We made several radio appearances yesterday and the most common question we were asked was whether the Rays traded Matt Garza to make the team better or to save money. The answer was simple: Both.

We have Garza projected to make $5.25 million in 2011 (through arbitration). If he is replaced on the roster by league-minimum player ($414K), the Rays will be saving almost $5 million this season. And if no other players are added to the roster, the opening day payroll now projects to be ~$33.3 million.

As a side note, with Garza gone, the Rays highest paid player in 2011 will be BJ Upton (~$5.0M)

$33.3 million is quite a step down from the 2010 opening day payroll of $72.8 million. And yet, one could make a case that the 2011 roster is still better than the 2008 roster that had an opening day payroll of $43.8 million (Now, that doesn’t mean this team is going to the World Series. Just that, on paper, they might be better).

But $33.3 million is also a lot less than $50.0 million which is about where Stuart Sternberg hinted the payroll would be in 2011. And the Rays didn’t have to trade Garza now. That makes this look like a fire sale. But is it?

Not necessarily. The Rays are always looking to do two things: Make the team better and save money. And the Rays may have been trying to do both with this trade.

But how do we define “making the team better”? We just don’t know what to expect from Jeremy Hellickson over the course of a full season. It is not unreasonable to think the 2011 Rays lost 1-2 wins by trading The Garza Complex. And in the AL East, 1-2 wins can be the difference between the Wild Card and playing golf.

In terms of this trade, the Rays think they have made the team better. But the “better” won’t come until at least 2012 and maybe later. Each of the prospects received from Chicago has a high upside, but they also all come with red flags. Chris Archer has had some control issues and may be destined for the bullpen. Robinson Chirinos is already 26 and has only been a catcher for two years. Hak-Ju Lee already has 60 errors in 180 minor league games as a shortstop. And Brandon Guyer hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

But if just two of these prospects pan out, the Rays will have saved $5 million this season and picked up at least 12 years of service time from at least two good players.

And while a $33.3 million payroll looks scary, keep in mind that the Rays still have time to spend some of the money saved. Just think, Andrew Friedman could go out and get Jim Thome, Grant Balfour and another big bullpen arm and still have a payroll less than $50.0 million in 2011.

We have been calling 2011 a “Reloading Year” for a while now. Trading Garza fits that model. Take a small step back, take a deep breath, field a good, if not contending, team in 2011 with an eye on making another run for the big prize in 2012.

Saving money now means more money to spend later. And more prospects now means better players in 2012 and 2013.

Trading Garza hurts the Rays chances of competing in 2011. But they may have just dug their heals in the ground. And they are getting ready to push back in 2012.



  1. Don says:

    Actually the Question depends on the time frame:
    Was it made to save money NOW: YES
    Will it make us a better team NOW: NO
    Will it make us better in the Future: Who Knows
    Future thought: Garza is a proven front line starter, who would definitely get better with some psychological coaching or his maturing..
    What did we get..prospects… what we always get, unproven, probably unable to beat out the mediocre players (hitters) we have now for playing time….
    So if I had to guess (now) the Cubs got us on this one…but good luck on that Pena (Mr. $10Mil) Deal!

  2. a.j. says:

    Great wording Cork! Seems like a lot of people think that January 7th was the day that the free agent signing period ended! There are still a lot of capable bats and arms out there! Heck, maybe nobody ponies up the dough for Soriano, and Friedman brings him back for year…not likely but could happen. Maybe we bring back Balfour, or sign Rauch, or Fuentes? Maybe we sign Vlad, or Damon, or Thome, or Manny? The bottom line is we didn’t hit last year either! And yet we won the division with pitching, defense and a shutdown bullpen. Did anyone get pissed when we lost Wheeler? Or Choate? I didn’t think so. We have time and money to sign two more bullpen arms and add a bat. Friedman never said we’re done making deals…there’s still time. Reality is that if we add one of the hitters I mentioned and add even just one of the arms I mentioned, we could have a shot to be better than last year. And the Garza deal makes 2012 and beyond a much deeper and tougher team to have to deal with! GO RAYS!!!

