Matt Garza Rumors
As always, New York will be an interesting market to watch this season, highlighted by the Yankees' attempts to re-sign Robinson Cano and the Mets' desire to aggressively participate in the free agent market. Here's the latest on both teams, courtesy of Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News...
- The Yankees have already been linked to big fish like Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran, but Heyman adds that they've also had internal discussions about Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza and Stephen Drew. As Heyman points out, Drew would be a peculiar target given Derek Jeter's $9.5MM player option for 2014.
- According to Heyman, the Yankees are still the favorites for Cano, but there's a sizable gap between his eye-popping $305-310MM asking price and the Yankees' current thinking. Heyman says the Yankees have only shown a willingness to go to $160MM or so to this point.
- According to Martino, no one from either camp has denied the fact that Cano's camp began negotiations by asking for $300MM+.
- Martino adds that the Mets aren't likely to pursue Ellsbury on the free agent market, as his sources have indicated that GM Sandy Alderson simply isn't comfortable with the type of contract that Ellsbury will ultimately end up signing. Instead, expect the Mets to pursue trades and free agent signings of corner outfielders, as they're very pleased with Juan Lagares' glove in center field. This marks the second instance in the past six weeks or so in which we've heard specifically that the Mets aren't a likely match for Ellsbury.
- General manager Brian Cashman worries that Hiroki Kuroda will return to Japan, writes Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger. He adds that one baseball official to whom he spoke would "be blown away" if Curtis Granderson didn't receive a series of lucrative offers on the open market despite his lost season.
Despite opening the season on the disabled list, Matt Garza looked to be in a position to claim the role of this offseason's top free agent starter. A slow finish to the season has jeopardized that thinking, but he still ranked seventh on Tim Dierkes' final edition of his 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
A former first-round pick by the Twins, Garza hasn't posted an ERA higher than 3.95 since his initial call-up with Minnesota in 2006 -- a stint that lasted just 50 innings. Only one other free agent starter -- Tim Hudson -- can boast seven consecutive seasons of an ERA south of 4.00, and Hudson is eight years older than Garza.
In terms of fastball velocity, Garza can bring it. He's only averaged less than 93 mph on his fastball once in his eight-year career, and that came in 2009 when he averaged 92.9 mph. Garza's 93.1 mph average in 2013 tops all free agent starters, and even his "weak" (by his standards) 2009 average would've been good enough to top the list.
He was a bit wild early in his career, but Garza has four straight seasons of a 2.9 BB/9 rate or lower, and he sat at 2.4 in 2013. Dating back to 2009, he's averaged eight strikeouts per inning on the dot, and he sat at 7.9 this season.
Garza has shined on the biggest of stages, as he owns a career 3.48 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 31 postseason innings. He dominated in the 2009 ALCS, yielding two runs over 13 2/3 innings in two starts en route to ALCS MVP honors.
Because he was traded midseason, Garza is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer and will therefore not be tied to draft pick compensation.
Garza has been stricken with injuries over the past two years. A stress fracture in his right elbow ended his season in late July last year (and also prevented a trade), and a lat strain caused him to miss the first seven weeks of the 2013 regular season. He made all of his starts upon activation, but the simple fact is that he's thrown just 259 innings since Opening Day 2012.
While injuries prevented a trade last year, he was flipped to the Rangers midseason in 2013. As was the case when Ryan Dempster found himself flipped to Texas in 2012, Garza didn't finish very well. Though his walk rate improved and xFIP suggests that he was actually better with the Rangers than with the Cubs, he limped to a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts with Texas.
Garza seriously boosted his ground-ball rate in 2011, jumping from a pair of sub-40-percent seasons to a robust 46.3 percent. He increased that number further in 2012 with a 47.3 percent mark, but this season saw him drop back down toward his career levels. He induced grounders at a 38.6 percent clip in 2013, which is slightly lower than his already below-average career mark of 41.2 percent.
