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Report: The Nationals offered Greinke $18 million a year – Why it wasn’t enough…

John Heyman of SportsIllustrated.com reported last week that Zack Greinke rejected a proposed trade from the Washington Nationals despite the club offering him a significant contract extension as part of the deal. Instead Greinke chose to accept a trade to the Milwuakee Brewers where he believes he can compete sooner than if he came to Washington. Heyman reported today that the extension the Nationals laid on the table was worth an estimated $18 million annually for five years:

They were badly disappointed not to be able to get Zack Greinke, their top pitching choice, in a trade with Kansas City despite the best offer to te Royals (which they accepted) and a big offer to Greinke (which he rejected). GM Mike Rizzo said he didn’t want to discuss something that didn’t happen, but sources suggest they offered something along the lines of $18 million annually on a long extension, believed to be for about five years.

At first glance this news added even more disappointment to a saga that has sucked the wind out of the Nationals sails this winter. While Greinke isn’t quite the elite pitcher some make him out to be, a projected rotation of Strasburg, Greinke, and Zimmermann in 2012 had me seeing October baseball in Washington. However after sitting down and looking at the numbers, it’s not that surprising Greinke rejected it.

Don’t get me wrong, $18 million guaranteed over five seasons is a lot of money to leave on the table. The contract would round out to be about $90 million total and would give him security until the age of 32 when he could come a free-agent again after adding five years to his resume. That’s all well and good, but when you think about the potential alternative for Greinke, sticking with his current deal may be a high risk situation, but it comes with a much much higher reward.

Greinke is guaranteed $27 million over the next two seasons, which is hardly anything to scoff at. If he throws his arm out or has some sort of mental episode where he can never pitch again, he will still be set for life. By turning down the Nationals offer he can accept that $27 million, while also having the freedom of going to whatever team he wants to in just two seasons. For a guy who has been stuck in Kansas City his entire career, that is quite a valuable option.

Instead of becoming a free-agent at the age of 32, which he would had he chose to go to Washington, he will instead hit the open market at the age of 29 which makes him much more valuable to potential suitors. Those three years make a huge difference for pitchers who tend to go downhill in their mid-30′s. If Grienke can replicate his 2009 performance over the next two years, a $90 million contract might be pennies next to what he would be set to make. When you consider Cliff Lee signed a “discounted” $120 million deal with the Phillies this winter at the age of 32, Greinke could theoretically demand much more when he turns 29.

Of course, this is all contingent on Greinke returning to his 2009 form. The hurler claims that he lost focus as a member of an uncompetitive team, so theoretically he should be good to go with the Brew Crew in 2010…We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

The Nationals still put in a valiant effort to try and land Greinke, despite the rejection. That’s something the Nationals fans should remember and appreciate. Of course the fans want to see wins in the standings, but the club was willing to trade away major pieces of the future, as well as shell out almost another $100 million to help make the team competitive today. 

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