The Padres have signed veteran right-hander Jon Garland to round out the 2010 rotation. The deal is $4.7 million this year, plus a mutual option for $6.75 million in 2011.
Excluding 2005, when he masqueraded as a front-line pitcher, Garland has been a league-average innings eater throughout his career. He’s filled that role for a long time and he’s still in his prime.
Garland’s main assets are durability and reliability. Every year since 2002, he has made at least 32 starts, worked at least 190 innings, and won at least 10 games. His career ERA+ is 104.
There is nothing sexy about Garland’s game. He gives up plenty of hits and doesn’t notch many strikeouts (career high in a season is 115; career K/9 is 4.72). He just takes the mound when it’s his turn and gives an honest day’s work in the big leagues. I don’t have a problem letting the youngsters watch a guy do that.
Garland at age 30 is like Greg Maddux at age 41. That’s not a bad thing, especially considering Garland is scheduled to make much less than Maddux did in his final seasons ($10 million each in ’07 and ’08).
For those who might be concerned that Garland will keep some of the young arms from getting a legitimate opportunity this year, remember that Chris Young hasn’t made more than 18 starts in a season since 2007. Also, Kevin Correia saw his innings jump to 198 from a previous career high of 110 established a year earlier. This may or may not portend anything, but it’s worth noting that Correia, unlike Garland, is not accustomed to carrying such a heavy load.
I feel bad for Wade LeBlanc, who pitched well in his second stint with the big club in 2009 and who probably deserved the chance to compete for a job this spring. Then again, opportunities will arise, whether the Padres want them to or not. Remember last year’s rotation at the season’s start? Remember how many were still around at the end?
Stuff happens, the kids will get their chances. Garland’s presence just increases the likelihood that they won’t all get thrown into the fire at once, which seems prudent to me.
Garland also should have trade value should the need arise. That could prove useful at some point.