The contracts given to Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza by the Orioles, Twins and Brewers, respectively, were remarkably similar. Each called for at least four years and roughly $12.5 million per year, then the going rate for what the offseason market deemed to be middle-tier but still highly valuable starters. The deal between Jimenez and the Orioles looks to be a straight-up four-year deal, while the Nolasco and Garza contracts have various options for a fifth year. It’s probably good that the Orioles didn’t add an option for a fifth year with Ubaldo, because the team recently reassigned him to bullpen duty. As for the other two, Garza wins the race pretty easily, making the Brewers winners to this point.
Jimenez has a 4.83 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP on the year in 20 starts. He’s missed some time on the disabled list, but when he’s been on the mound he’s been pretty dreadful. Jimenez has 66 walks, which ranks second in the majors behind A.J. Burnett of the Phillies. His strikeout numbers are down. His FIP is actually worse than his ERA. In other words, it hasn’t worked out so far for Jimenez and the Orioles, and Brewers fans should be glad General Manager Doug Melvin wasn’t in a position to reach for Jimenez as a last-ditch option for starting pitching this past offseason.
As for Ricky Nolasco, his tale has mirrored Jimenez to a degree, but at least the Twins are still getting starts, albeit less-than-quality ones, out of their big offseason splash. Nolasco signed the biggest free-agent contract in Twins history, but has done little thus far to prove his worth. Nolasco, coming off some decent years with the Marlins and Dodgers, has missed a significant number of starts already and sports a 5.96 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP in 20 starts. Nolasco, unlike Jimenez, has had transition from the National to the American League this season, but regardless, the results have been disappointing for Minnesota.
Although Matt Garza has recently missed some time on the disabled list as well, his fortunes with the Milwaukee Brewers have been much brighter. Garza sports a 3.58 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP in 23 starts. Garza has already pitched approximately 30 more innings than Jimenez or Nolasco. Furthermore, although Garza’s numbers haven’t been as sharp as many would have liked, his presence in the clubhouse and dugout is palpable. On the flip side, what kind of impression is Jimenez making on the Orioles, when he’s been demoted to a relief role? Or Nolasco, getting the big bucks but failing to show younger pitchers how to get the job done?
By no means is Garza is model of efficiency or balanced temperament. Nevertheless, aside from some rocky starts here and there, he’s been a pretty good pitcher for the Brewers to this point and he plays a crucial role in the Milwaukee rotation, buoying the other pitchers and serving as an experienced teammate. The Brewers need Garza to come of the disabled list and return strong, otherwise some may wonder why the team would mess with the fill-ins Jimmy Nelson and Mike Fiers, who have been great in the absence of Garza and Kyle Lohse. But so far, Garza is worlds better than Ubaldo Jimenez and Ricky Nolasco right now, and for the same price.