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Now that Masahiro Tanaka has finally decided to end the months-long chase for the Japanese ace, the hiatus the league has taken on the free agent pitching market can end. And it took only 24 hours for the first of the remaining non-Tanakas to land, as the Brewers have reached an agreement with Matt Garza for four years and $52 million.
Garza was one of the best options of the available starters, and the Brewers badly needed one. Last year, Milwaukee ranked in the bottom third of the National League in ERA, which had a lot to do with the fact they were short one regular starter. They had four pitchers make more than 20 starts, but had eight other players start at least one game, with none having more than 10 starts.
Of those eight reserve starters, only one of the seven who made more than one start had an ERA of below 4.00, and four of them had an ERA of above 6.00. Those eight had a combined record of 7-21. Of the team’s four regular starters, three of them had double-digit wins and had a combined ERA of 3.94.
With Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, and Marco Estrada all returning for 2014, Garza provides the team with a front-line starter familiar with the N.L. Central and one who will help steady the rotation. Garza is coming off another successful season during which he was 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in his time with the Cubs and Rangers.
Though he slipped in the second half of his season with Texas, he was still very good in his time spent with Chicago. In his 11 starts in the N.L., he was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA and seven quality starts. He has also pitched well in his career in his new home of Miller Park, posting a 1-1 record in four starts with a 3.42 ERA.
Over the course of his career, Garza has been a largely reliable pitcher, throwing 184 innings or more in four straight years between 2008 and 2011. However he has battled through some injuries over the last couple of seasons, totaling 259 innings. So there is a bit of a risk in handing out $13 million a year to a player with his recent health history.
A big plus in this signing from Milwaukee’s perspective is that they didn’t have to give up a draft pick to sign him. Because Garza was traded during last season, the Rangers were not allowed to extend him a qualifying offer. Late last offseason, the Brewers signed Lohse to a three-year deal, but did have to forfeit a pick. By opting for Garza instead of one of the other free agents who has that draft pick attached, they were able to add a quality starter, while not having to sacrifice a potential future piece.
If he is able to stay healthy, Garza should be a huge upgrade over the rotating cast of characters who occupied a spot in the Milwaukee rotation last year. With the other starters already in place, and the Brewers’ decent offensive talent, the addition of Garza could produce a few more wins and help get the Brewers back around the .500 mark.
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