Monday, December 10, 2012

Dodgers and Royals Upgrade Pitching

         Zack Greinke moves crosstown after signing big deal with Dodgers

The Dodgers made a couple of big moves this past weekend. They signed Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu after posting a $25 million posting fee to the Korean leagues to negotiate with him. Ryu was then signed to a 6 year, $36 million contract. Ryu is a 25 year old left hander, and had a 2.80 ERA in 1238 innings in the Korean leagues. The Dodgers have had many Korean and Japanese pitchers pitch for them in the last couple of decades including Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park, Kaz Ishii, and Hong-Chi Kuo.

Zack Greinke also agreed to a six year, $147 million deal this weekend. It is a record deal for a right handed pitcher, and the second biggest deal for a pitcher in history after CC Sabathia's deal. Greinke also can opt-out of his deal after three years if he chooses. Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award and has struck out over 200 batters 3 out of the 4 last seasons. Last season, Greinke went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 212.1 innings for the Brewers and Angels.

Greinke may be the highest paid right handed pitcher in baseball, but I don't think he's the best. I think he will pitch well in Dodger Stadium, but there is a lot of pressure for him to perform now. The Dodgers had some bad luck 13 years ago when they signed Kevin Brown to the first $100 million contract. Brown had a couple of dominant seasons for them, but was injury prone the rest of the contract and was dealt away to the Yankees later. Brown was also in his mid-30's when he signed the deal compared to Greinke being 29.

The Dodgers now have a surplus of starting pitching. They are led by ace left hander Clayton Kershaw, who won the 2011 NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw has led the NL in ERA and WHIP the past two seasons and will likely be offered a big extension soon. Kershaw will be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Kershaw and Greinke is a one of the best pitching duos in the league, and might remind Dodger fans of Orel Hershiser/Fernando Valenzeula, Don Sutton/Tommy John, and even Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale. After that, the Dodgers still have Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and newly acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu. They also still have Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly, who were both injured at season's end. It's possible the Dodgers could put one or two of these guys on the market.

Another team who has been busy is the Kansas City Royals. They already signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three year deal and traded for Angels right hander Ervin Santana. Sunday night they made a big splash making a deal with the Rays. They traded for James Shields and Wade Davis, giving up prospects OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard. Myers is a highly rated prospect and hit 37 home runs in the minors last season. Odorizzi was part of the Greinke deal with the Brewers two years ago. Tampa Bay got some good players in return as well, but the Royals desperately needed to upgrade their pitching.

Bruce Chen has been the Royals top starter the last two seasons. When Bruce Chen is your top starter, you know your team is in trouble. 2006 #1 pick Luke Hochevar took a huge step back in 2012, posting a 5.73 ERA. Hochevar may end up as a bust, and is not guaranteed a rotation spot next year. Journeyman Luis Mendoza was one of the Royals best starters last year, but could move to the bullpen next year. The Royals see alot of promise from lefty Danny Duffy, who will be coming back from Tommy John surgery next year. It looks like the Royals rotation will consist of Shields, Davis, Santana, Guthrie, and either Chen or Mendoza til Duffy gets back.

The Royals have a pretty decent bullpen in Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, and Aaron Crow as setup guys and Greg Holland as their closer. They traded Jonathon Broxton at the trading deadline last year. Former closer Joakim Soria missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, and signed with the Rangers earlier this month. With an improved rotation and some rising talent on offense, the Royals could be a much improved team next year. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have developed into really good players. Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez look like they will be pretty good players as well. The AL Central is the weakest division in baseball, and the Tigers won it winning only 88 games. I still think the Tigers are the class of the division, but the Royals might be able to make a run next year.


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