Matt Garza, after being told what winters are like in Wisconsin.
According to bow-tied reporter Ken Rosenthal, starting pitcher Matt Garza will sign a four-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers for $52 million. After Masahiro Tanaka signed with the New York Yankees earlier this week, Garza was considered the premier starting arm left on the market, buoyed by the fact that signing him would not cost the team a draft pick.
The Angels figured to be major players for Garza’s services, considering their need for pitching and their desire to hold on to their first round draft pick this year after two years of forfeiture thanks to the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamiton deals. That the Angels didn’t simply offer a little more money than the smaller-market Brewers is perhaps due to one of three things, or possibly some combination of the three. First, it’s possible Garza just really wanted to play in Milwaukee, for some reason. To each their own. Second, the Angels likely were not comfortable with Garza’s sketchy injury history — Garza has spent significant time on the DL the past two seasons, and he has not pitched at least 200 innings since 2010. Giving a 30-year-old pitcher a four-year contract is already a risk, especially so to one with a history of elbow issues. Third, if you believe the Angels, they would really prefer to stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, and giving Garza more than $13 million this season would put them perilously close to that line, especially if Raul Ibanez meets certain incentives (and we all hope that happens). Plus, less guaranteed money now to a risky pitcher potentially means more money for a Mike Trout extension.
Some in the Angels fan community were happy Garza went elsewhere, whether it be because of the aforementioned risk or because they didn’t want to root for a jerk. Assuming he stayed healthy though, — famous last words, I know — Garza would have surely helped the Angels and slotted into the rotation as a solid #3 starter, while also supplying starting pitcher depth to the entire organization.
As it stands now, the Angels rotation is pretty unspectacular. The top three are Jered Weaver (fine, but please stay healthy), CJ Wilson (fine), Garrett Richards (yeah, he’s really the #3), and likely newcomer Hector Santiago (::long sigh::). The fifth spot is up in the air. It could be recently re-acquired Tyler Skaggs, but he might be better served in the minors for a while. Could it be — oh no — Joe Blanton? The Angels could venture into the free agent market, but as Hudson wrote earlier, the remaining options are not very impressive (Jeff Karstens, come on down!). Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are solid arms, and since the market for Garza was weaker than expected, they could be had for reasonable prices. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan notes that the Garza contract struck a blow to Santana’s desire for a four-year, $60 million deal. With pitchers and catchers reporting in just three weeks, could Santana’s camp become desperate and reach out to a familiar team in Anaheim? It’s doubtful the Angels would bite, since signing Santana would cost their first draft pick yet again. The same goes for Jimenez. But at some point, does the front office again say “screw the draft” and make a play for the best remaining pitcher on the market?