  3. Derek says:

    Archer has improved his control each of the last four years, and took a big step forward in that department last year.

    You just cant say these are problems with these guys without giving context.

    Archer has two plus pitches and a decent change. Id assume he spent most of his low minor years building those pitches. Now that he has them, he is working on control, and its improving.

    60 errors…. he is 20…. Youre better than that, Cork.

    Chirinos moved from SS to C, it takes guys who start as catchers a long time to devolop. So it took this guy as much time as you would expect for a guy, who had to learn two positions (the hardest two, and he is good at both). The bat is there, with Jaso type walk rates.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      I think you missed my point. I wasn’t bashing the prospects. I was simply point out that these aren’t can’t-miss prospects. And there are legitimate concerns about each guy.

      I never wrote that these guys wouldn’t make it. But if you think all 4 are future all-stars, you will be disappointed.

      • Derek says:

        You might have been pointing that out, but I think Its your duty to provide context. Clearly not many people know who any of these guys are. Saying a 19 year old has had 60 errors and not saying his age or explaining how thats common is crazy. I love your work, and am not trying to tell you how to run your site. I just think it makes it easier for the common fan to make their own opinions on the trade, if they know the whole story. Im not claiming they are future all stars, but even now, Id say we have won this trade.

      • smac says:

        I agree with you Cork. We recieved 4 prospects from a mediocre farm system at best. At 27 year old converted ss with 15 games experience at AAA level. Archer has the best potential out of any of these players but is still 2 – 3 years away (if he can learn control). Who know what to expect from Lee a 19 year old light hitting SS with a good glove. Sounds like a SS from the 70′s. This was just a move to save money and keep the farm system stocked. We will never win the world series this way but if there was a farm system award we would be in the lead.

    • phil says:

      Derek – Good point about Chirinos …he would make at least a good platoon partner with jaso

      • Indiana Rays Boy says:

        How many times I hear the word platoon? TOO MANY!!! I am sick an tired of platoon players, I want everyday players. Platooning players doesn’t win WS.

        • matt says:

          not true, the giants did it all year with uribe and renteria, burrell rowand and ross, and posey and molina for the start of the season

  4. Joe says:

    You know what gets me real irked and I say this constructively. It is time for new ownership in Tampa Bay. This is what happens when you grow to a level, you expect and demand more from your fans at the gate when you already know what those levels are. Stu Sternberg, and I can’t say this more succinctly, MUST communicate better and change his tact NOW, or risk alienating the more casual or common fan more common than me.

    What fans don’t understand is how convoluted the arbitration process now is. Super Two’s and three years of service time get you your first crack at the jackpot. The Rays and the Rays Way is to get you, the player to accept “guaranteed stability” over 5-6 years, buy you out through arbitration and allow a year or two of your FA to be bought into, a la Carl Crawford. What happens when a David Price doesn’t want to do that? Does he get treated like BJ Upton? Look at Jonathan Papelbon in Boston. He has done the same thing and it creates a contentious situation.

    What if Price duplicates his 2010 stats in 2011? He could conceivably set a new arbitration record for first time eligibles for 2012. What is the incentive for David Price to allow his arbitration and FA to be bought out if he doesn’t think one, the Rays will compete or two, the Rays will compensate him to what he thinks is fair market?!

    What I am getting at is the system. The CBA has some serious problems with it. Arbitration is a profane word for the Rays, ask Kazmir and Upton. If you don’t want to be bought out by the Rays, you WILL have problems!

    It goes back to Stu whipping the fans’ frenzy with the attendance issue and not having the wherewithal to UNDERSTANDING the politics of the stadium mess he in part did create. There is more to revenues than just the gate he received. He did sign a below market television deal that he and he alone must live with until 2017, which NO ONE is talking about, some are starting to.

