In an offseason that was — and still is — dominated by talk of the qualifying offer, some free agents were able to get a king’s ransom due to their lack of receiving the qualifying offer. Matt Garza, for example, was able to get a great contract from the Milwaukee Brewers because he wasn’t eligible to receive the qualifying offer after being traded mid-season from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers.
Other free agents, however, haven’t been as lucky. Most years, teams are left searching in the bargain bin for free agents by the time Spring Training rolls around. This year there are still plenty of good options available. Sluggers Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz, shortstop Stephen Drew and starting pitcher Ervin Santana are the four free agents still on the market because teams have been reluctant to meet their asking price or surrender the draft pick. I’m guessing they don’t like that qualifying offer right now.
Getting traded is never fun. Garza knows this, having been traded a few times in his good career, but it helped him in this case. Rather than still being a free agent in late-February, Garza has been signed for weeks now, and he is getting ready for the season with his Brewers teammates.
Garza, 30, was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft. His talent is unquestionable, possessing a mid-90s fastball, a wipe-out slider and a curveball, but there are certainly questions surrounding Garza. At times he can get rattled and struggle with keeping his emotions in check. Also, he has had serious injury concerns in recent seasons, making just 42 starts since 2012.
In eight seasons, Garza is 67-67 with a 3.84 ERA. He has shown to be a slightly above-average strikeout pitcher (7.62 K/9) with decent control (2.99 BB/9). He allows more home runs than one would like, with a career 1.03 HR/9, which can be contributed to his relatively low 41.2 career ground ball percentage.
With the Brewers giving Garza a four-year, $50 million deal, they are certainly banking on him staying healthy while continuing to pitch at a high level. While I do think Garza will continue to be an above-average pitcher, there are reasons to suggest he may not be the same pitcher with the Brewers.
Look at the park he will play his home games in — Miller Park. What is it known for? Other than Bernie Brewer sliding down the slide after a Brewer home run, it is known as a home run friendly park. Miller Park surrendered 2.28 home runs per game in 2013. Only three ballparks averaged more home runs per game last season. How do you think a fly-ball pitcher will perform in a park that allows more home runs than almost every park in baseball?
Sure, Garza will still pitch well enough to sit atop the Brewers’ rotation with Yovani Gallardo, but he probably won’t be the same pitcher he was earlier in his career and to no fault of his own. It just seems like a bad fit, that’s all. But hey, what do I know? The Brewers probably did their fair share of research and they clearly felt comfortable offering him a lot of money. I hope it works out, Brewer fans, but to me it’s quite a gamble.