The Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins are in similar boats when it comes to market, spending money, and their places in the pantheon of MLB clubs. Interestingly enough, both franchises now can claim 30-year-old Matt Garza as one of their own, with the Brewers inking him to a four-year deal worth $50 million. The contract also includes incentives and a vesting option for a fifth year at $13 million. That led me to see that both clubs signed free-agent pitchers to multi-year deals this offseason, making it only fair to compare the decisions.
Minnesota grabbed 31-year-old right-hander Ricky Nolasco for four years, $49 million with a club option for a fifth season at $13 million. Sound familiar? The Twins can buyout that option for $1 million if they so choose. Basically, it’s the same contract for two pitchers a year apart.
Nolasco seems to have gotten more of the attention in the offseason, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because he spent the second half of 2013 in Los Angeles, because his overall career numbers aren’t that impressive. Pitching in two pitcher’s parks in Florida and another one in Dodger Stadium, Nolasco owns a below-average 4.37 ERA while allowing 9.5 hits per nine innings. Nolasco gets a bit of a boost from a 3.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but a .264 batting average against isn’t something to write home about.
Looking at Garza, he’s pitched in the American League and National League, making his task a bit tougher than Nolasco’s. Garza pitched in Minnesota when they played in the “Homer Dome,” and then spent three years facing the AL East and power clubs like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Still, his career ERA is more than a half-run better than Nolasco, sitting at 3.84 in eight seasons. His 2.55 strikeouts per walk is well below his counterpart’s, striking out more hitters, but offering more free passes.
Garza has done a better job of limiting hits, however, with opponents batting only .246 combined. If we look to his NL numbers only, since that’s where he’ll be pitching and where Nolasco spent his entire career, the outlook is even more in Garza’s favor. In two and a half seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Garza had a 3.45 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, gave up less than one home run per nine innings, and struck out one more batter per nine frames than his full career average.
While he’s moving to a home run hitter’s park, Milwaukee’s Miller Park plays neutral overall, meaning Garza will still be able to keep runners off the bases if he can limit the walks a touch. Overall, the Brewers look to have made the better signing, especially considering the NL stats, his familiarity with this division, and that Garza is a year younger.
It will be fun to compare these two starters over the next four seasons with such great parallels to match up. The x-factor will be injuries and how much time Garza misses with the Crew. Nolasco has been more of the horse, but Garza is a better pitcher when healthy.
It was another solid deal by general manager Doug Melvin, and one that could give the Brewers, in the words of Kyle Lohse, “a sneaky shot.”