Still no deal for Brewers, Garza

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, January 25, 2014

MILWAUKEE—One full day after reports surfaced prematurely that the Milwaukee Brewers and free-agent pitcher Matt Garza had a deal in place, the sides were still talking Friday.

But there was no final agreement.

A source familiar with the situation said talks between the sides were still “ongoing.” Fox Sports reported Thursday the sides had agreed on a four-year, $52 million deal pending a physical examination, but something happened to slow things down. There was no indication it was because of a medical red flag on Garza, who has a checkered injury history.

General manager Doug Melvin replied to a message asking if there were any developments in the talks by saying, “Nothing yet.” The “yet” part of that response also suggested negotiations were still taking place.

Melvin was conducting negotiations with agent Nez Balelo, who also represents the Brewers’ Ryan Braun. The Brewers took the unusual step Thursday evening of releasing a statement saying that “despite media reports” they had no deal with Garza but were still negotiating.

It was unclear what the hang-up was in completing a deal. All multiyear contracts are fully guaranteed, but Garza’s medical history might have prompted the Brewers to seek language protecting them should Garza miss considerable time. Other teams reportedly were reluctant to go beyond three years in offers to Garza for that reason.

Garza, 30, went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 24 games last season with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. The Cubs traded Garza to Texas on July 22 for four players, including some of the Rangers’ top prospects. Before that swap, Garza was 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his last six starts.

Because Garza was acquired in the middle of the season, the Rangers were not allowed to make a qualifying offer of $14.1 million that would have forced a signing team to forfeit its first-round draft pick this year. The Brewers surrendered their 2013 first-round pick when they signed free-agent right-hander Kyle Lohse near the end of spring training last year.

Garza does present a medical risk. He has been on the disabled list four times since 2009, including last season when he missed the first seven weeks with a strained muscle on his left side. Garza also has had elbow issues, including a prolonged absence at the end of 2012 that limited him to 1032/3 innings with the Cubs.

A first-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2005, Garza has a 67-67 record and 3.84 ERA in eight seasons (194 games/191 starts) with the Twins, Rays, Cubs and Rangers.

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