Matt Garza had one advantage going in his favor throughout the entire free agency process: He had no draft pick compensation tied to him as a result of being traded at last season’s trade deadline. Despite not being the best available starting pitching option on the market, there was always a chance that he would get a decent contract because of teams not having to surrender a draft pick to sign him.
The Milwaukee Brewers apparently think they needed to sign a front-line starting pitcher this offseason, because they have signed Garza to a four-year, $52 million deal. To me, the Brewers didn’t necessarily need to go out and spend $13 million per year on a 30-year-old starting pitcher when they aren’t exactly in position to be contenders in the next two or three seasons. The Brewers clearly needed some pitching, particularly in the bullpen, and adding a starter was a good idea — I’m just not sure adding a 30-year-old pitcher for $13 million per year over four years was the best option.
Garza has had major injury problems in his recent history. In 2012, Garza made just 18 starts, and in 2013 he made only 24. If Garza stays healthy, he is definitely worth the contract he was given. The problem with that is that he hasn’t proved that he will stay healthy. When on the mound, Garza is clearly an above average pitcher, and when looking at the free agent market and how it has turned out so far, above average is worth $13 million per year.
Ricky Nolasco, the most average pitcher out there, received four years and $49 million from the Minnesota Twins as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports points out. Nolasco’s career ERA+ is just 94 while Garza’s is 108. He also points out that Garza is a year younger than Nolasco.
In 2013, Garza pitched to a 3.82 ERA and a 3.88 FIP while having a very good 7.88 K/9. In the Brewers’ rotation, he will battle for the title of “staff ace” with incumbent No. 1 starter Yovani Gallardo. The risk/reward factor with Garza has nothing to do with his on-field performance. If he stays healthy, this deal is a steal for the Brew Crew — if he doesn’t, it’s a huge waste of money.