It seems that nearly every offseason, the thing at the top of every Milwaukee Brewers fan’s wish list is a shiny new starter. This year is no exception, in spite of a stellar 2018 for the Crew.
The trouble with wanting a top tier starter is that starting pitchers don’t exactly come cheap, a lesson that front offices in Milwaukee have experienced more than once. The astuteness of the Milwaukee Brewers pursuing a top of the line starter heading into 2019 is up for debate.
Certainly the pitching was much better in 2018 than years prior, with the whole staff accumulating a 3.73 ERA. Much of that is attributable to the stellar bullpen, but legitimate starting prospects have emerged. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta all made known that they are Major League ready, though only Peralta made his mark as a starter.
Therefore, it’s worth a look back at some of the expensive acquisitions Milwaukee has shelled out for, in cash or in prospects, to fill a hole in their rotation. You can judge for yourself who was worth it and who was not.
Matt Garza, Free Agent, 4-Years/$50 Million
Garza was coming off of a 2013 season in which he went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in time split between the Cubs and Rangers. This was pretty much exactly in line with his career line as well, as the at the time 30-year-old had a career 67-67 record and a 3.84 ERA. While an innings eater from 2008-2011 in Tampa Bay and Chicago, Garza had been limited to 18 starts in 2012 and 24 in 2013 by injury.
Apparently that spoke well to then-Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin, as he signed Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract, with a vesting option for a fifth year that thankfully did not come to fruition.
Garza started out okay in 2014, maintaining his .500 career mark a 3.64 ERA. His FIP came down as well, to 3.54 from 3.88 the year prior. However his innings total continued its trend away from his workhorse days in Tampa Bay, as he logged a respectable but far from remarkable 163.1 innings.
This was the year the Brewers absolutely collapsed down the stretch to finish with the rare disappointing season winning season in Milwaukee at 82-80. Garza pitched just 23 innings across five starts from August through October, missing time due to a left oblique strain.
For the next two years it was a sharp downhill for Garza and the Brewers. Garza’s WHIP topped 1.50 in 2015, the first time since his two partial seasons with the Twins to begin his career, and again in 2016. His ERAs of 5.63 and 4.51 matched dismal statistic for dismal statistic, as he went a combined 12-22.
The Brewers fell back to losing ways as well, in part burdened by Garza’s high and underserved salary, finishing fourth in the Central both years. Garza finished off his contract in 2017 with a 4.94 ERA in 114.2 innings, finishing with 3.5 walks per nine innings for the second time with the Crew.
It was with a huge sigh of relief that the Crew bid goodbye to this contract. David Stearns quickly put that money and other salary relief to good use, bringing in Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and Jhoulys Chacin to bring the Crew within one game of the World Series.