For the second straight offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed a veteran starting pitcher – but this time, they didn't sacrifice their first round draft pick to do it. Matt Garza heading to Milwaukee on a four-year, $50 million contract. The contract also contains $4 million in incentives and has a a $13 million vesting option for 2018. Last year, it was Kyle Lohse who became a Brewers, inking a three-year, $33 million contract. The contract was initially reported as a four-year, $52 million pact, but was later revised.
Garza doesn't come without red flags, of course. He hasn't logged 200 innings in a season since 2010. He's spent time on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons with injuries to his right arm, including a right elbow contusion, a fractured right elbow, and a strained right lat muscle. He's also homer prone, allowing at least one home run per nine innings in four of his last five seasons – and he'll be heading to Miller Park, one of the most homer-friendly ballparks in the majors.
But there's also to like about Garza. He's always been able to strike out his share of batters, and posted a career-low walk rate in 2013. In his last 30 starts season, 2011, Garza accrued 4.9 fWAR for the Cubs and pitched to a 3.32 ERA, punching out 197 hitters in 198 innings. The 30-year old was pitching fine for the Cubs last year, racking up a 3.17 ERA in 71 innings, but fell apart after getting dealt to the Rangers, who watched his ERA balloon by more than a run due mainly to a spike in home runs and worse luck on balls in play.
Garza will slot into a Brewers rotation that contains Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, and probably Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Is that in the top half of the National League? No. Hell, I'd argue that in the NL Central, it's better than only the Cubs rotation, an opinion which doesn't seem very controversial. Milwaukee also doesn't have much depth in that starting five, and an injury to Lohse, Garza, or Gallardo could doom them.
I'm a little surprised Garza didn't go to the Angels, but they were apparently scared off by his medicals and weren't willing to give him a contract similar to what the Brewers gave him. If the Angels do make another move in an attempt to beef up their rotation, it might be someone in the same vein as Bronson Arroyo – a veteran innings eater. But then again, that didn't work out too well with Joe Blanton last year.
Signing Garza certainly makes Garza a better team, but I don't think they're good enough to be a contender. There are still major question marks with this team, and a record somewhere around .500 would be a much better bet than a playoff berth.