It’s always strange watching a talented, promising team be dismantled before your very eyes. The Rays are no different. After two AL East championships and an AL pennant in three seasons (no easy feat), the Rays have become a victim of their own success. Gone is speedy left-fielder Carl Crawford who took his talents to Boston for the bargain basement price of $142M over seven years. Gone is slugging first baseman Carlos Pena who found someway to spin a .196/.325/.407, 1.0 WAR season into a 1 year $10M deal from the Cubs. Gone is the former slick fielding shortstop Jason Bartlett who was shipped to San Diego for a couple of fringe relief pitchers in their mid-20s. Now, it appears that Red Sox slaying starting pitcher, Matt Garza, is also on his way out of Tampa.
The Tampa Bays are reportedly in talks with the Cubs, Brewers, and Rangers regarding Garza. The Rays are said have targeted outfield prospect Lorezno Cain from the Brewers. No word yet on who they might be interested in obtaining from the Cubs or Rangers. Talks are still in the early stages, so we probably won’t see a lot of movement on this front for a few days—if at all.
On the surface, Garza appears to have had a very 2010 good season, putting up a 15-10 record with a 3.91 ERA in 204-2/3 innings. Those numbers are a bit misleading though. Garza saw a huge drop in K/9 rate (21% decrease from 8.38 in 2009 to 6.60), which not surprisingly corresponded with an increased contact rate (80.9% to 83.7%). Additionally, his ground ball rate continued its steady, yet rapid decline from a career high mark of 47.7% with the Twins in 2007 to 35.8% in 2010. Not surprisingly, his decrease in groundball rate as been accompanied by an increase in home run rate. These two factors (strikeout and groundball rates) partially resulted in Garza posting a rather pedestrian 4.51 xFIP and 1.8 WAR.
The good news is that Garza is only 27, and will probably bounce back in 2011. His velocity is still strong, and his fastball is still considered to be a “plus” pitch per Fangraphs pitch run values. If he can rediscover his slider (which produced a lot of whiffs in 2009), I see no reason why Garza can’t be a productive number two or excellent number three starter. If not, he’ll likely become an overpriced back of the rotation starter before too long.