Setting aside his ugly rookie debut, Garza has a 3.75 ERA. Incredibly, advanced metrics FIP, xFIP and SIERA all peg him at exactly 3.96 from 2007-13. Garza can be realistically counted on for an ERA under 4.00 (and in some seasons, well under 4.00 with a bit of luck), but he lacks the durability and statistical profile of the front-line pitcher many have perceived him to be.
Garza married his high school sweetheart, Serina, and they have four children together. He is known as a passionate family man who loves to spend time with his wife and children. Per the Cubs media guide, his father, Rudy, is a Sergeant Major in the Army, and baseball clearly runs in the Garza family, as his brother Michael coaches high school ball in Florida. Garza has a fiery personality that can get the better of him at times. Garza blasted some Cubs fans on Twitter early in the year, calling them "fake" in reaction to their negativity. More controversially, he took to Twitter and launched a tirade at Athletics' second baseman Eric Sogard as well as Sogard's wife. Garza publicly apologized the following day, telling reporters that he "let his competitive spirit cross outside the lines" and that his "passion" and "fire" carried over beyond the playing field.
Despite questions about his recent durability and his Twitter antics, Garza is one of the most talented and consistently productive (when healthy) pitchers on the free agent market. Many teams will be involved, particularly due to the fact that unlike Ervin Santana -- the top domestic pitcher on MLBTR's Free Agent Power Rankings -- he won't cost a draft pick. Other names like Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and A.J. Burnett could all be linked to draft pick compensation as well.
In a recent Free Agent Faceoff conducted by MLBTR's Aaron Steen, nearly 66 percent of the 10,000+ respondents said that they would rather have their team sign Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. After factoring in the posting fee and contract, however, Garza figures to be the cheaper option. Expect to see a wide array of teams expressing interest, as more than half the teams in Major League Baseball could use a rotation upgrade.
Garza is a California native, and though he's pitched for four Major League teams -- the Twins, Rays, Cubs and Rangers -- he's never had the opportunity to pitch close to home. It's not clear whether that will be a factor in his decision, but plenty of West Coast teams will be looking for pitching help.
Many expected Garza to be the top arm on this year's free agent market, and while some may still feel that's the case, the emergence of Tanaka and rebirth of Santana have given him some stiff competition. Garza earns points for consistency when healthy and his relative youth, both of which will be determining factors in his free agency this offseason.
He doesn't boast the durability that Edwin Jackson did when he signed his four-year contract with the Cubs, but teams won't need to worry about the tumultuous on-field results that have plagued Jackson when considering Garza. Jackson's $52MM contract is the floor for Garza in my mind. He should have little trouble surpassing it, though he and agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports may have trouble finding a fifth guaranteed year thanks to the slow finish and recent injury history.
Ultimately, I think Garza will command a four-year, $64MM contract this offseason. Such a deal easily tops the four-year commitments attained by Jackson and Mark Buehrle in recent years, while still affording Garza the opportunity to sign another significant contract heading into his age-34 season in 2018. A vesting option for that fifth year is another possibility, as the biggest current issue with Garza is his durability, not his performance.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
For tonight's Free Agent Faceoff entry, we'll look at Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka. Teams can be relatively sure of what they'd be getting by signing the former, while the latter has both boom and bust potential.
Garza, 29, has been an above-average starter since his second season with Minnesota in 2007, as he hasn't posted an ERA above 3.95 since his rookie campaign. While he's not a strikeout machine, he gets more than his fair share of Ks - his punchout rates have consistently been above the league average for starters, and that didn't change this season, when he racked up 7.9 per nine innings. Garza appeared to ascend to another level in 2011, when he set a career high in K/9 and also boosted his ground ball rate. However, after struggling with injuries in 2012, he's settled back into being the good, but not great, pitcher that he's been for the majority of his career - a guy who has strikeout stuff and walks fewer batters than the average starter, but also gets a below-average amount of ground balls.
