The news that Matt Garza has signed with not the Twins isn't much of a surprise. That he got his four years also isn't much of a surprise. The fact that he was signed for just $52 million total? That's a bit of a surprise. Earlier this winter, speculation on a four-year contract for Garza meant you were penciling in $60 to $70 million.
All things being equal, yes, I think most people would rather pay Garza the extra $3 million spread over four years in order to secure his services instead of the services of Ricky Nolasco. But it's really, really hard to play that game, because nothing happens in a vacuum.
Maybe Nolasco would have been available for less if the Twins had waited, but there's no telling if he'd have then signed in Minnesota.
Maybe if the Twins had waited they could have focused on Garza, but competition drives up prices in most circumstances and there's no way to account for the differences between a player's "willingness" and his "preference" in a given organization.
And you also can guarantee that if, by this point in the winter, the Twins' major moves had been Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey, we'd be less than thrilled with those results.
Jim Pohlad, Terry Ryan, and the brain trust of the front office knew that they needed to be aggressive on the free agent pitcher market if they were to get anyone's attention, and they've done that. The goal was to make the starting rotation better, and as easy as it is to second guess and to judge decisions in hindsight, it's impossible to tell how things would have turned out if different decisions would have been made.
In spite of the fact that Garza has averaged just 130 innings over the last two seasons, I do still like this contract for Milwaukee. Garza solidifies an already talented set of potential starting pitchers, led by Yovani Gallardo and the now 35-year old Kyle Lohse. Marco Estrada is talented, Wily Peralta is joined by fellow youngsters Tyler Thornburg, Will Smith, and Johnny Hellweg. The Twins have some good pitching on the way, but for now they can only hope for seven solid options like that.
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