The latest on Greinke's free-agent saga

The latest on Greinke's free-agent saga

LOS ANGELES -- National League Cy Young Award runner-up Zack Greinke, the biggest difference-maker still on the free-agent market, could decide by Friday between remaining with the Dodgers or joining the division-rival Giants, according to multiple reports and baseball sources.

David Price signed with the Red Sox on Tuesday for seven years and $217 million, resetting the bar for free-agent pitchers. According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, Greinke was seeking a six-year deal with an average annual value higher than Price's $31 million, or a five-year deal with a significantly higher AAV.

If true, that seemed to fit the differing preferences of the two remaining bidders, as the Dodgers were believed reluctant to guarantee the 32-year-old Greinke more than five years because of anticipated dropoff in the final years of the deal.

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The Giants were believed more willing to make the longer commitment in hopes of dealing a double blow -- adding Greinke and subtracting him from the Dodgers -- and swinging the balance of power back to Northern California after Los Angeles rode dominating starting pitching to three consecutive division titles.

Dodgers partner Magic Johnson made clear Tuesday that Greinke is "our No. 1 priority in the offseason."

Dodgers want Greinke back

Three offseasons ago, Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million contract. But the deal gave Greinke an opt-out clause in the event he did something spectacular to increase his value, which he did this year by going 19-3. He walked away from $71 million guaranteed over the next three seasons.

San Francisco was unsuccessful in its most recent attempt to woo a pitcher. Last offseason, the Giants sent a delegation that included catcher Buster Posey, right-hander Tim Hudson and manager Bruce Bochy to Georgia to recruit free-agent left-hander Jon Lester, who signed with the Cubs.

With NL West supremacy at stake, the Giants are doing all they can to avoid a repeat of the Lester experience. This time, they'll come at Greinke with money instead of friendly faces. They're believed to be willing to meet Greinke's demands for a shorter contract -- if a five-year deal can be considered short -- for a higher average annual value. And they're apparently flexible enough to consider a longer contract.

Los Angeles' rotation now is ace Clayton Kershaw and question marks. Brett Anderson returns from his first healthy season since 2009. Management concedes that Hyun-Jin Ryu is a "wild card" coming off shoulder surgery. Brandon McCarthy is out until midseason after Tommy John surgery. Alex Wood is the only other proven starter.

San Francisco could pair Greinke with its version of Kershaw, lefty ace Madison Bumgarner, in a rotation that includes Jake Peavy, Matt Cain and likely Chris Heston.

Greinke went 51-15 over his three years with the Dodgers, finishing as runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award this year when his 1.66 ERA was the lowest in 20 years.

Greinke is NL Cy Young runner-up

Although Greinke seemed to enjoy his time with the Dodgers, it was known that he was annoyed with the club's tolerance of Yasiel Puig's antics. And when asked his opinion of the club's Trade Deadline deals, he had no comment.

With the Giants, Greinke would be joining a club with three more recent World Series championships than the Dodgers. The proven Bochy, meanwhile, is a polar opposite from new Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts, who has never managed anywhere.

With Price and Jordan Zimmermann off the market, neither club has a comparable fallback to Greinke. Johnny Cueto is probably seeking the next largest contract, but the next level of free agents includes Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir and John Lackey.

From San Francisco's perspective, signing Greinke would represent an opportunity to take a significant step toward fulfilling a remark that general manager Bobby Evans made at the club's season-ending news conference. Asked how the Giants planned on keeping up with the Dodgers, Evans replied, "We don't want to keep up with them. We want to pass them."

CSN Bay Area reported that Greinke slipped in and out of San Francisco last month to speak face-to-face with Giants officials, indicating that at least some of the club's interest was mutual.

It just so happens that Greinke is 7-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 10 career starts against San Francisco, including 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA in four outings at AT&T Park.

Greinke strikes out seven

Giants television and radio commentator Mike Krukow said on KNBR 680, the club's flagship radio station, that the time is now for San Francisco to latch onto a pitcher of Greinke's quality to maximize the potential of its relatively young yet skilled lineup.

"This is a window for the Giants," Krukow said. "Everybody is maturing at the right time. Everybody is right there. They need pitching. They need front-line pitching to complement the team. They need a Greinke. They need to risk a contract like that. I do believe the risk is worth it, because of who he is, the type of pitcher that he is and where the team is now."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.