Tanaka is expected to make the jump to MLB this winter after dominating Japanese baseball to the tune of a 1.24 ERA in 181 innings this season. The fact that much of his success comes from limiting walks - his BB/9 in Japan this year is 1.3, and he posted an insane rate of 1.0 per nine last season - is likely to give some teams pause. Two recent Japanese imports, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, both saw their walk rates spike dramatically when squaring off against major league hitters. And while he's generated plenty of Ks in Japan, his 2013 K/9 of 7.7 suggests his stuff isn't on the same level as Darvish's, as the latter pitcher was striking out almost 11 batters per nine innings by the time he was ready to migrate to the states. Nevertheless, the reports that we've gotten from Baseball America's Ben Badler on Tanaka's arsenal - a low-90s fastball and two plus secondary offerings, including what is "arguably the best splitter in the world" - suggest that the team who ultimately signs him may be snaring a frontline starter. At 24, he's also much younger than Garza.
While signing a free agent starter to a long-term deal is an inherently risky move, Garza is a good bet to provide a team with many quality major league innings. In contrast, as a Japanese pitcher, Tanaka is largely an unknown quantity - Daisuke Matsuzaka has struggled mightily in the U.S., while Darvish is currently among the most valuable starters in baseball. Who would you rather have?
As the Rangers enter tonight's action 1.5 games behind the Indians for the last AL wild card spot, here's the latest from Arlington...
- Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reported today that Rangers GM Jon Daniels was pressured by ownership to acquire Matt Garza in July, but the report is "not accurate," Daniels told ESPN Dallas' Todd Wills. "Ownership has been as supportive as they possibly can be. They want to win, but they've never forced our hand on any move. I'm really fortunate," Daniels said. "I'm not saying that because they pay my paychecks. It's the truth. They haven't forced us to do anything or pressured or anything like that. They've been as supportive as any ownership team or ownership group in the sport."
- Daniels and the Rangers knew for months that Nelson Cruz could face a PED suspension but didn't adequately prepare for losing him from their roster, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. While Texas did trade for Alex Rios, Rosenthal argues that the club needed hitting beyond just what Cruz (or a replacement) brought to the lineup.
- With the Rangers in danger of a second consecutive September collapse and a tough World Series loss in 2011, ESPN's David Schoenfield argues that Ron Washington shouldn't be brought back as the team's manager. Daniels said last week that Washington would return in 2014 and those within the organization expect the same.
Inspired by the O.co Coliseum's sewage problems, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports introduced the "Toilet Scale" to rate some postseason contenders "based on just how badly they're flushing their season." Within the colorful piece, Passan also shared a few hot stove rumors...
- Marlins team president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill could all be fired in the club's latest shakeup. Assistant GM Dan Jennings would take over as Miami's new general manager, and sources tell Passan that Jennings already has permission to begin assembling a staff. Beinfest has been rumored to be danger, though Samson's job was previously thought to be safe. As Passan notes, however, owner Jeffrey Loria was prepared to fire Beinfest and Hill last year before changing his mind. Given how much influence Loria has over the team's decisions, "Who the hell would want to work there?" one Passan source rhetorically asked.
- The Rangers front office was "pressured by ownership" into making the midseason deal for Matt Garza that hasn't worked out for the club. Garza has a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts for Texas and can depart as a free agent this winter without any compensation coming back to the Rangers in return. Of the prospects Texas sent to the Cubs in the Garza deal, "evaluators absolutely love" right-hander C.J. Edwards, who just recently turned 22 years old and posted a 1.86 ERA over 24 starts at both levels of A-ball this season.
- It's been a tumultuous season for Joe Girardi, who Passan praises for keeping the Yankees in contention despite multiple major injuries, declining veterans and the Alex Rodriguez controversy. This is the final year of Girardi's contract with the Yankees and one executive suggested to Passan that Girardi could find a lot less stress managing elsewhere in 2014. We heard over the weekend that one Yankees official pegs Girardi's chances of staying in the Bronx at 70 percent.