    The CBA must be fixed I propose to add another year of service time before a player can become a free agent. Salaries must be staggered to a more accomodating level. I argue that the arbitration system forces teams like the Rays to treat their prized prospects in a “take it or leave it” situation that either you must accept or they have no use for you.

    • Derek says:

      Its not Stu’s fault that he cant pay Price. There’s no other way to put it, he needs attendance to keep these guys, and that’s what he said.

      • Joe says:

        Stu Sternberg signed an eight year television contract prior to the 2008 season that is the second lowest guaranteed revenue return in ALL of MLB.

        And a little know fact that people don’t know about, MLB shares the television and international distrubution amongst all 30 teams. The Rays total revenues that come from the gate (attendance) is approximately 55%. Far FAR lower than what a lot of people WANT you or I to believe. The Rays made a mistake with their teleivison deal and the fans are “paying” for it because “they didn’t show up”.

        Not entirely accurate, but its this type of thinking that has me all bonkered out at Stuart Sternberg and his management team. You can blend more of a medium here, but it was YOUR FAULT, not mine or Derek’s or Cork’s or Chris’s you agreed to that deal. A LOT of money you willingly left on the table!

        • Derek says:

          So the worst team in the MLB signed the worst deal. He didnt have any leverage. None at all, how low were the TV ratings that year? Id say bottom 5. They signed a deal that was equal to the value of the team back then. Not many people say 2008 back in 2007, and they are probably lying if they did. I think that only proves the point more. If 55% of their profit comes from the gate, and that 55% is nothing, then the other 45% is less than nothing.

          • Joe says:

            Two more reasons I want Stu GONE.

            One, he used the last game as a deliberate litmus test where he would have plausible deniability over anything that took place. Either he would get the gate and whatever concessions he could get or he could have came back and said “see, we couldn’t even give the tickets away”.. The story after the game seems for me believe the latter, because I think he bet against the team, he’s done it before and will do it again

            Two, back in June, he told Gary Shelton of the Times as well as both editorial boards there were FIVE BETTER CITIES right now that didn’t have baseball than Tampa Bay. Peculiar and bizarre comments volunteered by Stu for what reason? A threat? Well, it got me boiling. And when “pressed” about it, he did not elaborate. To me that comment and column told me that Stu’s eyes have came off of the market. No matter to what degree they have came off.

            Stu Sternberg simply expected that if he put a winning product on the field, he would get 30,000 a night. You know how much more revenue would be generated from 23,000 to 30,000 a game? $8 million!!! That is freaking ALL $8-10 MILLION!!! And what would that prove?! It would prove that the the gate although may be the plurality of the source of revenue of the Rays is not primary are not as lock and stock as Stu wants you or I to believe.

          • Derek says:

            What are you arguing here? What does ownership change, change? He has placed talent on the field. Thats all that should ever matter, why? Because, like TV, this is just entertainment.

    • Nathan says:

      How can you call for new ownership?? Their philosophy and transactions are what have kept the Rays in the hunt for the past 3 years. Two AL East titles on our budget speaks volumes about their leadership. Like you said, look at the system and MLB.

      • Joe says:

        Because he is mad at the fans, plain and simple. What he did BEFORE and during the season, even in the 2008 season. The subtle nuances he has had. I have had enough of Stuart Sternberg.

        The road uniforms, the LIES about the road uniforms, the surrogates like Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal saying we don’t deserve a team when there is circumstantial evidence that Stu or Matt MAY have been involved in leaking that information out.

        It’s not easy for me to say that. I know the success they have had. It’s just time to accept what you do have in Tampa Bay rather than complain about what you don’t have. It’s tact. Embrace the area. If players are going to change, then put TAMPA freaking BAY on the road uniforms DANGIT!!

