News – if you can really call it “news” – happened while I was away. I followed along, as I’m sure most of you did, and I was flabbergasted, as I’m sure most of you were. I mean, who DIDN’T think he was a lock to make this team?
Apparently, last Friday was the deadline. It was written into his deal so he’d have plenty of time to find a backup team in the event that the Mariners decided at the last minute they didn’t want him. Funny thing is, I have a feeling had he opted to stick it out for the final week, the Mariners probably WOULD have made him their fourth or fifth starter. Instead, the Mariners told him they weren’t ready to give him that spot, and he took that as his opportunity to look elsewhere for employment.
Now, obviously, we weren’t in on the conversation. Maybe the Mariners said what they’re reported as having said, or maybe they said something different. Maybe they left the opportunity open to him – to possibly make this team if he chose to stay – or maybe they slammed the door shut and told him to take a hike. Either way, Garland figured he’d have a better chance elsewhere.
With Seattle this spring, Garland appeared as a starter in 4 games and as a reliever in 0 games. He pitched 12 innings in those 4 games, giving up 10 hits, 3 runs (2 homers), 5 walks, and 4 strikeouts. That’s the data. And apparently he (or his agent) heard enough from other teams that those numbers would suffice. It wasn’t the ballsiest of moves, but it was still a decision that came with some risk. Risk that has now been rewarded with a Major League contract with the Rockies and a guaranteed starting job in the Major Leagues.
Will this move come back to bite the Mariners in the ass? I find it incredibly hard to believe. Garland is 33 years old. Best case scenario (had he stayed, and the Mariners made him a starter): he pitches the full season with us as a back-end starter, approaches 200 innings, has an ERA around 4 and a record around .500. Had he done that, he most certainly would’ve signed a bigger deal elsewhere for multiple years. I can’t imagine the Mariners would have extended him, knowing what we have ready to burst through the upper minor leagues.
Would it have been nice to have a stabilizing influence at the back-end of our rotation a la Kevin Millwood? Sure, I guess. But, Jon Garland isn’t the difference between playoffs and no-playoffs. Hell, he’s not even the difference between contention and no-contention! Again, define “contention” however you wish (I’d say within 5 games back of a playoff spot going into the final month is a pretty conservative estimate), but Garland was hardly a savior. His ceiling is incredibly low, he had no future with this team beyond 2013 (had they opted to keep him), and his floor is pretty brutal when you think about it.
Jon Garland’s floor is essentially this: we keep him, meaning we have to make room for him on our 40-man roster. So, we cut someone younger, with more upside and more value, to bring in a guy on a one-year and ONLY one-year deal. Then, he gets injured. Because, let’s face it, there isn’t exactly the greatest track record of starting pitchers returning from shoulder surgery. So, not only have we wasted a roster spot, but we paid a guy to come in and reinjure his most fragile body part. Resulting in what the Mariners have right now! Most likely a younger guy coming in and taking that final spot (like a Beavan or a Maurer).
Might as well avoid all that potential mess. Or, at the very least, don’t let that potential mess dictate terms before you’re ready to accept. I wish Garland nothing but the best for the Colorado Rockies. Unfortunately, I have a feeling his best will result in 2013 being his final go-around.