Let me take a moment out to criticize all of those Brewers fans who jumped the gun criticizing management.
The Brewers were looking for a first baseman. They offered Corey Hart a contract and like any player who has been injury prone would, he decided to sign with the Mariners for more money.
Out came the “fire Brewers GM Doug Melvin” and the talk that owner “Mark Attanasio is not trying to win.”
Little did those people, me, Ken Rosenthal, John Heyman, and all of the reporters who are in the know about the hot stove realize that all that time, Melvin and company were talking with Matt Garza trying to make a deal.
To those who every offseason get on Doug Melvin, let me say this. Trust this GM. He is in my opinion one of the most underrated GMs in baseball given the financial constraints of the smallest market in baseball. Maybe if he overpaid too much to get Hart, I never write this blog on the Garza signing. He also quietly signed Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay to minor league contracts which won’t break the bank, will make us better than the first base disaster we had last season, and hold the fort until Hunter Morris is ready to come to the big leagues!
I won’t lie to you. After an awful Brewers season from the bad play in May, the injuries, and the Ryan Bruan suspension, all I was asking for this season is for the Brewers to at least be respectable.
Now with the signing of Matt Garza being official this past Sunday, I now think the Brewers can at least enter the conversation of competing in the tough NL Central.
Are they better than the NL Champs St. Louis Cardinals? No. Are they better today then they were last week? Yes. And I believe this sets themselves up nicely to compete for the next several years. Here is why I think the Matt Garza signing means more than just getting a quality pitcher to compete.
1) Garza knows the NL Central well.
After pitching the last few seasons with the Chicago Cubs before being traded mid-season last year to Texas, Garza pitched very well for what was a bad Cubs team. In the 2 1/2 seasons that he pitched for the Cubs he had a ERA of 3.32, 3.91, and 3.17 with a WHIP (Walks, Hits to Innings Pitched) of 1.258, 1.177, and 1.141. He also average around 3 walks per 9 innings and around 1 HR per 9 innings.
I mention these stats cause much criticism has come with this signing due to his W-L total. People look at that and say he is automatically an average pitcher. Garza is not. He won’t wow you with Clayton Kersaw stuff but he is serviceable for keeping you in games. And when you play on the bad Cubs teams that he played for, wins and losses don’t give you a true impression of how well he pitches.
Plus Garza pitching in the NL Central means he automatically knows what to expect against the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates. No learning curve there.
2) He immediately makes Gallardo a better pitcher.
I really like Yovani Gallardo as a pitcher. The fact that he is a home grown talent and has been a Brewer his entire career makes me give him a pass for the times when I can’t figure out why he goes through stretches where he can’t appear to be the top of the rotation starter that I know he is. Could it be that Gallardo puts too much pressure on himself to be an ace knowing that many fans perceive him as such?
That is debatable. Let me throw this stat at you. In 2011, the last time the Brewers had a formidable trio like the one we will have this season, Gallardo flourished with a 17-10 record and 3.52 ERA. Arguably his best season. He still is signed through next season and Kyle Lohse is signed as well so these three will be together for at least two years. Gallardo is better when he has better pitchers around him in the rotation. I think he is due for a big year.
3) Wily Peralta is now #4 in the rotation!
Many scouts say that Peralta can be a top of the rotation guy. At 24 and with one full season under his belt, I am glad the Brewers in a bad season, just let him pitch. Sure he has to work on not getting too emotional on the mound, but now that he does not have the pressure anymore to be a #2 or #3 pitcher. He can relax and work on the things he needs to in order to become a #1 starter that we all hope for. I am stoked that he will be projected to be #4 in the rotation. He might be the Brewers best kept secret that other teams lose sight of.
4) Garza adds depth to a growing area of pitching.
Remember not too long ago when the Brewers were criticized for not having enough depth in the rotation or bullpen? Well now with the Garza signing and the silent but smart Will Smith signing earlier in the off season, can you actually believe the Brewers have more depth at pitching that they do at some of the infield?
Not only can Will Smith spot start, Tom Gorzelanny, Tyler Thornberg, John Hellwig, and Donovan Hand all have starting experience. There are more but these are the big ones expected to compete or be in the bullpen.
And let’s not forget Marco Estrada. He could be the #5 guy in the rotation. There is a saying in baseball that you can NEVER have enough pitching depth and finally the Brewers have that.
5) Garza wanted to come here.
There was a time not too long ago where the Brewers were owned by Bud Selig or Wendy Selig-Prieb and were the laughing stock of the league.
In 10 years time, Mark Attanasio changed the perception of the franchise to one where free agents want to come here. Much of this has to do with the Brewers fan base. In a down year, attendance was still over 2 million and in the top 15 in the league.
I love this owner and hope fans really value how good they have it. Mark has shown time and time again that he is willing to allow Melvin to sign a big free agent or allow him to make a big trade to ensure that the team competes every year. This is much more important to him than making a huge profit. We not only have an owner, we have an owner who is a baseball fan and has the desire to win.
And reading the quotes from Garza about how this signing came to be, this is great stuff!
Also it was great to hear the quotes at the Brewers On Deck event Sunday that Mark Reynolds wanted to sign here because of the fan base!
Kudos Brewers fans on creating the perception that this is a great baseball town where players want to sign!
6) The Brewers offense won’t struggle as nearly as bad as it did
The first half of last season was a train wreck. Everything went wrong. I still can’t believe a MLB team can only win 6 games in May unless they try hard to do it.
Not many people know that the pitching staff had top 5 stats in the 2nd half of the season. Garza upgrades that immediately.
Additionally, having Ryan Braun back a full season, and a healthy Aramis Ramirez in a contract season is almost like a free agent signing.
I don’t talk much about Ryan Braun and the entire PED thing. Here is a suggestion for Brewers fans. He apologized for what happened. He cheated. You can claim he is a liar as well. I am not a perfect angel in my life, so why am I going to hold a athlete to a higher standard than myself?
I think message boards and social media fans running their mouth about how they will never forgive Braun are speaking higher than most Brewers fans like myself. I really want to wear my Braun jersey at the games at Miller Park this season to despise these people too. And from the reception he got at Brewers On Deck, I believe many more people feel like I do.
And most people don’t realize the issue with PEDs was from the 2011 season. In 2012 when A. He did not have Fielder batting behind him and B. You know MLB was testing the hell out of him, he passed all his drug tests and arguably had a better year!
I think this entire PED ESPN Bud Selig trying to save face for his legacy scandal is completely overblown. Others columnist agree and for further proof watch this mainly positive reaction of his first public appearance at Brewers On Deck.
Now that I got that off my chest, let me add this:
Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy all had quality seasons and I feel they will continue to provide similar offense. Segura and Gomez were both 2013 NL All-Stars so their stars are getting brighter every year!
Khris Davis (Braun’s replacement) was able to get playing time and he impressed the team so much, it made the team ask Braun if he was interested in moving to right field.
If they can avoid injuries, this offense will be much better.
7) Here is my biggest point.
The Brewers have much salary coming off the books next year and the year after. You have the essential fielding signed long term (C, SS, CF) and have nice young arms and other players in the minors that now can develop at their pace and come relatively cheap once they hit the majors. This allows flexibility for additional free agent signings and trades in future years. This is a great formula. Be competitive now while allowing flexibility to potentially compete for another division title in future years!
By the way this site is a great site to see any team’s payroll.
Overall I like what the Brewers have done the last few days. After being the last team to make a free agent signing, they made one that surprised many baseball people including myself.
Once again there is optimism in Wisconsin during this brutal Midwestern winter and the countdown to pitcher/catchers reporting and Opening Day begins!