The nightmare that is 2015 continued last night for Matt Garza, who was shelled again in his start against the Cincinnati Reds. He lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing 11 hits, seven earned runs (including a home run), with a walk and two strikeouts in a game the Brewers eventually lost 12-9. Garza has seen his ERA now balloon to 5.56, his DRA to 5.38, and his WARP is now at a putrid -0.7 wins. Currently in the midst of the worst season of his career and with September call-ups around the corner, Garza’s spot in the rotation is reportedly no longer a sure thing.
Manager Craig Counsell told reporters that the team needs more from a veteran pitcher like Garza, who has been anything but a stabilizing force in the rotation. His strikeout rate is a career worst and he’s walking the most hitters he has in any season since 2009, and he’s allowing the most hard contact at 33.9% since his rookie season of 2006. Garza has maintained consistent velocity on his pitches since his 2.0 WARP campaign last season, but his hard stuff is getting hammered in 2015: his fastball and sinker are a combined -13.1 runs below average this season, and he has allowed 19 of his 23 home runs on those two offerings.
The Brewers made the move earlier this season to demote Kyle Lohse to the bullpen and gave Tyler Cravy a failed audition in his place. Cravy is currently on the DL and will move to the bullpen when he returns to the team, leaving the team’s fifth starter role (though not needed until September 5th) already in flux. While there are a few options to replace Cravy in the rotation when September call-ups come around (Zach Davies chief among them), it would probably require plucking a pitcher from Biloxi’s staff to replace Garza in the rotation, as well. While Tyler Wagner and Jorge Lopez are having terrific seasons, it would be a mistake to promote them and start their service clocks this early in their careers, and their promotions would be a significant detriment to the Shuckers’ championship run. There is value in keeping that Shuckers team together and allowing them to gain playoff experience.
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If the Brewers are hoping to move Garza and the two years and roughly $30 mil he is still owed including deferrals (and not to mention his 2018 vesting option), moving to the bullpen would not be a wise way to try and go about it. It’s about assured that the Brewers will need to eat money off the contract in order to facilitate a trade (unless they were to “sell” him, as I’ve suggested previously), so even if he continues to struggle in the rotation, his value can’t get any worse. If Garza can figure things out with his mechanics and put together a string of solid starts in September, it would probably help soften teams on making an offseason deal more than pitching 10 or so innings out of the bullpen would.
Matt Garza has been awful this year, yes, but he does have a long track record of providing average to above-average production in the middle of a big league rotation (when healthy). To drop him to the bullpen now would be basically waving the white flag on trying to recoup some of that lost value and shop him to potential suitors that may come knocking this offseason. A $12.5 mil per year number four starter doesn’t look so bad when considering the economic landscape of today’s game, and the Brewers will likely already be auditioning a new face in the rotation come September 5th. If his stock can’t get any lower, why not see if Matt Garza can get things figured out over the season’s final month and give the Brewers a chance to trade him this winter?