Zack Greinke worth Rangers' focus

The Texas Rangers need to money whip free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke. And if it means saying goodbye to Josh Hamilton, so be it.

This has more to do with Greinke being a 29-year-old, front-of-the-rotation starter in his prime than Hamilton quitting on the Rangers three different times during the final three weeks of last season.

Dispute that if you choose, but we all saw Hamilton take the last five game and five innings off during the club's most important road trip of the season. He blamed it on some eyeball issue caused by consuming too many energy drinks.

And we all saw his sorry effort to catch a routine fly ball and his even sorrier effort to chase it down in the last game of the season. That error helped doom the Rangers.

Finally, we saw Hamilton see eight pitches in four at-bats in the wild-card loss against the Baltimore Orioles.


Even more so for a player with 43 homers and 128 RBIs.

Maybe Hamilton will return to being the superstar who played hurt in the playoffs and nearly became a real-life Roy Hobbs with his 10th-inning homer in Game 6 the 2011 World Series.

Maybe, he won't.

The only guarantee is that Hamilton will get every nickel of the $100 million contract he signs this offseason.

Again, that's not the point.

Adding Greinke to a rotation that includes 26-year-old Yu Darvish, 27-year-old Matt Harrison, 26-year-old Derek Holland and 29-year-old Alexi Ogando would make the Rangers a contender for another five years.

With third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus playing defense on the left side, that rotation would be even nastier.

Replacing Hamilton's offense will be difficult, but look at the soft lineup the San Francisco Giants have trotted out recently.

The Giants can't hit, but they've won two of the past three World Series because their starting rotation is filthy. Their top three starters -- Matt Cain (16-5), Madison Bumgarner (16-11) and Ryan Vogelsong (14-9) -- went 46-25.

In 2010, the Giants' rotation silenced the Rangers' prolific offense in the World Series. Last season, it shut down the Detroit Tigers and their dynamic duo of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

See, the game hasn't changed. It never will.

Today, tomorrow and 50 years from now, the game will always be about pitching. So the Rangers need to do what it takes to shell out the cash it takes to set up their rotation for years.

Yes, Greinke will be overpaid. No pitcher is worth the reported six years and $160 million to $170 million it will take to sign the 2009 Cy Young Award winner.

But that's what an elite franchise does when an opportunity presents itself. The Rangers play in a top-five market, and they've been to the World Series in two of the past three seasons.

They're one of the big boys and they know it. For now, though, they still don't have a title.

Greinke can help them get it.

Since 2008, he's 70-43 and he's had an ERA of 3.83 or lower in four of the past five seasons. Last season, he was 6-2 in 13 starts with the Los Angeles Angels as they tried to track down the Oakland Athletics and the Rangers in the standings.

More important, Greinke has made at least 28 starts each of the past five years. Four times, he's topped 30 starts.

Nolan Ryan likes Greinke's throwing motion and believes he can pitch effectively for the life of six-year contract. And the beauty is that Greinke doesn't have to be the Rangers' ace.

Yu wants that pressure and responsibility.

Hamilton has been a beast in the middle of the Rangers' lineup, but that hasn't resulted in a championship. There's nothing wrong with taking a different approach.

Offense can help a team make the playoffs, but once the postseason begins, pitching trumps everything. Jon Daniels would love to start a playoff series with Yu, Greinke and Harrison starting the first three games.

All it takes is money.