Did Phillies miss out on Matt Garza?

Did Phillies miss out on Matt Garza?

Mike Adams on the Phillies' team chemistry

January 23, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Matt Garza has a 3.76 ERA since 2008. (USA Today Images)

Two prominent free-agent pitchers agreed to deals on Thursday and both were team-friendly contracts.

Right-handed starter Matt Garza is headed to the Brewers on a four-year deal worth $52 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Flamethrowing closer Grant Balfour agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Rays, his old team.

Garza, like fellow free-agent starting pitchers Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo, had been waiting for Masahiro Tanaka to sign with a team before finding a deal of his own. The league-wide consensus was that Tanaka's deal would set the market, and at seven years, $155 million with the Yankees, his deal is significantly richer than any else that will be found this offseason by a SP.

Garza's deal is surprisingly inexpensive, especially in today's ludicrous starting pitching market. He'll earn $13 million per year for his age 30-33 seasons.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2008, Garza is 59-54 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He's struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings and walked 2.9. He's been a solid No. 2/No. 3 starting pitcher, and he was even more attractive to teams this winter because he wasn't extended a qualifying offer by the Rangers and therefore wouldn't cost his new team its first- or second-round draft pick in June.

It's puzzling that a team as thin in the rotation as the Phillies didn't make more of a push for Garza. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made a comment at the winter meetings about how uninspiring the free-agent class was, and actually related Garza to Kyle Kendrick in a way that made statheads shudder.

“Kendrick has 64 wins. You know how many wins Garza has? 67,” Amaro said to reporters in Orlando.

Garza and Kendrick, who will earn $7.675 million in his final year of team control, are not in the same stratosphere. We could throw a bevy of numbers at you, but one that sums it all up is WAR. According to Fangraphs, Garza has been worth 15.9 WAR since 2008; Kendrick has been worth 3.4.

The Brewers badly need rotation help and got Garza on a great deal. Solid job by GM Doug Melvin.

Balfour's deal with Tampa looks much better than Jim Johnson's with Oakland (one year, $10 million) or Joe Nathan's with Detroit (two years, $20 million). And Balfour was as effective as almost any closer in baseball last season, going 38-for-41 in save opportunities and posting a 2.59 ERA.

Balfour had agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Orioles earlier this offseason but ultimately didn't sign when Baltimore found issues with his physical. Balfour vehemently denied being in poor shape and vowed to find a similar deal, which he did. The whole experience ended up costing him $1.5 million per year.

It's worth noting that Balfour's contract is identical to the one the Phillies signed Mike Adams to around this time last year. Adams, who at 35 is actually a year younger than Balfour, made just 28 appearances last season with the Phillies before requiring shoulder surgery. He said Thursday that he is optimistic about being ready to go by opening day.