Thursday, 23 January 2014

Garza to Milwaukee for Some Reason

The other shoe is beginning to fall, so to speak.  Now that Masahiro Tanaka has finally signed in New York, we should be seeing the rest of the pitching market fall in to place shortly.  It's begun, today, with Matt Garza signing in Milwaukee for 4 years and $52MM.  That seems fairly curious to me, both in terms of the team, and the amount of money.

Milwaukee, of course, sucked last year, so I'm wondering about their location on the win curve and whether or not this signing makes sense for them.  Baseball Prospectus figures that their record should have been pretty close to .500, based on 3rd order wins (projected runs for and against.)

Consider that while keeping in mind that they missed Corey Hart's bat all year long, Yovani Gallardo is a shadow of his former self (fewer IP, fewer K/9, decreased fastball velocity), Ryan Braun was suspended and only played half a year, John Axford went ahead and got terrible, blowing save after save, and Rickie Weeks definitely didn't bounce back to being good, and they got some very poor production at 1B in a platoon.  If Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay can combine to be replacement level this year, that will be a gain for 4 wins.

All in all, it was a pretty bad year for the Brewers.  There were some bright spots though-- Jonathan Lucroy remains solid behind the plate, Norichika Aoki (who has since been traded for lefty Will Smith) was his solid self, Khris Davis should be pretty good, Carlos Gomez had himself a nice breakoutey-type season, and Kyle Lohse was anywhere from decent to pretty good, depending on your definition of what a good pitcher consists of.

Lohse threw something around 200 innings, which he is apparently good for every year it seems.  He posted a 3.35 ERA, which is pretty good.  He also posted a FIP and xFIP slightly over 4, which is decent. Lohse, though, is the kind of guy who is apparently in the business of out-performing his peripherals, which isn't exactly out of the question, especially for a guy who doesn't strike out a ton of batters-- his ERA and ERA- has outperformed his FIP and FIP- (respectively) in three straight years now.  It's easy to say that Lohse has been getting some fortune with regards to his results of the last few years, just by comparing ERA and FIP, but I'd suggest that his 2013 rWAR (3.3) is closer to correct that his fWAR (1.8).

I certainly expect the Brewers to bounce back a bit this year, and the Garza signing should help.  I say should since Garza has a few red flags of his own.  Pretty rarely does someone moves from the AL East to the NL Central and not improve pretty drastically (though the NL Central was pretty god damn good this year).  Garza's first year in Chicago was pretty lights out, but 2012 and the first half of 2013 (i.e. before the trade) were just fair, and his time in Texas wasn't all that much better.

Moving backwards, Garza was worth 2.2 fWAR (1.4 rWAR) in 2013, and 1.1 fWAR (1.2 rWAR) in 2012.  That's certainly not anything special.  Yeah, he was hurt for a lot of that time, but health is kind of a skill.

It's a ballsy signing for the Brewers, but it may be worth the risk.  At $52MM, I figure he'll need to be worth about 9 WAR over the deal to break even, maybe a bit less if the price of baseball keeps going up.  He's been worth 7.2 rWAR and a hair of 9 fWAR over the past four seasons, which probably doesn't bode well for someone on the wrong side of 30.

As far as applying this to the Blue Jays and Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, this is probably good news.  With one fewer suitor out there, Santana and Jimenez probably just took a paycut relative to what they were thinking/hoping they would get.  Santana is now apparently hunting for a deal in the $60MM range, despite having hopes of a $100MM+ deal early this offseason.  I would suspect Jimenez is looking for the same, if not more.

Assuming the Jays sign one of those two pitchers, the pricetag is presumably narrowed down; if Garza is getting $52MM, it seems incredibly unlikely to see either Jimenez or Santana get in the $80MM range, as was once considered probable.  Remember that Garza, unlike Santana and Jimenez, wasn't tied to draft pick compensation, which should drop the pricetag a hair more.

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