The Brewers and free agent starting pitcher Matt Garza agreed to a four year, $50 million deal on Sunday. The deal is pending a physical, which is important considering we have already seen Grant Balfour (now signed with the Rays) fail a physical earlier this off-season with the Baltimore Orioles.
Garza, 30, was arguably the best starting pitcher left on the market after Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees on Wednesday. He went 10-6 last season with a 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 136 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings. The right-hander made 11 starts with the Cubs before being traded in July to the Rangers to make his last 13 starts.
Originally drafted by the Twins in the first-round in 2005, Garza would make his Major League debut the following season. He would find himself traded in 2007 to the Tampa Bay Rays where he would make a name for himself, going 34-31 with a 3.84 ERA in the competitive American League East. In 2008, Garza was the MVP of the Rays in the postseason, winning the ALCS MVP and leading them to a World Series appearance. In 2010, he threw his first career no-hitter against the Tigers. In 2011, Garza would be on the move again, this time to the Chicago Cubs.
Garza went 21-18 with a 3.45 ERA and 355 strikeouts during his three-year tenure with the Cubs, arguably the best numbers of his career. That should bode well for Garza in his return to the NL Central this time with Milwaukee.
Garza will join a starting rotation that includes Yovani Gollardo, Kyle Lohse, Willy Peralta, and Marco Estrada. The Brewers pitching staff was mediocre at best last season, ranking ninth in ERA and WHIP, sixth in most hits allowed, and 11th in batting average allowed in the National League.
The 30-year old should be able to provide a more balanced pitching staff in 2014 for Milwaukee. When healthy, Garza is one of the more effective starting pitchers in the league. Health was a question mark for some teams like the Orioles and Angels when evaluating Garza. He has had injury issues in the past, and that caused some teams to be wary of giving him a long-term deal.
Garza got his long-term deal with the Brewers most likely for making 24 starts last season, his most since his 2011 season with the Cubs (31). The deal involves some risk, but if Garza can stay healthy, his upside can be a big reward.
In eight career starts against the Brewers, Garza is 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA. In four starts at Miller Park, he is 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.
With Garza now off the market, the top remaining free agent starting pitchers include Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Bronson Arroyo. Jimenez and Santana, both having respective seasons in 2013 for the Indians and Royals, have draft-pick compensations tied to them.