MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Greinke latest to strike a record deal

Greinke latest to strike a record deal

After being rejected by free-agent pitcher Johnny Cueto on a six-year, $120 million offer late last month, the D-backs decided to reconsider their approach in the search for a veteran starter to put at the top of their rotation.

They swung for the fences.

They connected.

• Hot Stove Tracker

Arizona and Zack Greinke, arguably the top pitcher on the open market this offseason, agreed upon a six-year, $206 million deal, which would make him the highest paid player in Major League history in terms of the annual average value.

Whether the calculation is based on the overall deal -- which comes out to $34.3 million -- or discounted because of deferred money to $190 million -- which comes to $31.7 million -- Greinke is No. 1, for now.

Greinke's contract surpassed the $31 million annual average that Miguel Cabrera agreed to two years ago with Detroit on an eight-year extension that kicks in for the 2016 season, which was matched by David Price earlier this offseason when the lefty signed a seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston.

Sox introduce Price in Boston

Baseball's biggest paydays have come a long ways since November 1979, when then-free agent Nolan Ryan signed a three-year, $3.5 million free-agent deal with Houston that made him the first player in history to claim an average salary above $1 million per year.

Baseball's salaries have been climbing ever since. Never, however, was there a more tumultuous time than when the largest annual salary in Major League history changed seven times between the end of the 1989 season and the start of the '90 season.

Bret Saberhagen kicked if off when the Royals rewarded him for earning his second American League Cy Young Award with a deal that averaged $2.97 million per season on Nov. 17, 1989. Five days later, Kirby Puckett signed a three-year, $9 million deal.

On Dec. 1, 1989, the Angels signed Mark Langston to a five-year, $16 million deal ($3.2 million AAV). Ten days later, the Royals signed reliever Mark Davis for four years and $13 million, an annual average of $3.25 million.

Before Opening Day in 1990, the A's had signed Dave Stewart for two years at $7 million, raising the average record to $3.5 million, but then the Giants gave Will Clark a four-year, $15 million deal. And Don Mattingly, on April 9, 1990, three days before the season opened, agreed to a five-year, $19.3 million deal with the Yankees that averaged $3.86 million per season.

Numbers game

Greinke was not an instant success. Earlier in his career, Greinke thought of retirement, and he went home with what the Royals -- his original team -- described as anxiety issues. However, he stepped into the Royals' rotation for good at the start of the 2008 season, and he has been among the game's elite ever since.

Over the past eight years, the right-hander is a combined 121-58, one win behind Justin Verlander (122-80) for the most of any big league pitcher. His .676 winning percentage is No. 1, ahead of former Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw (.671.) Greinke has pitched 1,638 1/3 innings, tied for seventh among big league pitchers, and he has a 2.99 ERA, which ranks sixth. Kershaw is No. 1 at 2.43.

Greinke had a National League-best 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers last season -- the lowest in the big leagues in the past 20 years, and the fourth lowest since 1969, when the mound was lowered from 15 to 10 inches. Greg Maddux had a 1.56 ERA in '94 and 1.63 in '95, and Dwight Gooden had a 1.53 ERA in '85.

Greinke led the American League with a 2.16 ERA in 2009, the 15th lowest for an AL pitcher since the lowering of the mound. Felix Hernandez had a 2.14 ERA in 2014, and Pedro Martinez compiled the lowest AL ERA (1.74) since 1969 during the 2000 season with Boston.

Greinke has worked 200 or more innings in six of the past eight seasons. The exceptions came in 2011 (171 1/3 innings with the Brewers) and in '13 (177 2/3 innings with the Dodgers).

NL Outstanding Pitcher: Greinke

Reflections

Greinke was Kansas City's first-round Draft choice in 2002, the sixth player taken overall. The five selected in front of him:

1. RHP Bryan Bullington, Pittsburgh
2. SS Melvin Upton Jr., Tampa Bay
3. RHP Chris Gruler, Cincinnati
4. LHP Adam Loewen, Baltimore
5. RHP Clint Everts, Montreal

He wasn't the only impact player in that first round, however. Milwaukee took first baseman Prince Fielder with the seventh selection, immediately after Greinke. Cole Hamels went to Philadelphia at No. 17 -- two picks after the Mets selected Scott Kazmir. The Giants took Matt Cain with the 25th pick in the round.

Happy Anniversary

• Sunday is the 55th anniversary of Gene Autry being awarded the AL expansion team in Los Angeles. He showed up at the Owners Meetings hoping to attain the radio rights for the franchise and wound up paying $350,000 for the team.

• Monday is the 27th anniversary of Ryan signing a free-agent contract with Texas, becoming the first player to play for all four of the original expansion teams -- the Mets, Astros, Angels and Rangers, which began as the Washington Senators.

• Thursday is the 43rd anniversary of AL owners unanimously approving the adoption of the DH.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.