Matt Garza is a highly debatable subject. There is no doubt about that. Many Tigers fans scoff at the idea of parting with prized pitching prospect Jacob Turner for Garza. I have even seen the suggestion that a straight up deal is something that some would not take, and that is just taking this love of our prospects a little too far. Of course, Theo Epstein and the Cubs are not going to trade Matt Garza straight up for a prospect, so that is a moot point. Not only will Garza cost multiple prospects, he is more expensive financially, and only under contract for two years. When you talk in terms of cost only, it does appear that Garza wouldn’t be worth it.
Talking about cost isn’t the whole story however, so I wanted to talk about the benefit. There is a reason that there are talks going on.
Let’s state the obvious. Matt Garza is a good pitcher first and foremost. Can we all just agree on that? He is the bird in the hand in this situation. No matter how much Tigers fans are drooling over the prospects of Jacob Turner, the reality is, Turner would be doing well to reach the level that Matt Garza has already obtained. You can look up the stats for yourself. You just have to click on the highlighted Matt Garza in this article. What you will read is a guy who is at the very least, a very capable 3rd starter in any big league rotation. Maybe even a #2 in some, and potentially even the Tigers if he can repeat his 2011.
You will also see that he had his best season of his career in 2011, going into his prime of his career at 28 years old. You are going to see a guy that is likely to be around the 200 innings mark, an ERA somewhere in the threes, and a guy with a good K/BB rate. What you don’t see right away is why Garza had the best season of his career, and it all comes down to his learning to pitch in 2011. If you haven’t read it, check out our own Garret Craig’s article on Garza and what he did differently than before, changing up his pitch mix significantly to get better results. It has convinced me that this is a guy that is going beyond just good, and now is the time to acquire him.
Garza also has significant post-season experience the last couple of years. I don’t think this is something to overlook. I don’t doubt for a second that the Tigers can get to the playoffs again in 2012 without Garza, but that isn’t the point. He fills out a rotation that could be one of the best in the American League. You can’t say that if the Tigers are running out a variety of youngsters in that 5th spot. The Tigers are on the verge of taking the next step, and with Garza filling out their rotation, and being a good big game pitcher, he can only help the Tigers in their quest for a World Series. Garza has a career 3.48 ERA in the post-season.
I do want to say, if the deal for Garza is to include both Turner and Castellanos, this would be a no for me as well. But if it is Turner, Crosby and 2 others, or something like that (maybe even Smyly), it is worth the investment considering the Tigers are in the World Series window right now with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera in their primes. It’s not like he is a rental either. The Tigers would have Garza for at least two years, which would give them a couple years to make a decision on which 3 of the 5 starters they would like to keep. Two of them could easily be flipped for multiple players in return in the future, making an argument that this would ruin their future a little bit like a Tiger without teeth.
I understand that getting Garza might lack a little in long term value, especially if Turner turns out to be a front of the rotation stud, but the time to strike for the Tigers is now. They had several guys have career years last year, and while they got close, they still came up short. And this was before other teams like the Angels starting going nuts and getting much better. If the Tigers are going to compete beyond the Central, a move like Garza would push them in that direction.
Yes, once they get to the party they have a chance. I acknowledge that. I also acknowledge that Garza would be the Tigers 2nd or 3rd best pitcher on their team if they acquired him, and he could potentially help make up for some of the regression the Tigers might suffer from 2011.
Either way, David Dombrowski is in the drivers seat here. The Cubs don’t stand much to gain by holding onto Garza, while Detroit is in a position to stand pat if they should want to. Making it likely that if a deal occurs, it will be to Tigers fans liking.