In an attempt to compensate for the looming loss of Nelson Cruz to his 50-game suspension, the Rangers tried to swing a big trade for Justin Upton at the July trade deadline, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. The Braves refused a package of Matt Garza, Joe Nathan and David Murphy. If those are the only three players the Rangers offered, it's not a surprise that the Braves passed -- Garza and Murphy are eligible for free agency after the season, while Upton is a good young player who is under contract through 2015. Eventually, of course, the Rangers acquired Alex Rios in August. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The Athletics clinched their second AL West title in a row with an 11-7 win over the Twins on Sunday, and GM Billy Beane says the team's depth has been the key to their smooth season, John Hickey of InsideBayArea.com reports. "We knew going in this was the deepest roster we’d ever had here," says Beane. "We needed that depth, and it paid for itself." As Hickey points out, the Athletics hardly missed a beat all season, even though Brett Anderson, Josh Reddick, John Jaso and Derek Norris all missed significant time. Here are more notes from around the Majors. A quietly brilliant season from Josh Donaldson surely helped, but the A's got solid offensive and defensive performances from most of their hitters, and other than Anderson, their starting rotation mostly stayed healthy.
- After taking in the ceremony for Mariano Rivera and the applause for Andy Pettitte on Sunday, it dawned on injured Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that he had played his final game with his two retiring teammates, Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger reports. "I’m going to miss them a lot," says Jeter. "These guys have been brothers to me. We’ve been through quite a bit together. Pretty much everything you can experience on a field. In my whole professional career, I’ve been playing with at least one of them." The three had their rookie seasons together with the 1995 Yankees, and Jeter and Pettitte also played on many of the same minor-league teams, including Class A Greensboro in 1992 and and Triple-A Columbus in 1994 and 1995.
- Pitcher Dan Haren thinks the Nationals should aim to keep their team together, writes MLB.com's Andrew Simon. "Last year they had a great year and this year we’ve shown a lot of fight here the last few months. I think as close as things could stay to the guys in this room, I think the better," Haren says. He also appears to support bench coach Randy Knorr for the Nationals' managerial position, which will be open when Davey Johnson retires after the season. Haren himself is a free agent, of course, and he seems aware that he might not be part of the 2014 Nationals, even if they ultimately go with a similar roster: "I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them."
- Now that the Phillies have settled on Ryne Sandberg as their manager, they'll now turn their attention to their coaching staff, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports. With a new manager, it's typical to have at least some change in the rest of the coaching staff. Zolecki mentions that one potential change might be re-hiring former manager Larry Bowa in some capacity.
- A "winter of discontent" is on the way for Phillies fans, writes Bob Ford of the Inquirer. After a recent streak of successful seasons, Ford says, a team elsewhere might "get a standing ovation and then be allowed to attempt its rebuilding with patient if not fervent support. That might be the case here as well, if only the team would get on with the rebuilding." Instead, the Phils will head into the offseason expecting to keep aging veterans Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee. They might also go into 2014 with Carlos Ruiz still at catcher, and perhaps also with Roy Halladay in the rotation. Ford compares the Phillies to a rock band who are still touring long past the point where they've lost relevance, "dyeing their hair and wearing hearing aids."
The Padres have promoted former star closer Trevor Hoffman to upper level pitching coordinator and special assistant to GM Josh Byrnes, according to a team release. His duties will include coordinating and evaluating pitchers in the high minors and at the big-league level. Hoffman has worked in the Padres front office since he retired as a player in 2011 after racking up 552 of his career 601 saves as a Padre. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Giants general manager Brian Sabean and former manager Felipe Alou are currently in the Dominican Republic, scouting Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com tweets. In late August, the Giants were reported to be interested in Abreu. Abreu, who defected from Cuba earlier this summer, appears likely to receive a contract even larger than that of Yasiel Puig, who got seven years and $42MM from the Dodgers.
- Matt Garza has been a disappointment for the Rangers since they traded for him, but that's consistent with the rest of his career, ESPN's Jayson Stark says on ESPN Dallas' Fitzsimmons and Durrett podcast. "If you look at his body of work, you think that the performance has ever totally matched the stuff?" Stark asks. Garza's peripherals with Texas (8.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9) remain above average, but it's likely a 4.46 ERA isn't what the Rangers were hoping for when they acquired him. Stark also adds that the Cubs "sold high" on Garza, dealing him after a string of good starts against bad teams.
