Matt Garza, the underwhelming free agent that almost everyone wants

Brian Kersey

Pretend Doug Fister was traded for an exceptional prospect or two. They wouldn't have to be Wil Myers, but pretend they were good enough to make Nationals fans hem and haw about risk and reward, future cost and present benefit.

because seriously what in the absolute hell was that trade

Now that you're in fantasy world, pretend you're a GM. And you had two options:

a. Doug Fister and his two remaining years for two top-100 prospects, or …

b. Matt Garza for a backpack filled with rubies

Which one would you take? Before you answer, you'd probably want to know just how much is in Garza's backpack. I don't know. $80 million? Maybe less? I'm bad at this. Also before you answer, you'll probably want to read this, which converts top-ranked prospects into an average expected dollar value. A couple of prospects between #50 and #100 would be worth about $40 to $50 million, on average. Tack that onto the $18 million or so that Fister's projected to make over the next two years, then factor in the extra years of control you're likely to get with Garza, and it's not so easy to pick between them.

Alright, you pick Fister because he's better. But your instinct will be to laugh uproariously at the silly contract Matt Garza is going to get, whereas with a trade, you're more apt to weigh the prospects against the expected production of the new player. It's curious, is all. All you have to give up to get Garza is money. What can you do with that money? Spend it on other potential free agents, who aren't likely to be bargains themselves.

You can stop pretending Fister was traded for an exceptional return now. Because, seriously, what in the absolute hell was that trade?

Anyway, this is about Matt Garza, and where he's going to play in 2014. But now I'm all worked up about the Fister trade. Phugh. Give me a minute.

Matt Garza has never been especially good, you know. I guess it depends on your definition of "especially good", but Garza's career-low ERA is 3.32, and his career-best ERA+ is 119 in 2008. He's come close in one other season (2011), but for the most part, he hovers around the upper threes for his ERA, with an ERA+ between 100 and 110. His career line is 67-67, 3.84, with a 108 ERA+ and a lower strikeout rate than you'd probably guess. That's a good pitcher. But he's not an ace, and probably not a #2 in a good rotation.

Garza has never been especially durable. Though to be fair, one of the injuries that cost him significant time was a stress fracture; not something you're worried about with pitchers, usually. But he's been on the DL four times in his career, and he's thrown over 200 innings in a season just twice. His latest injury was a shoulder strain, but he came back throwing almost as hard, which is like finding out your blind date has done just a little jail time.

Garza is terrible at everything that isn't pitching. Most of those problems surface in his runs allowed, if at all. But it's always amusing to bring up.

He's not Jaret Wright, nor is he Darren Dreifort, but it still feels like a team is going to pay Garza for what he should be. Or what he could be. But not what he is, which is a lot closer to Edwin Jackson than David Price. He's the Ubaldo Jimenez of this free-agent class, except he isn't going to cost a draft pick

Pretend you're that GM again, and you could choose Fister for good prospects, Garza for five years and much monies, Ubaldo for much monies, or gamble on a salary-dump trade for Jackson, who has three years and $39 million left. I'd rank the options, in order: Fister, Jackson, Garza, then Jimenez, but I don't have a super-strong preference for any of them. The real winner would be Fister for a questionable package of lesser prospects because, seriously, what in the absolute hell was that trade?

The point of this: to impress upon you that Matt Garza is a mediocre option who's about to get paid more than you would expect a mediocre option to get. He's not mediocre in the world of starting pitchers, but he's mediocre in the world of big-ticket signings. He will underwhelm his new team and his new fans.

So which team would want Garza on their team?

All … all of them.

Which team would want to pay market rates, though?

A lot of them. The Yankees might blow past the luxury-tax threshold if they go over at all, or they might count on Alex Rodriguez's salary going on vacation. The Indians could use another starter, and so could the Angels. The Twins are playing footsie with Garza and being weird again, and the Dodgers just might miss out on Masahiro Tanaka. The Mariners, Phillies, Orioles … it's a crowded field. Turns out a lot of teams still want better starting pitchers.

And if they do, there's just one left who won't cost a draft pick or prospects, come in under $100 million, and is pretty reliable when healthy. That'd be Garza, the most underwhelming good free agent that no team should be interested in except for most of the teams. I'll guess he goes to the Yankees for four years, $76 million. He'll underwhelm and eventually disappear, but he'll help the Yankees win a division in at least one of those years. It will annoy you.

That's the price of pitching these days. You should probably bury some pitchers in your backyard for when the global economy collapses. They never seem to decrease in value. Please poke air holes.

Actually, please do not bury people in your backyard based on my suggestion, thanks.

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