Free agent starting pitcher Matt Garza has signed a four-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers according to Ken Rosenthal. The terms are four years, $52 million. The deal is pending physical.
Given that the going price for top-flight starting pitching has climbed to $20 to $30 million dollars, Garza, a right-hander with a 3.84 career ERA (and a park- and league-adjusted ERA of eight percent below league average) has to be rated as something of a steal. As recently as last July's trade deadline Garza was in high demand, and the Rangers were viewed to have paid a high price in sending pitchers C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm and third baseman Mike Olt to the Chicago Cubs to get him. Garza's indifferent pitching with the Rangers (he posted a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts after the July 22 trade) combined with some questions about the long-term health of Garza's elbow, seems to have cooled teams' ardor for him.
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A former first-round pick of the Minnesota Twins with a 2010 no-hitter to his credit, Garza has never put together the kind of consistent, high-level campaign that many predicted for him. He posted a career-best 3.32 ERA with the Cubs in 2011, but was unable to follow up in 2012 due to a midseason stress fracture in his elbow that limited him to 18 starts.
This marks the second time in two winters the Brewers have dipped into the free agent pool to staff out their rotation -- last March, the club signed right-hander Kyle Lohse, who had lacked for suitors due to the attachment of a draft-pick penalty to signing him, to a three-year, $33 million contract. Lohse performed well, but the inconsistency of Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, and Marco Estrada meant that starting pitching was a problem for the Brewers throughout the season -- with an aggregate ERA of 4.20, Brewers' starters ranked 11th in the National League.
Though the amount of money in the deal may seem slight by the standards of recent pitching mega-deals, it is the most the Brewers have ever spent on a free agent (per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
It was long predicted that Masahiro Tanaka's uncertain status was holding up the resolution of less-attractive free agents such as Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez. With Tanaka agreeing to a contract with the Yankees on Wednesday, it seems that the remaining free agent starters will now be clear to find homes for the 2014 season.
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