As the New York Mets look towards building their team for the 2011 season and beyond, it’s clear that they have needs in their starting rotation. As James pointed out in his 2010 Postmortem on Starting Pitchers, there are only three pitchers who look like locks to be on the Opening Day roster: Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey. The timetable on Johan Santana’s return to the mound is uncertain, and the Mets need to acquire pitchers this winter.
One pitcher that James suggested the Mets consider acquiring is Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays, and there are at least some Rays fans who think there’s good reason the two teams should discuss such a trade.
Garza was drafted by the Minnesota Twins late in the first round of the 2005 draft, and he pitched well in rookie ball the same year. Garza began 2006 with Fort Myers, the Twins A+ affiliate, and quickly moved up to AA New Britain and AAA Rochester, posting 10.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 1.99 ERA across those three levels. The Twins called him up that year, and he struggled over the course of his ten appearances, nine of which were starts. Although Garza’s numbers in his first cup of coffee were nothing special, it is pretty impressive that he played at four levels of professional baseball in the same year. He split his 2007 season between AAA and the Twins, pitching well at both levels. After the 2007 season, the Twins traded Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan to the Rays for Jason Pridie, now a Mets farmhand, Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. Garza began the 2008 season in the Rays rotation and has been a fixture there ever since, making 100 starts, including five in the postseason, over three years. Garza will turn 27 on November 11.
Thus far in his major league career, Garza’s sporting a 7.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, both of which are good but not stellar. Here’s a look at those rates broken down by season.
Click to embiggen.
Except for a lapse in 2009, Garza’s control appears to have improved with experience. His strikeout rate has been a little more erratic, with 2009 looking like an aberration. His 6.6 K/9 in 2010 isn’t encouraging, but it’s not alarming either as it’s only 0.5 below his career numbers.
Let’s have a look at Garza’s ERA, FIP and xFIP by season.
Judging by these three numbers, Garza has outperformed his peripherals every season except for that cup of coffee in 2006. The rise in ERA in 2009-2010 doesn’t come as a huge surprise given his FIP and xFIP in prior years.
Despite pitching in the AL East, a division with a reputation of being tough on pitchers, Garza’s opponents’ OPS – for the season, not just against him – was .731, 40th among AL pitchers with at least 100 IP. The division is often referred to in the "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere" sense, but it’s hard to cut Garza too much slack given the actual opposition he faced while pitching there this year.
For his career, Garza has induced groundballs only 39.7% of the time, but he’s managed to keep his home runs allowed at a decent 1.07 per nine innings.
Last but not least, Garza pitched a no-hitter this year, meaning he’s got one more no hitter in his career than the Mets have in their entire history. Pitching a no hitter doesn’t guarantee sustained greatness, but it’s a feat that should certainly be recognized.
Garza uses four pitches, listed here with their average velocity in 2010 and the frequency with which he threw them.
|Pitch||Avg. Velocity (mph)||Pct. Thrown|
Garza made $3.35 million in 2010, and he’s under team control with arbitration eligibility through 2013. He’ll certainly get his raises, but all of the years under arbitration should be affordable.
Watching Garza Pitch
Both Twins and Rays fans have noted that Garza is a pitcher who wears his emotions on his sleeve. On the Twins fan front, a good friend of mine is a die-hard and remembers having a love-hate relationship with Garza’s emotions – a fiery competitor in the spirit of Johan Santana who also had the potential to come unhinged. Rays fans, too, have seen a pitcher who will yell at himself on the mound and sometimes lose control when things aren’t going well. The St. Petersburg Times has referred to Garza on multiple occasions as "Meltdown Matt."
Looking at his 2010 game log, Garza did allow 5 or more earned runs in 7 of his starts. All but one of those outings lasted 5 innings or less, so there does appear some merit in the "Meltdown Matt" nickname. There are plenty of good outings to make up for the bad ones, though.
Matt Garza may not be an elite starting pitcher, but he’s established that he is above average. The Mets should certainly engage the Rays in trade talks to see if they can make something happen. Adding Garza to the rotation would provide a boost for 2011 and beyond, as he, Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese could make up 3/5ths of the Mets rotation for the foreseeable future.
DRaysBay thinks Garza is more likely to be traded than his teammate James Shields because the Rays would be selling high on Garza but low on Shields, and they could imagine a return of either one top prospect or multiple pretty good prospects as a fair return for the pitcher. The latter option sounds similar to RJ’s Process Report’s suggestion of a package involving Lucas Duda and another prospect near his caliber. If I were Sandy Alderson, I’d certainly pull the trigger on a deal like that as it would allow the Mets to fill a need and deal from an area of moderate depth.