We're a little less than a full year into Matt Garza's four-year, $50 million contract, and so far the Brewers have to feel like they're getting roughly what they paid for.
Coming into the season we knew that Garza projected to be very good when healthy, but his injury history created a strong chance he'd spend some time on the disabled list. He was actually a little better than his career numbers when available (3.64/3.54 ERA/FIP in 2014 as compared to 3.81/3.93 over nine MLB seasons), but missed a full month down the stretch with an oblique strain and was scratched from his final scheduled start with shoulder stiffness.
Garza's calling card over the years has been his slider and that was the case again in 2014, as he threw it better than 20% of the time. FanGraphs actually shows the pitch as being a little less effective than usual this season, valuing it at just .42 runs above average per 100 pitches. The pitch was almost a run per 100 better on average in 2013.
There are still three years and many millions of dollars left on Garza's contract, and it remains to be seen how that investment will work out in the long term. It should probably be a little concerning that Garza's velocity hit a new career low in 2014, with his average fastball sitting around 92.5 mph after clocking in above 93 in each of the previous three seasons.
For now, though, Garza's contributions to this team and his resemblance to The Count are about what we should have expected.
Garza made 16 quality starts in 2014, but one of them clearly stands out from the others. He was spectacular against the Reds in Cincinnati on July 5, pitching a complete game shutout, allowing just two hits and tying a season-high with nine strikeouts in a 1-0 victory. Let's go to the highlights:
Garza received $12.5 million in 2014 in the first season of his four-year, $50 million deal, and will receive the same base salary in each of the next three seasons, with $2 million each year deferred beyond the end of the contract.
Additionally, Garza has a 2018 option worth $13 million that will vest if the following three triggers are all met:
- Garza makes 110 starts between the 2014-17 seasons.
- Garza pitches at least 115 innings in 2017, and
- Garza does not finish the 2017 season on the disabled list.
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