Baseball’s winter meetings are in high gear at this hour, with another 36 hours of spending and signing of free agents and wheeling and dealing at the trade table:
The spending spree is not over. The $260 million investments made at the July 31 trading deadline will likely have an addition, maybe by the end of the session on Friday.
The Dodgers are bidding fiercely on veteran pitcher Zack Greinke, the top pitcher on the board.
It will cost a team a six-year deal worth $120 million and a full no-trade clause to sign the ex-Kansas City Royal-Milwaukee Brewer-Los Angeles Angels right-hander.
Texas is still in the hunt for him and the Angels say they are too, but everybody now believes that what Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti want, the Dodgers execs will get.
It is quite an investment and if he winds up at Chavez Ravine, it will push the Dodgers’ payroll over the $200 million mark, making them the West Coast version of the New York Yankees. Who would have thought this possible after being owned by the soon-to-be-bankrupt Frank McCourt?
Greinke is a warrior of a pitcher, an innings horse and quite a competitor. His career has been shadowed by anxiety issues, but he has put up enormous numbers on the mound.
As the number two arm behind southpaw Clayton Kershaw, and in front of August acquisition Josh Beckett, it gives Los Angeles an amazing front rotation and that does not include hopes that Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly come back from arm issues.
If Greinke does not land in Dodgers blue, rumors are still out there that the Dodgers can bid on Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, though a trade like that might cost you young shortstop Dee Gordon and first round draft pick minor league pitching star Zach Lee.
Just what the rest of the National League West needs to see — the Blue adding a big-time arm, after the arrival of the big-time bats last summer.
Last year, the Halos staggered the baseball world with its near blank check acquisition of Albert Pujols from the Cardinals. It was an enormous $240 million commitment that will produce results for the next couple of years, but will be an anchor around the neck as he ages into a designated hitter role.
Leading into these meetings, the Angels said goodbye to pitching, letting go Dan Haren, trading Ervin Santana, dealing away Jordan Walden and all but effectively pulling out of the bidding to retain Greinke.
As the payroll has come down, General Manager Jerry Dipoto reinvested in younger pitchers. Tommy Hanson put up great numbers with the Atlanta Braves before back issues slowed him down. Ryan Madson became the big-time closer in Philadelphia for two years, though sat out last season in Cincinnati with elbow surgery, but is completely healthy. Sean Burnett signed after finding his niche as a situational left-handed reliever in Washington.
There is a likelihood that former Dodgers-Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton may commit to join the rebuilt rotation. It would make four additions to the pitching staff at a much lower cost than what they were paying last year.
The Halos will be different, but now have depth and trustworthy people in what was a disintegrating bullpen — and they may not be done yet.
We are waiting. New ownership paid $800 million to buy the franchise from disinterested owner John Moores. They said they would upgrade the payroll from the $55 million of a year ago.
But we are waiting for them to do something significant. Chase Headley, their Silver Slugger-Gold Glove third baseman is waiting for a contract extension. San Diego has taken care of all its other in-house free agents, but not him, not yet.
They have re-signed only rear-of-the-rotation pitcher Jason Marquis — a journeyman at best.
They are talking to many second-tier free agent arms at these meetings, but Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was (1-8) with the Red Sox, ex-Atlanta star Jair Jurrjens, former A’s starter Brandon McCarthy, and ex-Mets starter Mike Pelfrey, are all coming off surgeries.
Renting a vet might be economically right, but it won’t make things right in the pennant race.
The Friars went through 32 pitchers last year, used 18 starters and had 11 arms undergo surgeries last season.
Th team is holding its breath for young stud moundsmen, including Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Tim Stauffer and Casey Kelly, all coming off arm issues.
And the Wednesday news is that Andrew Cashner sliced his pitching thumb while hunting and will miss three months, casting further shadows on a promising pitching staff.
Trades may be in the future, for San Diego has depth at shortstop, first base, catcher and a loaded farm system.
Buy low, risk less, but maybe also less reward, too. It is the way of life in San Diego.
So, just asking –are Dodgers fans upset that they have become the West Coast version of the Evil Empire?
Are Angels fans in the belief that you can lose a star like Greinke, a warrior like Haren and still be elite?
And will new ownership in San Diego be better or it will be the old way of doing business, spending nickels and dimes, while others spend dollar bills?
An interesting rest of the week ahead of us. You don’t win the pennant at the these winter meetings.
But what you can determine is who will be a contender or a pretender.