A look at Jon Garland, a free agent the Mets have been linked to this offseason. The Mets have been linked to numerous free agents and I want to take a look at each one, giving a breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses and what the club should expect from the player going forward. Here is an overview of RHP Jon Garland.
For eight straight years, Garland has delivered double-digit wins and has topped 190 IP each season. His ERAs have both a high (4.90) and low (3.50) outlier, but otherwise they have been between 4.00 and 4.50 in that stretch. No free agent pitcher offers Garland’s track record of durability and consistency. And while it seems like he has been around forever, Garland just turned 30 in late September.
Last year’s line looks disappointing but Garland had a tough time adjusting to his new surroundings in Chase Field. Many thought Garland would receive a positive bump in his numbers moving from the American League but instead he was knocked around early in the year in his home starts.
He gave up four or more runs in four of his first six games in Chase Field, including three times allowing seven or more runs. But starting in June, Garland began to pitch as well at home as he did on the road. He had Quality Starts in five of his six games at Chase Field before he was dealt to the Dodgers for the stretch run.
Garland pitched very well for Los Angeles, where he posted a 2.72 ERA in six games. But that was not remarkably better than what he did overall last year in non-Arizona parks. In Chase Field, Garland had a 5.29 ERA. In all the other parks he pitched, Garland posted a 3.13 ERA. Looking at it another way, in the final four months of the season (three of those with the Diamondbacks), Garland had a 3.35 ERA over 147.2 IP.
A ground ball pitcher with good control, Garland gives his team a chance to win. He is neither flashy nor overpowering but merely consistent. Also, the Dodgers did not offer Garland arbitration, meaning the Mets would not have to surrender a draft pick in order to sign him.
Both his FIP (4.48) and his xFIP (4.63) were higher than his ERA last season and indicated a pitcher who is below-average. While Garland noticed a bump in his strikeouts moving to the National League, his 4.81 K/9 rate still marks him as more of a pitch-to-contact type that needs a solid infield defense playing behind him. Last year, only Daniel Muprhy was above-average defensively in the infield for the Mets. The Dodgers had Garland abandon his slider and focus on his curve ball last year. It may just be coincidence, but Johan Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey each feature a slider as their primary breaking ball, perhaps an indication that the Mets prefer that pitch.
Garland’s early-season troubles masked what was a very good year in 2009. His final numbers do not give an indication of how well he pitched through the majority of the season. Garland is known for being durable and consistent. If how he pitched over the final four months of the season is any indication of how he would be going forward, Garland could be the second-best free agent pitcher on the market behind John Lackey and end up being one of the top values available. If the Mets fail to get Lackey, then Garland should become their top priority. His proven track record of durability and potential upside make up for the team’s infield defense.