If the money and years are accurate, there should be no issue with Matt Garza coming to Milwaukee. The perfect confluence of events — developing young pitchers and expiring contracts — would make this an ideal signing for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Though nothing was official as of Thursday evening, fans were debating how much of an impact the Garza signing will have on the Brewers’ playoff hopes. Regardless of the outcome, Milwaukee is a better club now than they were in December and they’ve set themselves up with a competitive rotation into 2014 and 2015 as well. Some argue it’s too risky of a deal because of Garza’s injury history, the price tag (reportedly $52 million) and the four-year commitment.
Normally, I’d advise against the cash strapped Brewers from inking a free agent pitcher with even a hint of health problems. While signing a pitcher off the market presents a risk for any club in MLB, the Brewers generally can’t afford to make a mistake and pay for a player on the disabled list. That’s normally reserved for the big spenders in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.
In the past, Milwaukee wasn’t set up to succeed, or even survive, signing a pitcher and watching him miss long periods of time with an injury. Fortunately for the Brewers, they currently have some of their best organizational starting pitcher depth in recent memory. While there are no “sure things” among the young hurlers, the Brewers have seven or eight legitimate pitchers (some with higher ceilings) to give them quality innings should Garza go down for any length of time.
Young guys who can start in the minors, but come up later, include Tyler Thornburg, Jimmy Nelson, Johnny Hellweg and Hiram Burgos. There are also a few veterans who can make a couple starts or fill in the gaps out of the pen. Newly-acquired Will Smith, former starter Tom Gorzelanny, hard-throwing Alfredo Figaro and “everyman” Donovan Hand. There are plenty of options here, giving guys a chance to step up if needed, alternate starts or give Milwaukee flexibility to work a trade during the season. These same pitchers can be utilized should any of the other starters get hurt or struggle to perform.
As far as the money goes, it’s not “ace money,” so it doesn’t cripple the Brewers this season. As the year plays out and they know if they are contending, the Brewers can add or subtract players to bring the payroll down or push for the postseason. Not to mention, there’s a small possibility Milwaukee finds a team to take some of Rickie Weeks‘ remaining money in a trade. The Garza deal would need the approval of owner Mark Attanasio, so general manager Doug Melvin knows he’d have the flexibility and authority to add at the deadline if needed.
Moving into the next few seasons, the contract fits in nicely with what the Brewers could keep or let go. Yovani Gallardo has a $13 million club option they can decline if his production continues to decline itself. That would be right about the same cost for a year of Garza. Aramis Ramirez has a mutual option for next season, so again the Brewers could shed salary to diversify funds, even with Garza in town. Weeks, should he remain on the club this season, won’t get his vesting option, so that means more money off the books. Then looking into 2016, Kyle Lohse‘s deal is over after the 2015 campaign, again creating space for additional cash for Garza.
Figuring the contract will be a little back loaded, you can see there is plenty of room for free agents, arbitration jumps, raises and trades to supplement the remaining talent. Meanwhile, the pitching staff should be developing to a point where more players slide in effectively. Gallardo leaves and Thornburg takes over. Next, Lohse goes elsewhere and Nelson finds a starting role. That’s on top of veterans Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada, and a handful of other hurlers potentially making their way up to the bigs.
Once official, this becomes a sneaky-good deal that leaves the Brewers with a puncher’s chance to compete in the playoffs, but also covers the Crew on the back end, should it blow up in their face. Credit Melvin and company for a shrewd move.