Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals

Brewers, Matt Garza agree on Four-Year, $52MM Contract

Such is the state of the baseball free agent market – four years and $52 million seems like a downright bargain. Like the Brewers are getting away with something, considering they just signed one of the top free agent pitchers — the only one who comes without draft pick compensation — to a deal that is very easy to like.

So easy to like, in fact, that it might be worth investigating why his deal is so reasonable. As in, there is a chance his medical records are as scary as we heard.

The real difference between those two? About 150 innings over the past three season. Looking at Wins Above Replacement (which factors in innings/durability), Nolasco comes out on top.

Not to downplay Matt Garza’s body of work. There is some very good pitching in Matt Garza’s recent past. There is also some less than stellar pitching and a whole lot of missed starts. After the Rangers brought Garza to Arlington for the stretch run, he didn’t make much of an impression on Texas faithful. Of his 12 starts in the American League, you could say three were “good”, three were “bad”, and six were somewhere in the middle.

Which might be a fair expectation for Matt Garza – something in the middle. Not quite the number two starter upside he showed during his first season with the Cubs, when he set a career high for strikeouts with 197 (in 198 innings) while posted a 3.32 ERA, but a number three or four pitcher who just hopes to avoid long stretches on the disabled list.

Given the usual health provisions, this could work out to be a great deal for the Brewers, reminiscent of the Kyle Lohse deal they signed last winter. Good pitcher for a less-than-scary price. Given the return of Ryan Braun, they might just be building something in Wisconsin. It’s a tough division but battle-hardened arms like Garza always come in handy when you’re climbing over the likes of Cincinnatti, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

Grant Balfour, Rays Reach Two Year Agreement Worth $12 Million

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics

There is a very good chance that, even after signing a contract worth $12 million, Grant Balfour is pissed off right now. Not because “rage” is Balfour’s normal state of being, but because the Orioles pulling out of a previously-agreed deal with the Aussie closer cost him about three-million bucks.

Even if you’re rich, $3MM is a big time haircut. Bad medical records –in the eyes of the Orioles, anyway — put a stain on Balfour’s name this winter. And when somebody has a bad reputation around the league and it looks like his value might sink a little bit, that’s when the Rays strike!

For the millionth time in the last six years, the Rays find themselves a very nice back of the bullpen piece at a decent price. Even though the baseball industry moved away from huge dollar contracts for Proven Closers, now two of the smartest teams (Tampa Bay and Oakland) put up the cash to have an established guy in the ‘pen. The dollars aren’t what they once were (hi, B.J. Ryan!) but the idea is the same.

The idea being: Grant Balfour is really good. He might be old and he is definitely crazy but his numbers in Oakland are superb. Saves, strikeouts, and steadiness, Balfour provided all three during his stretch in Oakland. Not to mention his rubber armed feats during the A’s playoff drives, pitching on five consecutive days at the end of the 2012 season as Oakland reeled in Texas to claim the AL West.

The Rays get a good player at a nice price. They Rays overhaul their bullpen. Some things never change – it’s just the order of the universe.