Coming off an unspectacular yet solid 2013, Matt Garza enters the free agent market as one of the top starting pitchers available. Garza threw 155⅓ innings for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, posting a 3.82 ERA, 3.88 FIP, and 3.73 xFIP while striking out 135 batters (20.9% strikeout rate) and walking just 43 (6.4% walk rate).
Garza missed the last two months of the 2012 season and almost the first two months of the 2013 season with a stress reaction in his right elbow. Garza made 11 starts for the Cubs and posted a 3.18 ERA before being traded to the Rangers in mid-July. Things didn't go well for Garza after the trade, as he posted a 4.38 ERA and give up at least four earned runs in seven of his 13 starts. Oddly enough, Garza saw his velocity rise (92.8 MPH as a Cub, 93.4 MPH as a Ranger) as well as his swinging strike rate (8.9% before the trade, 10.6% after).
When teams look to sign Garza, they will be hoping for something closer to Garza's 2011 season, when he posted a 3.32 ERA and struck out 197 batters in 198 innings.
One area of concern for Garza is that he saw his ground ball rate drop from 47.3% in 2012 to 38.6% in 2013. That won't help him reduce his rate of home runs per fly ball, which has been an unsightly 16.3% and 11.6% the past two seasons.
Even after missing much of the past two years, Garza will likely receive the largest contract of any free agent starting pitcher, as he just turned 30 and has had solid peripherals the last three seasons. One thing that will help Garza is the fact that because of his midseason trade, he has no draft pick compensation attached to him. Garza is almost certain to receive more than the four-year, $52 million contract Edwin Jackson received. For a starting point, Garza will likely target the five-year, $80 million contract Anibal Sanchez signed with the Detroit Tigers last offseason.
The Mets need a starting pitcher to mitigate the effects of losing Matt Harvey for the season, and Matt Garza comes closer to doing that than any other free agent on the market. However, there seems to be little chance the Mets offer any pitcher a multi-year deal this offseason, and the odds are significantly lower for a four- or five-year deal. The Mets are finally getting out from under the Johan Santana contract and it's unlikely that Sandy Alderson would hand out another long-term contract to a pitcher, especially one over 30 with a history of elbow problems. The Mets will probably give Garza a courtesy call but they won't be one of his final suitors.