave Magadan and one of its pitching coaches Andy Hawkins, and are looking to make some changes in their pitching staff.
With some contract tweaking, the Rangers could easily scrape up enough cash to sign Greinke and prove their dominance over not only Dallas Keuchall and the Houston Astros, but the entire AL West.
It's highly likely that Greinke will sign with one of these six teams if he does in fact leave Los Angeles, however, with teams like the Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles rebuilding and chasing after major free agents. The question right now is who will Zack Greinke sign with? One thing that is for certain though, the future looks bright for Zack Greinke.