Would You Rather: R.A. Dickey or Zack Greinke?

Upon hearing the news that the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147M contract, I couldn’t help but think, who would you rather have: Zack Greinke or R.A. Dickey?

Last week we asked how much more R.A. Dickey was worth than Joe Blanton. Now, I truly wonder if Zack Greinke is truly worth more than R.A. — and if so, how much?

More to the point, if you are Dodgers GM Ned Colletti or CEO Stan Kasten, would you rather sign Zack Greinke to the richest contract ever handed to a righthanded pitcher, or make a deal for R.A. Dickey?

The Dodgers will be paying Greinke almost $20M more than Dickey in 2013. They’ll then pay Greinke that amount every year through 2018, when Greinke turns 35 years old. (Actually, I’m not positive Greinke will be getting $24.5M per yer, I’m just averaging it out for the sake of argument.)

Is anyone else with me in believing that a) R.A. Dickey is a better pitcher right now than Greinke; and b) Dickey will be a better pitcher than Greinke six years from now?

Here’s my thinking: as a knuckleballer, R.A. has a pretty good chance of being at least an average MLB starter at the age of 43. In fact, I think he’ll be better than average — possibly a #3 starter on a championship team. On the other hand, I have my doubts that Greinke will be even that good when he’s 35. Going into his 29-year-old season in 2013, Greinke is supposed to be at his athletic physical peak. Yet, his performance dropped significantly from his age 25 season to 26, and seems to have plateaued. Pitching in the NL, I expect to see his performance improve, but I don’t expect him to get better and better. Rather, I expect him to have a great season in ’13, perhaps another in ’14, and then slide considerably as he enters his early 30s. Why? Because his effectiveness is largely tied to his velocity, and his velocity is already diminishing (albeit slightly) — as is to be expected when pitchers not named Nolan Ryan and/or don’t take PEDs age.

Further to the point, Greinke has been using his fastball less and less as he moves further away from that magical 2009 season. According to Fangraphs, Greinke threw his four-seam fastball — which averaged 93.7 MPH — 58.9% of the time in 2009, when he won the Cy Young with a 16-8 record, 2.16 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP (amongst other spectacular stats). In 2012, Greinke threw the four-seamer only 30.9% of the time; its average speed was 92.3 MPH. In ’09, Greinke was often in the 94-95 MPH range, touching 96 on occasion. Last year, he was usually at 92, touching 93. That’s a significant difference, and likely the reason he’s been turning to his sinker more often, and added a cutter to his arsenal.

To my eyes, Greinke’s mechanics aren’t for the long haul. I could be wrong, and hope I am, but there’s something that just doesn’t look quite right to me. It looks like he stands too upright after release, putting much of the strain of deceleration on his arm rather than his lower body. He’s also looking a little heavier now compared to his first few years in MLB. If I were a GM, I’d be wary of giving him a commitment beyond three years. Granted, a five-year deal is what a pitcher like Greinke commands on the open market, but I see him as just as risky as R.A. Dickey beyond the next two years.

Looking at the blockbuster deal with the Red Sox and all the money being spent, the Dodgers clearly are building to win now. That said, it makes sense to overpay a bit for a “second ace” to team with Clayton Kershaw during the team’s optimum window, which appears to be 2013-2015. I wonder if it would’ve made better sense for LA to overpay in trade for R.A. Dickey to fill that role. Perhaps the Mets would have allowed LA to negotiate a two-year extension — that would have been much less a financial commitment than the one just given Greinke — before completing the trade.

Of course, it’s possible the Dodgers weren’t able or willing to give up the players the Mets wanted in return for Dickey. It’s also possible the Mets would not have provided a negotiating window. But looking at the risk/reward of R.A. compared to Zack Greinke, if I’m the Dodgers, I’m preferable to three years of Dickey instead of six of Greinke.

What’s your thought? Do you think Greinke is better than R.A.? If you were a GM and had the choice between the two, which would you choose, and why? Answer in the comments.

12-13 Offseason

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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