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.
On Thursday the word on the street was that the Brewers and Matt Garza had agreed on a $52 million four-year deal. As of the early hours of Saturday morning, nothing has been announced. Supposedly the two sides are working to hammer out the fine details of the agreement. Just speculating, but it could involve “out clauses” for the team in case of injuries and significant stints on the DL, or scheduling of the payments over the four years, or some combination thereof, or “something completely different.” The Brewers absolutely need to get this done on Saturday. There are two factors which demand it. First, the Brewers On Deck event on Sunday. If this deal is not done, or if it falls apart, it will cast a pall over the entire event, and that is the second to last thing the Brewer nation wants or needs. Second, as long as there is no deal, well…. there is no deal, and that means some other team could swoop in with a number a few million dollars higher and pull Garza right out from under the Brewers’ noses. Given that the Brewer front office has not shown itself to be a model of excellence in the opinion of many fans, that would be the LAST thing the Brewer nation needs or wants.
I personally was OK with the Brewers going into 2014 with Lohse and Yo and several promising young pitchers to fill out the last three spots in the rotation. It was a risky proposition but a reasonable one. However, the prospect of getting Garza, another solid #2 level proven arm, into the rotation, thereby increasing the odds of getting enough (2 instead of 3) of the youngsters ready to fill out the rotation, was a hugely attractive positive. Having that yanked away now, for whatever reason, would be an enormous disappointment.
Let’s hope this all gets worked out and that Matt Garza is introduced as a Milwaukee Brewer at the On Deck event on Sunday. Here’s hoping!