      • Joe says:

        I want an owner who is not going to hold any conditions to the fans of Tampa Bay and is a true champion of the fans and region. I guess that is too hard to ask for. And I will go to the end on that. I don’t believe Stu Sternberg is or can be that man.

        • Derek says:

          That shouldnt matter to you, or to anyone. Why do you go to Rays games? To see Stu play the market? He has done everything he has promised from day one. Nothing has changed in his eyes. Nobody is coming to see his team. He has the right to be upset. You dont. Because he has delivered on his promise to field a competitive team. Even if we had the 5-6 mill to blow on Garza why waste it? Garza wasnt getting better, pitching in the AL east. The hitting is though. So why hold onto a guy that wasnt improving like he should be?

          • Joe says:

            That certainly does. Stu I think has lost the zest and fervor for the fans of the area. His comments, no matter what side of the process you are on, must give you pause. It is unfortunate.

    • Gus says:

      Joe: Welcome comrade, to the club of keeping the Sternberg ownership accountable. Your comments are well thought out. While any one of this off-season’s moves may be defesnible, the pattern of these along with all other moves (but for PB and Soriano) the last 4 years is the same: when an option to spend money presents itself, the Rays don’t; when an option to go cheap presents itself, the Rays move quickly.

      At some point you go from being young and smart to just cheap and your good young players start looking for a way out (Now paging, Price, David). I fear we may be approaching that point this winter . . . .

  5. Derek says:

    Garza might not have been useless to this team for 2011, but giving his raise, and the haul of prospects, he was the most expendable. Garza is moving in the wrong direction, as is Shields. Trading Shields doesnt get you six million, or lee and Archer. Wade Davis was 12-10 with 168 innings pitched last year. He had a 4.07 ERA. That is a very good rookie year, but Hellboy should be able to reach those numbers. Garza was 15-10, 204 innings and a 3.91 ERA. Niemann: 12-8, 174 innings, 4.39 ERA.

    The whole point, is that Hellboy doesnt have to replace Garza. The rotation as a whole just needs to replace the production. Which is something like 10-20 innings pitched, and .20 of ERA. Niemann can do that alone. Include Hellboy, and a hopeful, but not drastic improvement from Shields, and we should have a better rotation in 2011.

    • Joe says:

      There is a difference in hoping and wishing, rather than expecting. Sorry, it is.

      And you know what, that may very well happen, and if that happens, great. But Niemann has yet to go to 200 IP and we still have to see how Hellboy weathers the course of a full big league season. Shields has to learn not to rely on that changeup so much and learn to guile his way through tough spots in the middle of games. That and we have to have reliable pen arms?

      See where I am going? Questions. And the more questions that are answered affirmatively, you WILL be right. The teams with LESS questions are regarded as surer things. And that is my point. In 2008, every Rays question came out smelling like roses and won an AL East and AL championship. I would rather have LESS questions and more surer things.

      • Derek says:

        Niemann doesnt need 200 innings. 20 innings need to be spread out among five guys. Davis, if healthy, should see more than a 20 inning increase. He is our horse now. There is no question there. Shields had almost the same type of season as Garza. Dont judge one, while singing praise for the other.

        • Joe says:

          That is a fair point…Davis is bound to improve. These guys will have the weight of increased expectations. And if the bullpen is not addressed, their expectations will increase even more.

          • Derek says:

            Davis was rated higher the hell not too long ago, Mcgee too I believe. Davis is a 200 inning guy, who actually had a better rookie year than Price did. That doesnt say anything other than Davis is ready to help carry this staff.

  6. Joe says:

    Another thing, what happened to keeping one eye on the present and another eye on the future? That seems like we have both eyes on the future and none on now with this trade.

    Considering the context and the lack of MEDIA AVAILABILITES with Stu Sternberg, unfortunately it is fair to at least consider the fire sale possibility. Say what you want, but he has done a poor, a very poor job of being communicative with local writers and has done a great job of showing “message discipline” without having to prove himself or elaborate on his intent.

