From Zack Greinke to closers, five questions leading into baseball’s winter … – Los Angeles Times

David Price flashed his smile for the cameras, modeled his new Boston Red Sox jersey, then joked about his postseason record. The highest-paid pitcher in baseball history has started eight postseason games. He has won none of them.

“I guess I was just saving my postseason wins for the Red Sox,” Price said at his introductory news conference Friday in Boston.

And then Price could take his $217 million and go home to Nashville, the place where a few of his peers should find millions of pots of gold this week.

The winter meetings open Monday in Nashville. Five questions for the hottest week of the Hot Stove League:

1. Is the pendulum swinging back toward well-paid closers?

The rise of the sabermetrics has depressed the value of a closer, with the general theory that the last three outs of a game should be no harder to secure than the previous three, and that no job is more overpaid than the one in which a pitcher works one inning with a three-run lead, in maybe one of every three games.

But the Kansas City Royals have appeared in the World Series in consecutive years with shoddy starting pitching, the best bullpen in baseball and a lockdown closer. The Boston Red Sox just traded four prospects and took on $25 million to obtain closer Craig Kimbrel. The Detroit Tigers, saddled with years of ninth-inning failures, acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez, who will receive $7.5 million at age 34.

The market might be so robust that two teams have dangled what might otherwise be untouchable closers, Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees and Ken Giles of the Philadelphia Phillies, to see how strong the return in trade might be. The player to watch is Aroldis Chapman, the Cincinnati Reds‘ 100-mph closer. If a team gives up top prospects for Chapman, who will be paid a projected $13 million next season and can become a free agent thereafter, a renaissance among closers might be upon us.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is projected to make $11 million next season, his last before he is eligible for free agency.

2. What is the biggest logjam in the free-agent market?

Although pitchers have started to sign — from Price at $217 million and Zack Greinke at $206 million, to Jordan Zimmermann at $110 million and Jeff Samardzija at $90 million, and to J.A. Happ at $36 million and Marco Estrada at $26 million — the outfielders are in a holding pattern.

The top four outfielders, Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, are corner outfielders. The Angels could double down on defense and follow their acquisition of shortstop Andrelton Simmons by adding Heyward or Gordon, completing an outfield of Mike Trout and Gold Glove winner Kole Calhoun and helping flyball pitchers Jered Weaver, Hector Santiago and Andrew Heaney.

To get Heyward or Gordon, however, Angels owner Arte Moreno almost certainly would have to pay a luxury tax. The Angels have not exceeded the luxury-tax threshold since 2004. The Tigers, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals also could add a corner outfielder, so the laws of supply and demand could drive contract values toward $20 million, or more, per year.

3. Who is the newest and splashiest entrant into free agency?

Kenta Maeda, who won Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award this season. Maeda is 27. None of what might be regarded as the cream of this year’s pitching crop — Price, Greinke, Zimmermann, Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir — is younger than 29.

The Hiroshima Carp agreed last week to post Maeda, meaning any major league club could put up $20 million for the right to negotiate with him. The $20 million would be paid to the Carp by the winning bidder and refunded to all others. The Arizona Diamondbacks have publicly expressed interest in Maeda, and the San Diego Padres are known to have scouted him.


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