As difficult as it may be for Rangers fans, think back to Game 162.
The Oakland A's are hosting the Texas Rangers in the final game of the season, for the right to be the American League West champions in 2012. Instead of Ryan Dempster on the mound, imagine the Rangers had Zack Greinke -- who they could have acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline.
Instead of Dempster's lame start, the Rangers could have had Greinke protecting a 5-1 lead early in the game.
Instead of the loss, Greinke could have led the Rangers to a win. Had the Rangers won, they would have went to Detroit to take on the Tigers, while the A's played host to the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card round.
Yes, it's impossible to re-write history, but the Rangers have a chance to right a wrong -- they have a chance to sign Greinke to a contract this winter.
Josh Hamilton, beloved Texas Ranger icon, is almost certainly leaving Arlington in 2012, and will soon find a new address to call home -- with a a multiyear, megamillion dollar contract.
Hamilton's absence from the 2013 lineup will leave a void that is difficult to fill, but the money the Rangers would have spent on Hamilton can be allocated better elsewhere -- in the form of one of the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball.
Greinke finished the 2012 season with a 15-5 record, with a 3.48 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and an 8.48 K/9 in 212 and 1/3 innings pitched, while pitching for both the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels. Though Greinke's overall numbers may leave something to be desired, make no mistake: Greinke is one of the game's top pitchers.
Ever since returning from his anxiety issues and becoming a full-time starter in 2008, Greinke has posted a WAR over 4.0 -- and his 4.0 WAR came in just 28 starts in 2011. Greinke had one of the best seasons by a pitcher in recent history in 2009, when he won the Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals, pitching to the tune of a 2.16 (!) ERA while posting a WAR of 9.3.
Just think about who the Rangers could boast in a potential 2013 rotation. Yu Darvish drawing the Opening Day start, followed by Greinke, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison. Unquestionably, the Rangers would boast one of, if not the, top rotation in the American League, and all of Major League Baseball.
Texas will unquestionably face stiff competition on the free agent market for Greinke's services. The Los Angeles Angels traded Ervin Santana, and declined Dan Haren's 2013 option just to clear salary room for Greinke. The Angels opted against retaining Torii Hunter, just so they could focus on re-signing Greinke.
Make no mistake, the Angels are intent on keeping Greinke. But make no mistake, the Angels will have competition from other teams throughout baseball, such as the Rangers, and certainly, a slew of other suitors will emerge as the calendar moves slowly toward the winter meetings in December.
Throughout his career, Greinke has only been apart of one playoff team -- the 2011 Brewers. The same 2011 Brewers that lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the NLCS, and Greinke pitched poorly in the series. Still, Greinke has made it clear that he wants to play for a winning team, which was the driving reason that Greinke forced his way out of Kansas City two years ago -- he wanted to win, and still does.
What better place to win than Texas?
The Rangers boast one of the best defensive infields in all of baseball, with Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler patrolling the infield. Though the outfield is currently unsettled, there's little doubt that the Rangers will put their best foot forward in the outfield.
Texas also has shown that they actively care about winning, and that they're here to stay as one of the American League's perennial contenders. From Greinke's perspective, the Rangers have to be atop Greinke's list of potential suitors.
From Texas' perspective, Greinke represents an opportunity for the Rangers to add one of the best pitchers in all of baseball -- and take him away from a division rival. Los Angeles traded three of its better prospects to acquire Greinke in a failed midseason attempt to make the playoffs. With nothing to show in 2012 for the trade, losing Greinke to the Rangers would be the ultimate kick to the gut for the Angels and Angels fans.
No, there's no guarantee that signing Greinke will translate into a World Series title for the Rangers, but at this particular juncture in time, there is no free agent better suited to help the Rangers win a World Series title than Greinke. The price may be high, but flags fly forever -- and at age 29, with no arm injury history, Greinke seems like the rare exception, the pitcher that is worthy of a long-term contract.