A pair of former Midwest League pitchers agreed to multi-year deals with new teams Thursday.
RHP Matt Garza reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers — right in time for Brewers On Deck, the team’s offseason fan fest.* He went 3-3 with a 3.54 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 56 IP for the 2005 Beloit Snappers.
The signing of Garza probably means RHP Tyler Thornburg won’t be part of Milwaukee’s starting rotation (at least in the beginning of the season), despite his impressive seven-start stretch with the Brewers last year. Thornburg also had an impressive stretch with the 2011 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, going 7-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 68.2 IP.
The other notable free-agent pitcher who agreed to terms with a new team Thursday is RHP Grant Balfour, who was the primary closer for the Oakland Athletics the past two seasons. Balfour reportedly agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he pitched from 2007-2010.
Balfour went 8-5 with a 3.53 ERA, one save and 95 strikeouts in 91.2 IP for the 1999 Quad City River Bandits. He also made two rehab appearances with the 2006 Dayton Dragons, striking out three batters in two innings.
Links to a few Midwest League-related stories worth reading:
In a Game of Failure, Stubblefield Finds Success in a Second Chance — Tyler Stubblefield, who played infield for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in parts of three seasons, has officially retired from playing baseball. The 26-year-old is now a scout for the San Diego Padres, and TinCaps broadcaster Mike Couzens talked to him about it.
Stubblefield played in 191 games with the 2011-13 TinCaps, mostly as a shortstop or second baseman. Collectively he batted .250 with 9 HR, 66 RBI and 23 SB for the TinCaps. He also took the mound twice for the TinCaps, pitching a total of 3.2 innings.
2013 Blue Jays Draftee Chad Girodo Started Pro Ball Career in Lansing — Brian Crawford of Jays Prospects interviewed LHP Chad Girodo about his 14-game stint with the Lugnuts last season. (Girodo went 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23.2 IP.)
Detroit Tigers brass surprised in tour of fire-damaged Fifth Third Ballpark — Members of the Tigers’ front office toured the West Michigan Whitecaps’ ballpark Thursday, and they were impressed with the progress that’s been made there since the January 3 fire that damaged about 40 percent of the facility.
With bitter cold still gripping much of the Midwest, here’s a photo to help you think warm thoughts. It’s a shot of Lugnuts mascot Big Lug on Super Hero Day at Lansing’s Cooley Law School Stadium last year. (Photo courtesy of the Lansing Lugnuts.)
* I don’t know if Garza will attend the Milwaukee fan fest, but the Sunday event is free this year in wake of Ryan Braun’s suspension last season. Considering the rare chance to attend a team’s fan fest for free, and that I’ll be in nearby Kenosha a day earlier for a SABR Day event, I might check it out. After all, there will be former Midwest League players there!