After keeping us all guessing for several days, the Brewers made it official today. Matt Garza is a Brewer for the next four years. In terms of value obtained for money expended, this is a major win for the Brewers. Realistically unable to pay the top dollar required to get the very top tier free agents, particularly free agent pitchers, the Brewers managed to get a guy just one tier lower for a very reasonable price. This is important NOT just in terms of what we get in the starting rotation. For those of us who actually dig economics, opportunity cost is a very important concept, and it has major significance in this deal. Specifically, it is significant for the opportunity cost that the Brewers did not have to incur to shore up the starting rotation. With a few extra million bucks left in the checkbook, expect Doug Melvin to cast around for some additional talent to shore up the bullpen. It would not even surprise me to see another fairly high-profile signing al-la K-Rod last year just to hedge our bets. Not saying it will happen, just that now it becomes significantly more likely.
Anyone who happens to read this blog (I am optimistic but realistic) will find that I take a fairly analytical approach but with “hopeful” bent in my comments. I look at what could happen based on results and logic and, while I will always recognize the various scenarios that could play out, I like to focus on the somewhat positive ones, particularly for my favorite teams. I say this so you understand the context of what I am about to say about the Brewers starting rotation.
I think the Brewers now have a reasonable chance of having a top-quartile starting rotation. (Insert catcalls and howls and hisses here now.) Here’s why. First, they had a top-five NL rotation in the second half of last year. That is a small sample size but it is definitely a positive indicator. Second, I believe Willy Peralta has all the makings of an ace, and he’s reaching both the age and experience point where this often happens, if it is going to happen. Lohse and Garza are solid number twos, potentially higher end ones. While Garza may not stay healthy all season, the Brewers have a number of up and coming young pitchers who could step in for several weeks and do a credible job of filling in. They would not be as good as having Garza, but at least it would not mean an automatic “L” every five games. Yo is at best a low-end two or a solid three, but I have him going in the four hole, and he should be fine there. At the five, we have Estrada, a credible four, plus several youngsters ready to step in if he falters or gets injured.
To go along with this rotation, we should have a vastly improved offense. Braun will be in there all season, and I do not believe his production will drop off significantly. Khris Davis looks like he’ll be a solid young hitter, and we’ll have a significant improvement (though we will still be bottom half) over the black hole that was first base last year. Couple a plus rotation with a plus offense and you get a team that could conceivably win 87-90 games and a Wild Card slot. Throw in a solid bullpen, one that can be bolstered using the money not spent shoring up the starting rotation, (remember opportunity cost and the fact that we got a lot in Garza for a reasonable price) and it is not unreasonable to hope for October baseball for the Crew.