If Zack Greinke was a member of the X-Men, his mutant power would be an unparalleled ability to tell it like it is.
In an interview with Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Greinke made no bones about what led him to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His primary motivation wasn't to go ring-chasing, nor was it to move to the lovely weather of Southern California.
No, it was all about dead presidents. Money drove Greinke to Los Angeles:
It's obviously the No. 1 thing. I could play for the worst team if they paid the most. ... If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I'm going to go for the $200-million no matter what team it was.
So there's that. In the land of hired guns, Greinke is king.
Greinke's interview with Heyman reveals plenty besides his fondness for money. Here's what we learned from that admission and the various other tidbits contained within the interview.
There's At Least One Honest Player in the Whole Sport
Everyone, let's give Greinke a hand. It's nice to know that there's at least one honest guy in baseball.
No ballplayer wants to be the guy who says it was all about the money. The garden-variety fan doesn't like that kind of talk, and garden-variety fans have been known to meet up for booing sessions when they get an excuse to do so.
Thus, ballplayers utter lame excuses in attempts to convince people that they didn't just sign on the dotted line because of the money. Mike Hampton set the bar by blowing a bunch of smoke about the Colorado lifestyle and the school system when he bolted from the New York Mets to the Rockies for a $120 million contract in 2000. More recently, Mark Teixeira said his wife was responsible for steering him towards the New York Yankees and their riches.
Shoot, he hasn't even hit free agency yet and Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has reported that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano has already broken out the "it's not about the money" line. We know that's not true because a) he's a Scott Boras client and b) he plays baseball for a living.
Ballplayers go into free agency with one thing in mind, and that's to seek out the best possible paycheck. You occasionally see a guy take less money than he's being offered elsewhere—Cliff Lee is the most notable example—but the overwhelming majority of players are going to follow the cash.
Greinke clearly realizes there's no shame in that, nor should there be. As much as fans want to pretend it does, loyalty has no place in baseball or any other professional sport. It's a business, and all the people in the business—from owners to executives to managers to players—are looking to get theirs. Greinke got his, and that was the whole idea.
Just as intriguing is how Greinke got his.
Greinke Could Be an Agent Some Day
Gary Sheffield is a former star player who has launched himself into player representation following his retirement from baseball. Maybe Greinke will do the same once his playing days are over.
After all, he's already had a major hand in negotiating one contract: His own.
From Heyman's article:
[Greinke] met in Orlando with Rangers GM Jon Daniels plus pitching coach Mike Maddux and executives A.J. Preller and Don Welke. He met in L.A. with Dodgers president Stan Kasten, Colletti and manager Don Mattingly.
The Dodgers were surprised he showed [up] only with an open mind (and not even agent Casey Close). But Greinke said he found he did all the talking at the Rangers meeting and didn't want to waste agent Casey Close's time again. (Somehow, I think Close would have forgiven him.)
Could be Greinke was enjoying the process too much to share it...
Heyman also noted that the Dodgers' meeting with Greinke was supposed to last an hour and a half. He ended up keeping them busy for three and a half hours. Somewhere down the line, Greinke squeezed a six-year, $147 million contract out of the Dodgers, a record for a right-hander.
It's not clear exactly when Close entered the picture and consulted with Greinke after his meeting with the Dodgers. He surely had a say in the final product, and Greinke surely went into the meeting armed with an idea of what he and Close had already decided they were looking for.
But it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that Greinke felt comfortable enough in his negotiating abilities to meet with the Dodgers without Close. He didn't even hire Close until April 2012, and Greinke is the kind of guy who stays plugged into what's going on around him. In Heyman's words, Greinke "reads everything, hears everything and seemingly knows everything. "
This confirms what Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com had to say about Greinke: he's a baseball junkie. He could carve out a career as a scout after baseball if he pleases, but his role in his own contract negotiation is a sign that he could always go Sheffield's way if he decides he'd rather do that.
One way or another, Greinke won't be a guy who just disappears after he hangs up his spikes. He'll have a lot more still to do in baseball.
If the Circumstances Are Favorable, Greinke WILL Opt Out After 2015
If Greinke's first three years in a Dodgers uniform go well, you can expect him to take advantage of the opt-out clause in his contract and become a free agent all over again.
No, he didn't make any promises in his talk with Heyman. He didn't come right out and say, "Yup, if I have three good years that opt-out is as good as exercised."
But he can be expected to do it for three reasons. One is the simple fact that he's clearly fond of money and is driven to accumulate as much of it as he possibly can. The second is that he wouldn't have pushed for the opt-out if he wasn't serious about using it down the line.
The third is, since he's attuned to everything that's going on around him, Greinke presumably knows all about CC Sabathia.
Sabathia also had an opt-out clause after the third year of his seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees, and he chose to take advantage of it after compiling a 59-23 record and a 3.18 ERA in his first three seasons in New York.
When he did, he got an extra year at $25 million tacked onto his original contract, as well as a $25 million vesting option for the 2017 season (see Cot's Baseball Contracts). By opting out, he thus tacked on potentially $50 million to his future earnings.
Sabathia was coming off his age-30 season when he opted out. Greinke will be coming off his age-31 season if and when he chooses to opt out after 2015. He'll thus be pretty close to being in the same boat Sabathia was in after he opted out, meaning he too could add a hefty chunk of money to his future earnings.
So what? He'll just end up back with the Dodgers, right?
Actually, I wouldn't be so sure.
The Dodgers May Not Be in Their Own Stratosphere
Magic Johnson and his troupe of partners paid over $2 billion to buy the Dodgers and have since upped the team's payroll from just over $100 million to over $200 million (see Cot's Baseball Contracts). They've also recently signed a new TV deal worth $7 billion.
So yeah, fans can be forgiven if they think the Dodgers are operating on a level all their own when it comes to money. They're rich enough to make even the Yankees look like deadbeats.
And yet, Heyman found out that the Dodgers didn't exactly blow the Texas Rangers out of the water in the bidding for Greinke:
...it was soon learned from other sources that Greinke gave the Rangers a chance to win his services, presenting them with an offer to become a Texas Ranger if they met it.
In the end the two teams were in a near-dead heat on the main terms of the offers, according to those two sources, or at least "very close." Taxes would be a bit less with the Rangers, but Greinke's primary residence was to remain Winter Park, Fla., so that discrepancy wasn't a much as some might have speculated.
In the end, the real differences may have been that the Rangers didn't offer the three-year opt-out clause (which is ultimately about the money), and they couldn't offer the National League, which Greinke much prefers.
If this is true, then the Rangers had something similar to the six-year, $147 million contract Greinke ultimately signed on the table. When Greinke went to the Rangers to ask them to beat the Dodgers' offer, indications are that he wasn't asking them to beat an unbeatable offer. The Rangers didn't have to close, say, a $20 million gap.
If the Rangers—a team well off but not as rich as the Dodgers—can hang with the Dodgers in a bidding war now, then other rich teams like the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and potentially the New York Mets may be able to do so three years in the future if and when Greinke decides to opt out of his contract. He may not find himself talking to only one team that can afford him, as Sabathia was following the 2011 season.
That would please him. Assuming, of course, that it would still be all about the money.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.