Garland signs three-year deal

Garland signs three-year deal

CHICAGO -- It was just one week ago when Jon Garland seemed more likely to be part of a White Sox trade than part of the White Sox future.

Throw a rumor out for public consumption, whether it is the acquisition of All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada from Baltimore or the addition of top prospects to the White Sox system, and the right-hander's name certainly was attached. But after Garland and the White Sox agreed to a three-year, $29 million deal announced on Wednesday, any further trade ramblings involving the South Siders will go on without the inclusion of the talented sinkerball pitcher.

Garland, 26, avoided arbitration and also gave up the opportunity to explore the free agent market after the 2006 season. He will receive $7 million in 2006, $10 million in 2007 and $12 million in 2008. And while Garland and Craig Landis, his agent, reportedly turned down an initial three-year offer from the White Sox shortly before the Winter Meetings in early December, Garland said Wednesday that staying in Chicago ultimately was his top priority.

"I always wanted to come back to Chicago," said Garland by phone from California. "I love the city. It's where I wanted to stay, where I wanted to be, and I'm happy to be here -- especially with what this team did last year and the team we have right now.

"It's a business, and I understand that if things can't get done, then they are going to [trade you]. But we were able to get it done, and I was able to come back to Chicago and continue pitching for the White Sox."

Very few observers familiar with pitchers' current free agent value could have argued with Garland's decision to play out 2006 and then become a free agent. Veteran Kevin Millwood agreed to a five-year deal with Texas this week, worth between $11 and $12 million per season, and Garland doubled the right-hander in victories during the 2005 campaign.

Millwood did lead the American League with his 2.86 ERA and does have a proven track record over the past decade. But Garland clearly was in line for an even more substantial payday than the one he received on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, general manager Ken Williams made one last phone call to Landis last week, after the trade for Javier Vazquez was officially he announced. He found Garland to be very receptive, through his agent.

"Obviously, we had gone down some roads to see what our possibilities were, and Jon stepped up," a content Williams said on Wednesday. "He stepped up and made a statement about who he is and what he's about. He could have gone the free agent route and commanded more years and more money, but that was less a concern for him than wanting to be here."

"I wasn't trying to break the bank," added Garland, echoing a statement from Paul Konerko during an earlier offseason conference call to announce his re-signing as a free agent. "They wanted to sign me to a long-term deal, one year before I could become a free agent, and I wanted to stay with the team. I wanted to be happy, I wanted them to be happy and we came to an agreement and it happened."

Garland certainly would have listened to offers in the four- or five-year range from the White Sox, but he said that topic was never broached by the team. With Garland's new multiyear deal, the White Sox now have contractual control over Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez and Brandon McCarthy among their six starting pitchers through at least 2007.

Williams also put in a call to Jaime Torres, Jose Contreras' agent, after the Vazquez deal. But the big right-hander with the best second half of any American League pitcher not named Johan Santana in 2005 still can become a free agent if not signed to a new deal by next November.

Third baseman Joe Crede and utility infielder/outfielder Rob Mackowiak are the only two White Sox players currently eligible for arbitration. But Williams said Wednesday that contact has been made with Scott Boras and Dan Horwits, the players' respective agents, in an effort to work out new deals.

"We want to get these guys in tow as quickly as possible and come to an agreement where arbitration isn't necessary," Williams said of Crede, a Boras client, and Mackowiak.

Despite the budget being projected by Williams at $95 million, there is no pressing need to trade off salary in a haphazard way. Having six starters seemingly would make someone such as Contreras or Garcia or even Vazquez expendable, but Williams likes the idea of having McCarthy start the season in the bullpen and serve as an insurance policy against problems that could arise from the innings built up among baseball's deepest rotation over the past couple of seasons.

Pitching in relief also gives McCarthy a chance to develop further physically and as a pitcher, a pattern followed briefly by Buehrle, possibly by Neal Cotts presently and even by Garland for a short time. Starting the 2005 campaign at 8-0, Garland posted a career-high 18 victories against just 10 losses.

The right-hander hurled three complete games, all shutouts, and had 115 strikeouts in 32 starts. Garland ranked in the top 10 in the American League in six separate pitching categories. He also was named to his first AL All-Star team, after going 13-4 with a 3.38 ERA in the season's first half.

Garland produced the second of four consecutive complete games during the White Sox five-game victory over the Angels in the American League Championship Series, besting Jon Lackey to start three straight victories in Anaheim. He finished 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two postseason starts, also allowing two earned runs over seven innings during Game 3 of the World Series at Houston.

Now, the pressure is on for Garland to duplicate last year's effort, much like the White Sox. But Garland is taking a page from his general manager's playbook and not resting on his laurels, having just thrown off the mound Wednesday before talking to the media on a conference call.

Actually, Garland said he was asked to leave the Little League field where he was throwing by another adult who didn't want the field disturbed. Apparently, Garland's new three-year deal doesn't carry as much weight in California as it does on the South Side of Chicago.

"Nobody back here knows who I am," Garland said. "I'm just some punk kid on the field, trying to throw.

"I want to win every game I start, whether I get the 'W' or the team gets the 'W.' A lot of things have to go your way to win a game at this level, so I just want to give my team a chance every time I step on the mound."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.