Option voided, Garza headed for free agency

Complex contract clause eliminates '18 club option

Option voided, Garza headed for free agency

ST. LOUIS -- Here's a new wrinkle to Matt Garza's complex contract: His $5 million club option for 2018 was recently voided, eliminating any doubt that Garza will be a free agent at season's end.

The veteran right-hander may have been headed for free agency anyway. Garza endured a six-start stretch in August and early September that produced a 10.13 ERA and cost him his spot in Milwaukee's starting rotation. He has pitched only twice in relief since then, even as the Brewers scramble for innings while chasing the final National League Wild Card, fueling the notion that the team was certain to decline the option.

The counterpoint, however, was that $5 million is not an outrageous price for a pitcher who posted a 3.68 ERA and a .249 opponents' average in his first 16 starts this season. Garza could have been a fallback for the Brewers at the start of next year while right-hander Jimmy Nelson recovers from shoulder surgery.

It turns out that the debate was moot.

According to a source, when Garza made his 90th Brewers start on Aug. 18 in Colorado, it triggered a clause in the "enormously complicated deal" that made the club option disappear.

Garza will join Eric Sogard, Anthony Swarzak and Neil Walker as Brewers free agents.

Garza, who will turn 34 in November, will hit the market for the first time since the winter of 2013-14, when he inked a club-record contract with the Brewers that guaranteed him $50 million over four years and was thick with incentives and options. The deal was so complicated, it took days to finalize after word leaked that the sides had come to terms on the broad strokes of the agreement. It was eventually announced during the Brewers' annual fanfest.

It included a vesting option for $13 million in 2018 that would have kicked in had Garza started 110 games from 2014-17, pitch 115 innings in 2017 and finished this season healthy. He's healthy, but fell short in starts and innings.

The original reporting was that if Garza didn't vest, it instead became a $5 million club option. But what wasn't reported at that time or since was that the club option would be voided if Garza made 90 starts during the deal, freeing him to be a free agent again rather than play for what, at the time, looked to be a below-market $5 million salary.

Entering Saturday, Garza was 26-39 with a 4.65 ERA in 96 games for the Brewers, including 93 starts. The injury concerns that prompted the bevy of protections in his contract proved well-founded; Garza was on the disabled list at least once in each of the four seasons of the deal -- including three separate stints in 2017 -- for oblique, shoulder, lat, groin, chest and calf injuries.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.