The Brewers and free agent starting pitcher Matt Garza have agreed to a four year deal worth $52 million, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The Brewers are close to The Brewer Nation first tweeted out news that the two sides were discussing a deal.
The important thing: Garza was the top free agent starting pitcher remaining that does not require draft pick compensation (and is arguably the top starting pitcher available regardless). This is not a Kyle Lohse situation where the Brewers would lose a first round draft pick. Because he was traded at mid-season last year and thus did not play for a full season on the Texas Rangers' squad, they were not allowed to make him a qualifying offer.
So that's a good thing. The other good thing is that, with the types of free agent contracts going around recently, this may turn out to be one hell of a steal. Garza is 30 years old and has basically been Yovani Gallardo over his career, without the decline. Garza hasn't had an ERA over 4.00 since his rookie season and tends to hover around a 3.70-3.90 ERA with around a 1.25 WHIP.
Garza's best season came in 2011, his first year with the Cubs after a trade from Tampa Bay. That year, he posted a 3.32 ERA and struck out 197 batters in 198 innings. He missed the second half of 2012 with a stress reaction in his elbow and the beginning of 2013 with a muscle strain on his left side, but appears to be healthy moving forward. Last year he started with a 3.17 ERA in the first half of the season with the Cubs, then a 4.38 ERA in the second half when he moved to the tougher American League. With the Brewers, he should bounce back to his typical numbers. He was pretty good in the AL East with the Rays, remember.
He doesn't pitch incredibly deep into contests, but he'll put up nice strikeout numbers with pretty good control. On this Brewers staff, he may be the de facto ace. Gallardo could bounce back and Marco Estrada and Kyle Lohse could both be excellent, but Garza may be the most likely to be the statistically best pitcher on the team at the end of the year.
The Brewers recent moves don't seem to gel with Doug Melvin saying the offseason plan was more likely to center around the team's youth getting more playing time, but it's hard to argue that they don't make the team better in the short-term.
Garza will almost assuredly take away a rotation spot from Tyler Thornburg. Barring a trade, Garza, Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse are all absolutely locks to be on the starting staff, with Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada not far behind them. Of course, that doesn't mean that Thornburg (or Johnny Hellweg or Jimmy Nelson or whoever else) will not have the chance to start. Injuries happen. The Brewers had three starters last year surpass 30 starts with another above 20. Twelve Brewers' pitchers started a game, with non-Gallardo-Peralta-Estrada-Lohse pitchers getting 46 of those.
So, yeah, there should be plenty of starts to go around for the younger guys. If the Brewers want to compete next year (and, let's be honest, they probably do), Garza is a big, big upgrade. It's not hard to have offseason optimism and see how things could work out for Milwaukee next year. This move makes it even easier. And if the Brewers don't compete, and contracts keep going straight to the moon, he is going to become an immensely valuable trade asset. Sounds like a win-win.
In addition, while Jeff Passan may not be beloved among Brewers fans, I like this point:
Matt Garza got four years, $52M. Ricky Nolasco got four years, $49M. Garza career ERA+: 108. Nolasco: 94. Garza a year younger, too.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 23, 2014