Los Angeles Angels right hander Zach Greinke figures to be the best pitcher available on the free agent market after this season. In order to try to keep him in Anaheim, the Angels appear ready to part ways with a pair of talented starters.
According to MLB.cm’s Alden Gonzalez, sources inside the Angels organization indicate that the team will likely decline club options on the contracts of both Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in order to clear payroll space to re-up with Greinke. Haren, who has dealt with back issues this season, is owed $15.5 next season if the option is picked up. The Angels would owe him only $3.5 million were they to decline.
Santana, who has allowed a whopping 36 home runs this year, has an option worth $13 million for 2013. The Angels will pay a $1 million buyout if they decline the option.
While that extra $14 million in payroll will help in trying to fit Greinke into the books going forward, Los Angeles will be far from the former Cy Young winner’s only suitor. The Chicago White Sox, who tried in vain to land Greinke via trade at the deadline, are known to desperately want to add him. Chicago didn’t have the prospects to pry him away from the Brewers in July, but the free agent market requires only money to land the top prize.
Taking a similar route to the Angels, Chicago is expected to decline a $22 million option on right hander Jake Peavy. My guess is that they’ll try their best to use that money to land Greinke.
If the Angels part ways with Haren, in particular, they may wind up kicking themselves, even if they retain Greinke. Though he’s struggled a bit with command in 2012, Haren has been one of baseball’s best and most consistent starters over the course of the last 8-10 years. Having just turned 32, Haren figures to have several more quality seasons ahead. While $15 million is a healthy sum, it’s in-line with what starters of Haren pedigree are paid and relative peanuts compared to the awful contracts the Angels have been willing take on in the past. Seems to me that a club willing to pay Vernon Wells $21 million per year aught to be able to find enough coin to keep Haren and still have enough to entice Greinke to stay.
While the free agent market won’t have the likes of Cole Hamels, the probable additions of Haren, Santana, and Peavy make the class of starting pitchers considerably deeper. Suitors that miss out on Greinke may not have to overpay as significantly to land a second-tier starter like Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, or one of the three aforementioned righties.