    And if anything about the Rays, they don’t like pursuing free agents, they would rather pay their own (like what Zobrist will be doing) than anything else. I understand what they are doing but I am philsophically opposed unless they can undisputedly prove to me their P/L statements are as “accurate” as they say to the media. Moneyball East and trimming the hedges can keep a club “competitive”, but I don’t see any World Series championships coming to the Trop soon. After all it is about the big prize, right?!

    • Derek says:

      Does Walmart explain all their price changes? Why they dont carry this or that item anymore? He doesnt have to explain anything, if you cant see why they made this move, then that is on you.

      • Joe says:

        Yes, he does have to explain it. If he cares about it as much as he says he does, then he should and will. I may still gripe about it, but at least he can explain it. There are some serious questions about the teams financial wherewithal if the team is at this payroll level at this juncture. That can be changed at any moment, but again, that is my thing.

        If I owned a product and if I wanted connection with the fans and sympathy, yes I would. Can’t compare Walmart to fans connecting to a big league club.

        • Derek says:

          This happened yesterday. Im sure when they announce it. Reporters will ask FRIEDMAN, why he made they trade. He will explain himself, but you wont buy it anyway. Why? because you either hate winning, hate the Rays, or do no research yourself, and expect to be hand-fed the answers.

          • Joe says:

            There is a difference in winning and WINNING A WORLD SERIES! That’s the difference!! You are correct in what you said, but what about winning it all?

            Stu said it, he wants to play meaningful September games. I guess that’s the price when you don’t want to WIN IT ALL!! That’s my GOAL!

        • Derek says:

          Walmart is a business just like the Rays. Both provide consumers with, cheap, good products. The difference is, people buy Walmart’s products. Without needing the Waltons to explain why they dont carry product “A” anymore.

        • Derek says:

          You can either win once like Marlins, or you can set yourself up to compete year in and year out. Winning a world series is luck. Winning the ALE two out of three years is skill. I want to win the series, but Id rather win with the team the Heat have now, than the one they had in 06. Why? because they have a better team now, one that will compete every year.

          • smac says:

            Do you really feel this team is in a position to still challenge for the AL East? We won a lot of games last year based on our starting pitching and bullpen (with the exception of Shields)! We have NO bullpen this year and even less hitting than last year. We have enough pitching in majors and minors to be “competetive” for years. Even when we lose Price in two years. But is that the best we can hope for…

          • Derek says:

            You have to set your expectations to the right level. The Red Sox got a lot better by getting Crawford, A-gon, and even Jenks. We dont get better by keeping Garza. Its hard to say if we got worse. Garza came into 2010 as a Cy fav. Him and lester. His stats last year were no where near cy stuff. We cant sign guys like that, so we have to do what we can to compete. depending on how you look at it. (6 mill, a spot for Hellboy) we might have gotten better by trading him, IF we use the money the right way. We wont be the favorites, ever probably, but we have the potential to play the same type of baseball as last year. With a better Sox team, that might not be enough. Who knows.

  7. Joe says:

    Last thing, Stu’s words about “money not being an obstacle” at the trade deadline ring so loud to me. This team would rather trade players for prospects, rather than prospects for players, i.e. Cliff Lee or perhaps Adam Dunn. That may be wise over a period of time, but if the owner is going to make comments like that, then he should expect people like me to question his sincerity.

    I just don’t know if if this is the way its going to be (which I expect it will be), then its time he puts the team for sale and perhaps Chris Sullivan will want to get the itch to run things. I don’t know if Stu got perturbed at the process or being so ARROGANT about fans thinking and expecting so much SO QUICK, but that is my thing on that. Going back to 2006 payroll levels as it stands is not the way to build enthusiasm with your fans or your product and gain political traction.

    • smac says:

      Will this team EVER trade its vast wealth of prospects for real professional baseball players?

