We are officially in CRUNCH TIME – about 32 hours until the start of Free Agency at 12:01 AM November 5. We at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will be able to sign with any team at that time. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed hurler Matt Garza. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.
Since winning the 2008 ALCS MVP award, Garza has established himself as an above-average Major League pitcher and above-average may be the perfect descriptor. Since his debut in 2006, Garza ranks 66th out of 245 starting pitchers in ERA, 82nd in FIP, and 83rd in xFIP, while ranking 63rd in K/9 IP and 137th in BB/9 IP.
In the “What Have You Done For Me Lately” world, Garza has fared a little better, ranking 36th out of 125 in fWAR, 34th in ERA, and 25th in K/9 IP, but still 70th in BB/9 IP. The story of Garza seems to be that of a pitcher that has improved since his MLB debut, but at an Opening Day 2014-age of 30, may have maxed out his potential. If you’re OK with signing Garza knowing that he is a number two or a very good number three starter, you won’t be disappointed. If you are looking for an ace, you should focus your energy somewhere else.
With only two sure things, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, in the rotation for 2014, the Phillies lack a bonafide third option. Sure, they have Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Ruben Amaro Jr. said the Phillies would tender a contract to Kyle Kendrick, but beyond those two, the Phils have a few young question marks, Jonathan Pettibone, Adam Morgan, perhaps Ethan Martin, and maybe Jesse Biddle and Seth Rosin. A third bonafide starting pitcher would be nice to have and Garza would be a nice righty option to split Hamels and Lee.
The awesome FanGraphs crowdsourcing project lists Garza as the top free agent starting pitcher and projects he will receive somewhere between $13 to $15 million a year for three to four years. I personally think that number is a bit low: Garza, by far, is the best domestically-available starter and I would guess that factors into adding some dollars to his deal, even if his ceiling is that of a number two starter. I would guess the winning team will have to pay over $15 million a year for Garza.
Assuming the Phillies will use the $30 or so million I have them projected under the Luxury Tax threshold, Garza could be signed for a $16 million or so per year deal with just enough to sign a tier-two outfielder and a tier-three reliever. I don’t think they will go this route, however, with their offensive woes from 2013 likely needing more than one player to address to become at least league average.
Verdict: Slight Play
Garza will not likely come cheap and may go for even more than $16 million a year. At the same time, he could become a victim of his agent knowing he is the best available starting pitcher with MLB experience and hold out for just a little too long and have to settle for a one-year deal. Either way, the Phillies should wait in the tall grass and emerge as the “mystery team” if his price tag in money or years comes down, all in a very similar process I suggested they do for Napoli earlier today.