When I wrote about Matt Garza's trade value last month I showed that it's not that high. Aside from the Cubs kicking in some money to cover the rest of his salary this year, the Cubs couldn't expect to get all that much in return. People have consistently told me I'm wrong. Apparently some anonymous GMs were on record (can you really be on record if you're anonymous?) as saying he had more trade value than Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, both of whom are far better pitchers. The additional year that Garza has beyond this year certainly matters, but I've argued that it's not a cheap year. If Garza were under contract for $12 million next year I've wondered if people would feel the same way. He is essentially under contract for $12 million next year because that's what he'll likely receive in arbitration.
So why is Matt Garza worth more than I think? The first reason I can come up with is that he's pitched in the AL East. From 2008 through 2010 Garza threw nearly 600 innings for the Rays and he allowed under a hit per inning, just over 3 walks per 9 and struckout enough to have a K/BB of about 2.3. His ERA was 3.86 and his ERA+ 109. Neither of those numbers are fantastic by any means, but an ERA 9% better than league average in that division is probably better anywhere else. He was an above average pitcher in the best division in baseball.
A lot of teams in the AL East wonder how a pitcher will do when he comes into that division. It's something the Red Sox and Yankees have concerned themselves with for a long time. They don't have to worry about that with Matt Garza. He's been there and done that.
There are no games that have a higher stress level than those in the playoffs. Garza reached the postseason in 2008 and 2010. In 2008 the Rays went to the World Series. In all, Garza made 5 postseason starts and threw the ball quite well against the league's best teams. He has a career postseason ERA of 3.48.
Garza is still just 28 years old. A player's peak is typically between the ages of 26 and 28 so Garza is right there. A team could realistically expect Garza to be as good or better than he's been in his career.
Although it's not a cheap 2013, he does have more than one year remaining before he can file for free agency. That year is likely to provide value above what a team may think they can get on the free agent market for the same cost. It also gives the team some time to explore a long-term contract with Garza, which would give them a team friendly contract for several years.
Overall, teams may look at Garza and believe he's more valuable because of the experience in the AL East, the postseason, his age and his contract. These have nothing to do with what we typically use to assign value, but it's entirely possible this is why Garza might be more valuable than the numbers show.