    • Derek says:

      The problem with being an internet GM is we dont know who was asked for. (to Friedman btw, because Stu is just a bank account really. Thats all an owner should be.) We need Jennings for this year, but we might have had to trade him if we wanted Lee. The same goes for Dunn.

  8. smac says:

    Its true we dont know what other teams ask for etc. But with our supposed wealth of pitching prospects we could certainly have made some plays for young major league hitters. Teams are begging for pitching and I would think we could trade some of our SP depth in the minors for established young major league hitters such as a Billy Butler, Colby Rasmus.

    • Derek says:

      I dont disagree, but at the deadline, the asking prices could have been too high. Tomorrow, we could trade all of these guys. We dont know. Till we start the 2011 season without a soild hitting group, you really cant argue anything.

  9. smac says:

    Very true…but thats what this forum is about speculation and opinion. Derek I would like your opinion on what you think the rays will do with the backend of the bullpen and the DH, 1B situation? Do you really believe the Rays will pay asking prices for any decent hitter left on the market? The same question in relation to a setup man and closer?

    • Derek says:

      Balfour. Hopefully not a three year deal, but if its cheap ill take it.
      I like Mcgee the starter more than the reliever. (LHPs with a power arm are very rare.) Jon Rauch, 3.11 ERA 21 saves last year, only a type b too.

      The hitter situation scares me. I dont like the bats on a number of our guys.

      Thome is too much for what he offers. Damons loss of power worries me, Vlad is best in the Al west. Im sure he wouldnt be as good here, but could be worth it.

      I like Manny, a lot. Just because I know he cant hit in this league.

      We lost Crarwford’s batting average. I think thats our biggest need.

  10. David Bloom says:

    The thing that is being forgotten here is we are talking about Garza who a good pitcher and in his prime from an age standpoint, and is under the teams control (w/ arbitration eligible pay jumps) until free agency.

    It wasn’t too long ago we had a terrible time of developing pitchers even with all these good picks we accumulated with team finishing with high draft picks.

    This was a Billy Beane like move and like Cork indicates its putting all the variables into play (like saving money and roster flexibility).

    We all knew we couldn’t keep players in Tampa Bay when they hit free agency (i.e CC), but this move in unprecedented with this new regime as far as from a talent perspective because where do we make up the wins (i.e. WAR) that Garza was slated to provide in 2011?

    The WAR takes a hit on this one in 2011 for sure. Its going just like Romano said, may be the Rays should plan for beyond 2011. Many experts like Rob Neyer challenged this point saying the Rays will put a competitive team on field for 2011. They will be competitive, but not so much they will be challenging for AL East in 2011. Yesterdays move changes things.

    • Derek says:

      James Shields had a higher WAR last year. 1.8 for Garza, 2.2 for Shields. The WAR problem with our rotation is with Price, not Garza. Its easy to replace 1.8. Can Price replicate 4.3? Ill try this again, Niemann and Davis should improve. Hellboy could even put up better numbers than Davis did last year. Shields doesnt really need to do better, and we still make up Garza’s 1.8. Why does everyone think Garza was amazing last year? He was crap. CRAP, crap. Well, not CRAP, but crap.

    • Charles says:

      Garza had a 2.0 WAR last season. It’s a positive number, but it’s not irreplacable. For perspective, both Bruce Chen and Freddy Garcia had higher WAR values. So if we’re going by WAR, the Rays have to make up 2 wins. They can do that for well under the $6 million Garza was going to make. Now there are still questions about the bullpen and bats, for sure. But to me, those are separate issues from this trade. This trade is about getting good pieces for a guy that would have been overpaid in relation to payroll (he’d be more than 10% of payroll assuming this really is a $50 million team) for what he is.

      I agree with Neyer that we will put a competitive team on the field. I actually still think that this team as constituted has no more questions than the Yankees do – they have different problems (age, rotation) than we do (power, bullpen), but problems nonetheless. But I don’t buy into the notion we can’t compete. I think the Red Sox definitely put themselves into the best position to win the division, but I don’t think the playoffs are out of the question at all.

