The Diamondbacks reportedly signed free agent SP Jon Garland to a one year contract worth roughly $6-$8 million bucks. Garland went 14-8 with the Angels last season, but produced a lackluster 4.90 ERA in 32 starts.
The deal gives the Diamondbacks the veteran presence they were lacking after they let Randy Johnson sign with the Giants. The 29 year old Garland has started at least 32 games in every season since 2002 while winning at least 10 games in each of those seasons. Garland will be a consistent #4 starter for the Diamondbacks by pitching deep into ball games and eating lots of innings.
However, this move perplexes me.
At the beginning of free agency, the Diamondbacks decided to only offer Johnson, a future hall of famer, a one year deal worth roughly $3 million. Johnson was willing to stay with the Diamondbacks in 2009 for $5 million, but the Diamondbacks did not increase their offer. Keep in mind that Johnson was coming off a season in which he won 11 games, but produced an impressive 3.91 ERA while striking out 173 hitters in 184 innings. At any age, those are some great numbers.
So now the Diamondbacks, perhaps out of desperation, decided to offer Jon Garland double what they were offering Johnson. How does that make sense?
Even though Garland is 16 years younger than the Big Unit, his ceiling is still not as high as Johnson's. Garland cannot strike out hitters and will never be confused for dominant. Garland will produce an ERA somewhere north of 4 and rely heavily on his control and defense to get hitters out.
Johnson on the other hand, even at age 45 can strike out lots of hitters and make hitters look foolish with his solid fastball and legendary slider. While Johnson will no longer be confused for a dominant pitcher, he can still perform at a very high level and be an effective third starter. If he can stay healthy, then Johnson will probably put up better numbers than Garland in 2009.
Furthermore, Johnson is only five wins away from 300, which means that the Giants, not the Diamondbacks, will be able to profit off this historic moment. For a team that is struggling financially, it defies logic that the Diamondbacks did not consider this historic moment when offering Johnson a contract.
Who knows? Maybe the Diamondbacks were skeptical of offering Johnson more than $3 million because of his injury history. Maybe they believe that finally at age 45 Johnson will begin the gradual decline that all pitchers face. But if the Diamondbacks really think that Jon Garland is a better option in 2009 than Randy Johnson is, then they are truly crazy.