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Tuesday Rockpile: Colorado Rockies Free Agent Target - Jon Garland?

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Gavin Floyd would be a wonderful addition to the Rockies staff.  Solid but not spectacular walk, strikeout and groundball rates provide a solid foundation.  But Floyd has a team friendly deal, owed just $12mil through 2012 with a team option for 2013.  The Rockies would not get him cheap in a trade.

Fans understandably are emotionally invested in the offseason, pushing for their to trade or sign the best players available (Justin Upton, Zack Greinke, Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli, Jorge de la Rosa).  But perhaps it's not the best players that the Rockies need.  At least, that's what Dan O'Dowd told Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post last Monday.

"We'll stick to the overall vision we've created for the organization. We don't get ahead of ourselves trying to fill needs that are hard to fill. We take things one step at a time. We're searching for pieces like everyone else. But we're not looking for the best player; we're looking for the right player"

Might I suggest that the right player might not be Floyd but another former White Sox pitcher - Jon Garland.   As an appetizer for the case for (and against) Garland, consider the following.

With Jorge de la Rosa looking too expensive by the day (he asked the Rockies for FIVE years), Colorado is staring at a Ubaldo Jimenez/Jhoulys Chacin/Jason Hammel/Aaron Cook top four in the rotation with Felipe Paulino and Esmil Rogers fighting for the fifth spot.    While that seems to lack upper rotation firepower, there is potentially a larger issue here.

Jimenez has yet to go on the disabled list in his career, but he finished 3rd in Pitcher Abuse Points after being ridden hard by Jim Tracy.  "The Chief" may or may not be an injury in waiting.  While we are expecting big things from Chacin, he still has just 22 starts under his belt.  Can he be counted on for 200 innings?  Jason Hammel suffered "dead arm" in September.  Is that issue a symptom of a more serious injury?  Aaron Cook seems to have rotten luck with injuries, but he still has reached 30 starts and more than 166IP just twice in his 8-year career.  And is anyone expecting big innings from Paulino/Rogers?

Off-topic is here.

Off-topic mobile.

Pros

It seems apparent the Rockies could use a stable innings-eater, one that can guarantee that Greg Smith, Josh Muecke, Alan Johnson or Chaz Roe aren't pushed into meaningful innings due to injury or ineffectiveness.  If the Rockies are looking for an innings eater, Jon Garland completely laps the field in that category.  Consider:

  • Garland has started at least 32 games in NINE consecutive seasons.
  • He has posted at least 200 IP in 6 of the last 7 seasons.  The exception?  2008, when he fell just ten outs short.
  • He had been between 1.8 and 3.8 fWAR each season since 2002 until 2010, when he came in with 0.8 WAR despite a career best ERA.  That damn Petco Park.
  • Baseball Reference argues that Garland was worth 1.8 WAR in 2010.
That sort of stability could be the "right player" Dan O'Dowd is looking for to help cushion potential blows from injuries or disappointments in the rotation.

The 1997 1st round pick by the Cubs set career bests in strikeout rate (6.12 per 9) and groundball rate (51.9%, which ranked 13th in MLB) in 2010.  Those suggest he might be more than just an innings-eater but a downright effective pitcher if he makes the Rockies his fourth NL West team in three seasons.

Perhaps most important, Garland's availability will make him perhaps the Rockies most likely acquisition, if not necessary the "best" option.  No prospects or Ian Stewarts would need to be dealt to add Garland, as would be the case with James Shields, Zack Greinke or Gavin Floyd.  As a Type B free agent, no draft picks would have to be surrendered, which would be necessary to sign Carl Pavano, provided Minnesota offers him arbitration today.

Instead, the Rockies would likely be looking at a one-year contract with an option for a second year, as Garland has signed the last two seasons.  In fact, only two seasons since 2002 has the 31-year old pitched a season on a contract he didn't just sign the previous offseason.  With potential steps forward from Chacin, Rogers and Christian Friedrich, a short term deal might serve the Rockies well.

Morning edit: The Denver Post's Jim Armstrong writes this morning that, according to SI.com, the Rockies have offered a one-year contract to Garland. However, snooping around yields that SI's Jon Heyman has only tweeted the Rockies' hope of signing Garland to a one-year deal, with the native Californian still seeking two years early in the offseason.


Cons

There is no disguise; signing Garland is not a big splash acquisition, and aiming for a consistently average starter is a double edged sword.   While Colorado could be quite sure the signing would not be a bust, the potential for a breakout season is completely absent.  It's not like he's Jason Marquis or anything.  Or maybe...right, this is the cons section. 

After turning down his $6.75million option for 2011 with San Diego, the right-hander is sure to expect more money on a one year deal.  Either that, or he hated pitching in Petco Park, which I am going to suggest is doubtful.  If he finally does get injured or pitches in the low range of his ability, that kind of salary would not be market value for his production, especially considering his salary could be more than Josh Willingham, James Shields and Mike Napoli.

Garland walked more batters in 2010 than in any year in his career since becoming a full-time starter, which could be the beginning of a trend.  Despite pitching at Petco Park, he allowed 11% of his flyballs to leave the park, which is slightly above average.  That could change dramatically going from the #1 pitching park in MLB to the #1 hitting park, and if it does, things could get ugly in a hurry.

 

At any rate, don't be surprised if Garland becomes an even more common name in the Denver Post as other options dry up.  He's a safe choice, and though Dan O'Dowd used to be known as "Dealin' Dan O'Dowd," his tenure has been marked more and more often with safe choices in recent years.

 

Links

Baseball Prospectus | Analyze This: Dark Horse Free Agents: Jorge De La Rosa  This is a few weeks old, but I haven't seen it linked here. Jesse Behr used TEH STATISTICZ to explain why Jorge de la Rosa could be a difference maker on the free agent market.

Baseball Prospectus | B-Warned: Carl Pavano  Behind a high contract rate, an unsustainable swing rate at pitches out of the strike zone and a poor 4.8 K/9 rate (worse than Garland), BPro's Brandon Warne suggests Pavano might be fool's gold...again.

 

Towers: Nothing new on Upton trade front | MLB.com: News  I am not expecting Justin Upton to be dealt.  Kevin Towers wants to "win in 2011," meaning he wants more MLB value in 2011 than Upton can provide plus prospects, which leaves what motivation for the acquiring team?

 Gonzalez third behind MVP Votto - The Denver Post CarGo talks about how Coors Fields changes the national view of his accomplishments.