  11. zenny says:

    WAR – what is it good for?

    Advanced baseball metrics give a useful perspective on players and their value. However, the game is played on the field, not the spreadsheet.

    WAR and the like can be useful, but any stat that tells you that James Shields was more valuable than Matt Garza last year must be taken with a grain of salt. If anybody thinks that any team would trade a pack of prospects with real potential for Shields is crazy. The Rays would be lucky to get a pack of used baseballs in return. (I, for one, would take that deal, but that’s another topic…)

    As for the actual trade, it’s a calculated risk. Friedman and Co. can’t play by the same rules as the Yankees and Red Sox. The Rays have to move good players too early, not too late, as they cannot overpay for aging stars (see Jeter, Derick) and must keep the farm system fully stocked with viable replacements.

    I’m sad to see Garza go, but it’s a reasonable and potentially very smart move.

    • Derek says:

      I dont understand the mantra “the game is played on the field..” In this instance, WAR wasnt being used to predict anything. The games were already played on the field, and Garza wasnt very good in a lot of them. Can you provide me with ANYTHING, stats, video, sworn testimony from Evan Longoria, anything that proves Garza was anything more than average last year, because I can show you a number of ways how he is moving in the wrong direction.

      • Sarah says:

        I can’t really contribute to this argument, but I’ve got to give Zenny credit for the “WAR — what is it good for?” line. Love it. But now I can’t get that song out of my head.

    • Charles says:

      No stat is perfect – believing that WAR is without flaws and believing it’s not useful at all are both short-sighted. These stats are tools that can provide an objective look at what we could otherwise only view subjectively. Not everyone believes in WAR, and not even those who do all calculate it the same way (Derek and I definitely got our numbers from different places. Baseball Reference has Garza at 2.0 and Shields at -1.3, which definitely more closely matches what we saw on the field).

      But part of the subjective side of things comes into trades like this one. To the Rays, a $6 million 2.0 WAR pitcher is an unwise use of resources when there’s a guy arguably more talented ready to step in for $400K. To the Cubs, a $6 million 2.0 WAR pitcher is an affordable innings eater to stabilize the rotation. Garza is the same pitcher in both cases, but the situational subjectivity of the teams ends up factoring into the final value.

      I think teams like the Rays have to rely on stats more than most because they need as much objective certainty as they can get. They can’t afford to go on gut and have it backfire like the Yankees or Red Sox can. The Sox paid John Lackey $18 million last season for LESS WAR than Garza gave the Rays. A contract like that would absolutely sink the Rays. Having to stick with Pat Burrell for so long almost sunk them. Garza’s not bad like that, but the stats say he’s not much better than average either – not the kind of player this team would give $6 million.

      • Sarah says:

        Our gut impressions of Garza don’t also jibe with his stats, be they WAR or any other, because he was so hot or cold. We’ve all seen him implode, and we’ve all seen him with perfect game stuff. Average those things together and you’ve got, well, an average pitcher – but most “average” pitchers don’t have the potential to pitch an awesome ALCS game 7 like Mr. Garza did.

        • Charles says:

          Very true. At the start of last year, I was thinking Cy Young. Then somewhere in the middle of the season, my thought was that this guy couldn’t outpitch my cat. Then came the no-hitter, then the season ended with a series of miserable starts against the Sox & Yankees. I’m sure somewhere in between all that were a number of pretty average starts that I don’t remember at all.

          • Derek says:

            Thats Matt Garza and James Shields for ya. Just depends on how much money you want to spend to get the same production. At their best you can make the case for Garza, but we won last year when he was at his worst.