The Rangers have been the most active buyer in baseball this season, trading prospects Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and Leury Garcia to bring in Matt Garza and Alex Rios. In his latest Rangers Inbox, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan tackles a host of issues regarding the future of the team's roster...
- Jurickson Profar could stay in his utility role for another season and ultimately transition to third base as Adrian Beltre moves into a DH role in two years, writes Sullivan. It's also possible that GM Jon Daniels discusses trades of Kinsler this offseason, as the four years and $57MM remaining on his contract will look like a bargain with the rising price of second basemen (Sullivan points to Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano as comparisons).
- Sullivan guesses the Rangers will make Nelson Cruz a qualifying offer at season's end. If Cruz accepts the offer or expresses interest in working out a new contract, they're prepared to move forward with him as their designated hitter in 2014.
- The club's interest in re-signing Matt Garza will be linked to the health of Matt Harrison. The team could also re-sign Colby Lewis. Nick Tepesch and Josh Lindblom are currently the leading candidates to be the fifth starter, as Neftali Feliz looks to be headed back to a bullpen role.
- The Rangers aren't likely to pursue Jarrod Saltalamacchia as a free agent despite their needs at catcher. As Sullivan writes, "That bridge appears quite charred in both directions."
Earlier today, the Mariners released Jason Bay after the outfielder hit .204/.298/.393 in 68 games for the club. Meanwhile, the Rangers announced that Colby Lewis will undergo hip surgery that will end his 2013 season. Here's more out of the AL West...
- The Mariners recently demoted struggling closer Tom Wilhelmsen to Triple-A Tacoma, and MLB.com's Greg Johns tweets that the team is going to experiment with him as a starter. Seattle isn't officially announcing that Wilhelmsen will convert to a starting role at this time, but he did start for Tacoma today with unsuccessful results. Wilhelmsen allowed three runs on three hits (two homers) with four strikeouts in two innings.
- Justin Smoak's turnaround has transformed him from one of the Mariners' problems to part of the solution, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The Mariners still have plenty of decisions on their hands this offseason to produce a winning season, however, he adds.
- The Angels have called up infielder Grant Green in place of Daniel Stange and inserted him into the lineup, tweets Angels director of communications Eric Kay. Green, a former first-round pick, was acquired from the Athletics for Alberto Callaspo last week in a rare intra-division trade.
- In an appearance with Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio, Rangers GM Jon Daniels shot down previous reports that the team was willing to trade Matt Garza for a bat. He also said reports that the team wouldn't welcome Nelson Cruz back in 2014 after accepting his 50-game suspension were inaccurate (Twitter links).
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has his latest edition of Full Count up. Let's run through some of the highlights...
- Some teams considering a trade for the White Sox's Alex Rios might consider the remainder of his contract - $13MM in 2014 and a $13.5MM club option for 2015 - to be a benefit. According to Rosenthal, Rios ranks fifth in wins above replacement among all right fielders since the start of the 2012 season. That's ahead of both Nick Swisher and Shane Victorino, who were able to sign large free agent deals last offseason. Rosenthal says Rios could still be traded this month or after the season.
- Rangers officials told Rosenthal that they had more conversations about major leaguer-for-major-leaguer trades leading up to the deadline than ever before in their push to acquire a bat for their struggling lineup, but nothing came to fruition. Texas made almost every player on their roster available in trade talks, including the newly acquired Matt Garza.
- The Dodgers opted not to bid on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez because they were unsure of whether he profiled as anything more than a back-end starter or reliever. They also want to create opportunities for prospects such as Zach Lee and Chris Reed.
- The A's decision this weekend to send Tommy Milone - the owner of a 4.39 ERA in 133.1 innings this year - to Triple A was aimed at adding another arm to the bullpen, as they don't need a fifth starter until Aug. 13. However, that Aug. 13 starter could end up being prospect Sonny Gray. The A's were originally considering putting Gray in the bullpen, but they could get left-hander Brett Anderson back within two weeks as a reliever, Rosenthal says.