Detroit Tigers: Should free agent Matt Garza be considered?

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 27: Matt Garza (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 27: Matt Garza (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers need to find a fifth starter for the 2018 season. Could veteran right-hander Matt Garza possibly be the answer?

With the 2017 World Series in the history books and the offseason now here, MLB teams can begin addressing their needs for next year. One area that the Detroit Tigers would be wise to take a look at this winter is their starting pitching.

Assuming Michael Fulmer returns healthy from elbow surgery, the Tigers will have an ace for next season. Lefties Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris also appear very likely to be part of the rotation. Veteran Jordan Zimmermann will be looking to rebound from a pair of subpar seasons. At this point, the Tigers are still in need of a fifth starter.

On Thursday, the Tigers announced that they had declined Anibal Sanchez‘s option for next season. While it is still possible that Sanchez and the Tigers could reunite on a new deal, Detroit may also want to look elsewhere. As far as in-house candidates go, Buck Farmer may currently be the best option for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. The 26-year-old Farmer had a 6.75 ERA through 11 starts this past season.

According to Evan Woodbery of MLive, General Manager Al Avila announced last month that the Tigers will be seeking out “[players] that are maybe bargains” this offseason. Obviously, that would seem to take any of the big-name, expensive free agent starters off of the table. One name that one could potentially see falling into the bargain category, however, is Matt Garza.

Garza’s recent struggles

Once a very sturdy and dependable starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, the veteran Garza has spent the last four seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. Per Adam McCalvy of, Garza had an option for the 2018 season that has since been voided. According to USA Today Sports, the soon-to-be 34-year-old Garza was one of 149 players to file for free agency on Thursday.

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Aside from a rock solid 2014 campaign, Garza’s time in Milwaukee was a bit of a disappointment. In 2015, he went 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP through 26 games (25 starts). He was, however, a bit better the following year. In a campaign in which he was limited to just 19 starts, Garza went 6-8 with a 4.51 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 2016.

During this past season, there was actually a time when it appeared that Garza might be in the middle of a resurgence. Through his first 15 starts of the season, he posted a very respectable 3.83 ERA.  He then landed on the DL yet again, this time with a lower leg strain, at the end of July. A rough August and September later launched Garza’s ERA on the season up to a lofty 4.94.

Despite his recent troubles on the mound, Garza has still been worth  a total of 2.3 fWAR over the past two seasons. He also posted an excellent 54.8 percent ground ball rate back in 2016, though it shrank to 40 percent this past season. If available on an affordable one-year deal, Garza could potentially be an ideal low-risk signing for the Tigers.

Familiarity with Tigers’ coaches

Garza might also have a certain level of comfort and familiarity with the Tigers’ current coaching staff as well. When Garza first came up with the Twins, newly-hired manager Ron Gardenhire was the first skipper that he played for. He also worked with newly-hired pitching coach Chris Bosio as a member of the Cubs.

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While Garza would hardly be a sure thing, other comparable free agents such as the oft-injured Brett Anderson and former Tiger Doug Fister would come with their share of uncertainties as well. Given the place where the rebuilding Tigers are currently at, taking a chance on Garza would not be a bad idea at all.