After eight seasons and 147 starts, Jaime Garcia and the St. Louis Cardinals have parted ways.
John Mozeliak dealt the enigmatic southpaw to the Atlanta Braves for three prospects. In return for Garica, the Cards received pitchers Chris Ellis and John Gant, along with infielder Luke Dykstra(son of Lenny). The prospects won't jump off the page, but Gant may be a sleeper if he is used right.
For the 30-year-old Garcia, the talent has always been there, but the execution never found the craft. Garcia either wasn't healthy or wasn't effective.
He made 28 or more starts in just three of his seven full seasons after a brief appearance in 2008 which was followed by Tommy John surgery. Garcia's lifetime earned run average of 3.57 and fielding independent pitching mark of 3.59 suggest the lefty has some juice left if the team is willing to roll the dice.
Mozeliak and the Cardinals were unwilling to roll the dice following a season where Garcia made his highest number of starts since 2011(32), yet wasn't as sharp as he was in a shortened 2015 season. He allowed a career high 26 home runs in 171.2 innings and his FIP hiked up to 4.49.
His pitches found too much of the zone and hitters teed off for an average of 9.4 hits per nine innings. A year after finishing with a 3.9 WAR(bREF), Garcia's WAR dropped to 0.9 last season. Everything was up, including his pitches.
Picking up Garcia's option was as predictable as death and taxes for a smart businessman like Mozeliak. Instead of letting him walk, the crafty GM picked up the $12-million option and found a team willing to take the risks that come with riding the J-train. To be blunt, Mozeliak traded Garcia before the injury prone starter could find an ailment.
The injury bug was the bane of Garcia's existence, and it included a time where Garcia hid an injury going into the 2012 playoffs and nearly cost the Cards the series. He was plagued with shoulder issues and hurt his leg in 2015. He was like the reasonably priced filet that only weighed eight ounces and never satisfied the consumer. While not bad, Garcia never matched the promise he showed initially.
Ellis, Gant and Dykstra aren't top prospects, but could produce something down the line. Gant made seven starts for the Braves last year and posted a 4.86 ERA, but he's only 24 and has room to mold. Ellis, 24, was roughed up in Triple A to the tune of a 6.52 ERA. Dykstra, whe recently turned 21, produced a .696 OPS in 322 at bats last season at Class A. Dykstra was drafted in the seventh round, while Ellis was taken in the third round, and Gant was selected in the 21st round. These kids aren't prime rib. They are ambitious sirloins. Pardon me, I'm hungry while typing this.
The gain by the Cards was three prospects to fill the depth in their system, which took hits via promotion and designation or outside recruitment the past few seasons. The three players will get a shot and fill a need. This was also a classic salary dump. The Cards will no longer have to worry about Jaime Garcia's $12 million. Alex Reyes and his league-minimum salary will more than likely take the final spot in the rotation, so that heavy salary can go to a center-field chase or other resources.
Jaime Garcia will go down as the promising nasty left-handed starter who couldn't put it together long enough or be efficient enough to command more than one big contract. Atlanta is rebuilding, loading up on prospects, and Garcia will help fortify their rotation going into 2017.
The Cards are experiencing change, and it's only begun. Matt Holliday and Garcia are gone. Brandon Moss isn't coming back. Jeremy Hazelbaker is gone and Tim Cooney is too. Zach Duke and Tyler Lyons are down. The outfield needs a piece or two. If only Mozeliak could have gotten a team to hand over something juicy for Jhonny Peralta. That time may come next year.
For now, salary has been cleared and a few prospects have been collected. This was a wise move by the Cardinals and a needed change for Jaime Garcia.
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Thanks for reading. More to come.