Posted by Steve
Things were starting to seem like they were going in the right direction. Zack Greinke said he wouldn’t need an agent unless he “had a reason to get one.” Why would he have a reason to get one unless talks with the Brewers were progressing? When he hired Casey Close, speculation among baseball media members was that they were on their way to working out an extension. After not hearing anything for a week or so, yesterday evening news broke that the Brewers and Close have “suspended” talks.
“I talked with Casey Close and we decided to let it rest for now,” said Melvin. “That doesn’t mean we won’t talk again at some point but we’re going to let it rest right now.”
Hmm. So much left open for interpretation. “We” decided to let it rest? Who? You and your staff? You and Close? And just as important, why is it “resting” all of a sudden?
With the caveat that this is just conjecture on my part, here’s what I see as most likely:
-Greinke and the Brewers were talking throughout spring. Talks were going relatively well to the point that Greinke found it necessary to start interviewing agents.
-Around the time he settled in on Close, Matt Cain signed his massive deal–a record for a right-handed pitcher. It was about $15 million more than I think anyone expected.
-Shortly after that, other crazy deals started flying around. Obviously there were Votto and Cain’s, but in recent days, we’ve seen Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, John Niese, Carlos Santana, and even smaller ones like Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Lucroy.
-At this point Greinke (or most likely Close) started looking around and seeing the crazy money that teams are throwing around. They can point to the Reds and say, “If those clowns are going to commit $300 million to Votto and Phillips until their late 30s, why shouldn’t I hold out for more?” And you know what? They’re exactly right.
There are reports that teams are spending all this money because there will be a new national television contract for MLB after next season, and it will likely result in a lot more revenue for all teams. It makes sense, because how on Earth else can the Reds spend this money? Their attendance is consistently not good, even when they won the division a couple years ago.
(Aside: New television contract or not, what the hell are the Reds doing? Do they have a plan? $72.5 million for Brandon Phillips is insane. Just crazy. How much of a bargain does the 4-year, $38 million dollar deal that Weeks signed look like right now? Plus, Phillips is 31 in just a couple months, so he’s older than Weeks. Do the Reds realize that these two players have been a core to a team that’s just about .500 the last three seasons? In other words, they’ll have to add pieces in the future to be a true contender. How do they plan on being able to do that with all that money committed to these two players? It’s good for them short term, as in the next three or four years, but after that? Think about how bad the contracts to Todd Helton and Alfonso Soriano look like right now. In six years, the Reds will have the equivalent of both of those players on one team.)
So, back to Greinke. I’m guessing all these recent contracts resulted in the Brewers and Close being way too far apart at the moment. Breaking off–sorry, suspending talks–seems to be a negotiating ploy, but whose ploy is it?
I actually think it’s more likely that it’s the Brewers. Put it this way. What would Greinke get on the open market? In this climate, I’d say at least $150 million. So if Close is asking for, say, $120-130 million, it’s still a discount by definition. But of course, the Brewers can’t pay that.
Greinke has been saying he likes it in Milwaukee. It’s possible that Melvin is saying, “Alright Zack, we’ll see just how much you like it here.” It would be an understandable move. The Brewers simply can’t afford a $120+ million contract. If Greinke really does want to stay here, it’s likely they’ll lower demands a bit. If he likes it here the way Prince Fielder liked it here (he liked it but not so much that he’d take a discount to stay, which is totally understandable), then he’s probably gone.
This certainly isn’t a good sign, but I’m not losing hope. Before this, and especially before the Cain contract, I felt it was a better than 50% chance Greinke would sign. Now, it’s probably less than 50%, but I wouldn’t say it’s a lot less.
Again, this is pretty much just all my own speculation, so don’t think I’m claiming it’s anything more. But the writing’s on the wall, and this is what it spells out to me.