As thin as the free agent market was heading into the winter, it’s still surprising to see a few big names out there available as we head into the holiday. These significant names almost exclusively reside on the pitching side of things, with folks like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Matt Garza all yet to relocate.
Of the trio of arms that remain available, Garza is perhaps the most puzzling as to why he’s still there. A player that’s bounced around a bit in his career, Garza was fantastic for the Chicago Cubs early in the year, prior to his being traded to the Texas Rangers, where he was a bit more of the average variety. Nonetheless, this is a guy with very big upside and plenty of experience in the American League East. So why is he still available?
The obvious answer here is health. Garza has missed time in the last couple of years, most notably in 2012 when an elbow injury forced him to be shutdown, and prevented the Cubs from trading him until prior to the 2013 trade deadline. While he’s proven to be healthy, and all signs point to him being at 100 percent currently, elbow injuries cause teams to shy away, especially when they’re barely a year removed from them.
Then there’s the matter of a contract. All free agents need them. In the case of Garza, the interested party would not need to forfeit a draft pick, which is not the case with the likes of Jimenez and Santana. However, as such, Garza’s demands are quite high, with some estimates going as high as nine figures. Even so, something in the neighborhood of five years and $80 million, perhaps a touch more, doesn’t seem unreasonable. But there aren’t many teams that want to pay that, given the injury history.
When Garza is on his game, he’s an upper tier pitcher. He’s not an ace, but has the upside of a no. 2 or 3. He has very good stuff, but it’s more of a matter of harnessing that and reigning his emotions in. The fact that he is such an emotional guy is almost certainly another factor in why he hasn’t signed yet.
Regardless of what factors are preventing him from signing to this point (who knows, it could even be that Garza hasn’t found the right fit for himself yet), Matt Garza is going to make a team very happy. He has big upside and is a good character to have around the clubhouse. While a deal is going to be an overpayment in this market, he’ll be a terrific signing for whoever manages to sign him, potentially over the course of the next couple of weeks.