The Los Angeles Dodgers do not have a lot of money to throw around. So what resources they do have need to be spent wisely. Signing Jon Garland for a year at $5 million is a very wise move. Garland has been as reliable as they come and depending on whose WAR you look at these days, Garland has consistently been worth between $8.5 million and $12 million every year since 2004. He gives you 200 innings every year and though he is far from spectacular, he will be worth his paycheck.
Pitching in good pitching parks is in Jon Garland's best interest. After departing the American League, where he was starting to get knocked around a bit, Garland had a decent season for the Padres last season and was a cog in the rotation that almost took them to the division title. He pitched the season before that for the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers. For that low an asking price, you have to wonder why the Padres didn't try harder to sign him. Maybe they did and we don't know it. But at that kind of money, it seems that Garland could have been had. It's also a possibility that Garland, who has pitched in Los Angeles before simply likes it there and wanted to return.
Garland has a 131-114 record in eleven big league seasons. He is 31 years old and has a career ERA of 4.32 ERA. His career ERA+ is 104 but he's only had two seasons in the last nine that were under the league average of 100. He is what he is: A solid pitcher that is just a tick above league average who will give you 33 starts a year. That's a valuable commodity.
Some teams build to get through the long season to get to the playoffs. The thinking is that if a team can just make it to the playoffs, then anything can happen. The Twins come to mind as do the Dodgers. The other method is to build a team that can dominate the playoffs and let the chips fall where they may during the seasons. The Yankees and the Phillies are the latter kind of team. They have collected "shut down" types of pitchers that can dominate a post season series. The Dodgers aren't building that kind of staff.
What they are doing is compiling a rotation that gives the team solid outings every day. With Ted Lilly and Kuroda already signed and now Garland, they have three similar pitchers that are reliable, keep the team in the game and give the Dodgers a chance to win. Kershaw is the only power arm of the kind that can dominate a post series game.
With Garland, the rotation seems to be set. You have Kershaw at Number One, then Lilly, Kuroda, Garland and then Billingsley. Making Billingsley the fifth starter takes the pressure off of him and since he has spent some time as a Number 2 or Number 3, the Dodgers are in good shape one through five. Will the rotation scare anyone? Probably not (with the exception of Kershaw). But will it be solid in a pitcher's park? Certainly.
It's encouraging for the Dodgers that in these uncertain times, they have made such a smart and wise signing with a good bottom line, lots of upside and only one year of risk. Well done.