The White Sox continued their off-season rampage yesterday by signing pitcher Jon Garland to a 3 year-deal for $29 million. Of course, the immediate reaction of most Twins fans will be to laugh and proclaim Sox GM Kenny Williams a fool. Almost ten million a year to a guy who has had one good season? The notion seems a little trigger-happy. And while I would love to leap atop the pile and heap criticism upon Chicago's management, I think it is necessary to take a moment and consider the possibility that this may have been a savvy move on the part of the White Sox.
I personally don't consider Garland to be all that great of a pitcher, and I think his success last year was probably a fluke to some extent. However, I will not rule out the possibility that Garland simply had a break-out year and will carry that success into the future. Let's look at this objectively. Garland had a tremendous season; 18-10, 3.50 ERA, .298 opponent OBP, and 3 complete game shutouts. His early success catapaulted the Sox into the dominant force they would become in the AL Central. And Garland is only 26 years old. It could be that he finally figured it out last year, and could even improve this year, which would be bad news for the Twins. Sure, the White Sox are giving him this gaudy contract after just one season of proven success, but didn't the Twins give Johan Santana a similar contract after just one half a season of dominance? And while you might make the argument that Santana has a more impressive history than Garland, let's not forget that Garland was a pretty highly touted prospect when he came up for the Sox and Santana was originally a Rule V draftee.
I don't mean to say that this was a good move on the part of the White Sox. I simply think that many Twins fans are far too quick to dismiss the possibility that this guy is for real, and unlike the 34 year-old Jose Contreras - who is almost guaranteed not to replicate his unexpected production of '05 next year - Garland is young and may have simply developed into the pitcher he is capable of being. I know that if Kyle Lohse, who is similar to Garland in many ways, had posted similar numbers last year, we Twins fans would be very optimistic about his future and would probably feel the same way about him that Sox fans do about Garland.
Then again, Garland could easily collapse next year and make the Sox look absolutely foolish for throwing all this money at him. I know that's what I'll be rooting for. Just don't be stunned if Garland remains one of the better pitchers in the American League next season.