      • Derek says:

        I use fangraphs, which loves fip so shields will look better that way. Either way, you can compare all their stats. Shields wins. Other than BABIP and HR/FB, but Garza has a higher FB% by a decent margin actually, and a lower GB%. Shields balls are just hit harder, I think thats an easier correction than getting Garza to strike more out, walk less, and keep more balls on the ground. Wrigley could be dangerous for him. (Garza had a low walk rate in 2010 btw, just comparing him to shields though.)

        • zenny says:

          Stats are supposed to be models of reality, not the other way around. Garza was up and down last year, but he’s clearly a #2-3 level MLB starter. Unfortunately, James Shields has slipped for 4 seasons in a row and often looked like he was throwing batting practice out there.

          If it’s so easy to correct “just getting hit harder”, a whole lot of ex-pitchers would still be in the league. Sometimes high BABIP is a fluke, sometimes it’s a sign that a pitcher has lost the ability to fool hitters. Unfortunately, since it keeps getting worse season after season, it looks like James might be in the second group.

          Sabermatics is a great tool, but you have to use it with common sense. Throw out any numbers you want, but there is NO way that the Rays would have gotten the same haul from any team in exchange for Shields that they just got for Garza. None.

          • Derek says:

            Shields has had two bad years now. 08 was an amazing year for him, his best actually, so im not sure what you meant by four years. I mean, he has only been up for four years. Listen, Im not of the saber crowd that thinks shields is god, but i would say the increase in strikeouts, and the decrease in walks means he was fooling guys. I would also consider a jump from a BABIP of .293 to .347 in two seasons as a fluke, but again, who knows. Garza IS a #2 starter, but he wasnt of that caliper last year, and we still won the east. Im saying that we dont need to replace CY Garza, we just need to replace his numbers from last year. Numbers that took a hit in ever stat, some significantly.

          • Derek says:

            Youre right, they would have gotten less for Shields. Again, Im not defending Shields. Im defending trading Garza over Shields. Garza would be making more in 2011, and would net us better prospects. Neither of us know who will have the better year next year. (although probably Garza, with him being in the pitcher’s paradise of the NLC) Shields is just the cheaper risk, and just, if not more proven of the two.

  12. a.j. says:

    There’s really no sense in arguing…we won’t know if the 2011 team is more valuable unless we sign a bat and add a closer. The bullpen is a question mark, but every year, every bullpen is a question mark! The closer is the only bullpen role that you can pretty much bet on. Since, realistically, we won’t be bringing Soriano back, Fuentes and Rauch seem like reasonable solutions. We’ve been connected to Fuentes, and offer the best opportunity for him to close. So, I think something comes of the closer role soon. We’ve been connected to all 4 DH guys (Damon, Thome, Vlad, and Manny). I think Vlad may make the most sense due to his high average and provides the most protection to Longo. Those two additions would put our payroll around $44-45 million. I think that’d also give us a team with a chance to win 90 games or more. Then, what will some of you complain about?

    • Don says:

      We could complain about posters who want to sign over-the-hill (past their prime) players for outrageous salaries…..something management has already said they are not going do…would that be OK?

      • a.j. says:

        I know you’re still bitter about Crawford leaving, but do you really think he’ll be worth over $20 mil 7 years from now? I love the guy but he won’t be worth the contract he signed by then. These “over-the-hill” guys we’re looking at are still able to hit. One of them will be brought in for one year until these guys we just traded for are ready for the bigs. Are you going to complain if someone like Vlad is signed and hits .300/.380./480?

  13. I’m gonna miss Garza, and have had a doomsday reaction to this trade. But this post cheered me up, took away my doomsday reaction. Thanks, Cork.

  14. a.j. says:

    I definitely don’t disagree with ya there buddy! It’s gotta be a point for them to get a guy or two who will hit for some AVG too! Upton looks like he’s going up to bat looking like he wants to wait for a walk half the time.

  15. Don says:

    Oh No: Direct quote from Garza according to the heater:
    “I’m Happy to be in Chicago and Happy to be a Cub”
    Immediate reaction from Tampa media and fans, : “That Traitor”

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