Milwaukee • After committing $50 million to free agent Matt Garza, the Milwaukee Brewers are feeling much better about their pitching staff.
Garza completed a four-year contract with Milwaukee on Sunday, strengthening the top of the rotation and boosting the Brewers’ hopes following a disappointing season. The deal includes an option and performance bonuses that could make it worth up to $67 million over five years.
General manager Doug Melvin called Garza an "established, top-of-the-rotation pitcher."
"The thing about signing Matt now, it gives us a lot more depth and, as you know, during a baseball season, you never use five starters," Melvin said. "So, just kind of wait and see how spring training unfolds, and always having the available depth is important to stay in a 162-game season."
Garza gets $12.5 million a season, with $2 million annually deferred without interest. The deferred money is payable in four installments each Dec. 15 starting in 2018.
He can earn an additional $1 million annually in performance bonuses: $500,000 each for 30 starts and 190 innings.
The deal includes a $13 million option for 2018 that would become guaranteed if he makes 110 starts during the next four years, pitches 155 innings in 2017 and is not on the disabled list at the end of that season. Milwaukee also would get an extra year at a relatively low salary if he has a significant arm injury.
The 30-year-old righty went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA last season for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. He missed most of the first two months while recovering from an injury that affected his side and back.
Garza will join Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse as Milwaukee’s top starters. He is 67-67 with a 3.84 ERA in eight seasons with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, the Cubs and Texas.
The Brewers ranked ninth in the National League with a 3.84 ERA last season, when they finished fourth in the NL Central at 74-88.
Garza was looking forward to pitching — and hitting — in the NL Central again.
"It’s fun. I like the Central, I like pitching in the Central," he said during a conference call. "I like swinging the bat in the big parks."
The move also adds depth to Milwaukee’s staff and puts less pressure on young pitchers such as Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg at the back end of the rotation.
Milwaukee also has Marco Estrada and Johnny Hellweg as rotation options, and lefty Will Smith was acquired from Kansas City in December for outfielder Norichika Aoki.
"We’ve said now for a couple of years that we’re focusing on pitching and pitching depth," Attanasio told reporters. "You can never have enough pitching depth, and I would argue we have as much pitching depth as we’ve had (in) my 10 seasons of ownership."
Garza was the MVP of the 2008 AL championship series for Tampa Bay, beating Boston twice. He also has thrown the only no-hitter in Rays history, on July 26, 2010, against Detroit.
Milwaukee has protection against an arm injury in two ways. If he is on the disabled list for 130 or more days during any 183-day period for a right shoulder or elbow injury, or an injury resulting from instability in the shoulder or elbow, Milwaukee gets a $1 million option for 2018. If he has fewer than 90 starts during the next four years, the Brewers have a $5 million option.
Garza has a complete no-trade provision this year. He can block deals to 15 teams in 2015, 10 in 2016 and six in 2017.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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