By Nathan Petrashek
After laying in the weeds most of the offseason, the Brewers signed right-handed starter Matt Garza to a 4-year/$52 million contract on Thursday. So for a while, we get to discuss something other than minor-league invitations to spring training.
Garza was MLBTradeRumors.com’s #7 free agent, listed just behind Masahiro Tanaka and Ervin Santana, which is a pretty nice coup for the Brewers. Unlike Kyle Lohse last year, Garza didn’t cost a draft pick, so he won’t hurt future rebuilding efforts. At a $13M average annual value, his contract is pretty reasonable and may be tradeable later on. Of course, the caveat is that we don’t yet know how that breaks down in terms of an actual payment schedule, and the Brewers may have deferred a significant amount of his salary.
According to Fangraphs, Garza has a pretty good slider and two-seamer, but the rest of his pitches-including a curve and a change-are below-average. At age 30, his fastball shows some velocity decline, and perhaps as a result he’s come to favoring pitches with more movement. Historically, he’s gotten the job done, sporting a career 3.84 ERA, 3.98 FIP, and 18.1 fWAR over eight years
Garza’s market was presumably depressed by the fact that he’s a walking DL stint. He missed the last half of 2012 with an elbow injury, and the first month-plus of 2013 with a muscle strain. When he finally did pitch for the Cubs last year, though, he was on, accumulating a 3.17 ERA and 62 strikeouts over 71 innings. Garza didn’t fare as well following a midseason trade to the Rangers; his ERA ballooned to 4.38 in the Texas heat. That may have left a bad taste in some teams’ mouths, and Baseball Prospectus says his “arm slot screams shoulder issues” and condemns his inefficient mechanics.
Of course, there’s also this. And this. And this. All of which reinforce my belief that even if the Brewers may not be the most competitive team in 2014, they’ll at least be one of the more entertaining ones.
Reports of a deal being done were apparently premature. On Thursday night, the Brewers said negotiations were ongoing and there was no deal in place. The timing certainly suggests the Brewers found something in Garza’s physical, which he took Thursday, but beat writer Adam McCalvey says that isn’t the case:
We’ll know more tomorrow, I suspect.