The disappointment of being told goodbye, but the excitement of being welcomed hello. Such is the feeling for Greg Garcia, who was placed on waivers earlier this week by the St. Louis Cardinals and claimed Thursday by the San Diego Padres.
“It’s bittersweet,” Garcia said. “I have a lot of great memories, a lot of great friends and teammates in St. Louis, I’m definitely going to miss those guys. But to be able to go to San Diego–a place where I grew up and go to a field where I watched games at when I was a kid, is something that I’m really looking forward to and really excited about.”
Drafted by St. Louis in 2010, Garcia made his MLB debut with the Cardinals in April of 2014. He worked his way into a trusted utility role with the team, spreading out over 1500 innings between second base, shortstop, third base, and even pitching an inning for the team. His 37 pinch-hits rank 6th in franchise history.
But the at-bats were fewer for Garcia in 2018 and his batting average dropped 30-points from the season before. Combined with him becoming arbitration eligible for the first time and younger players capable of filling the utility role, being placed on waivers did not come as a complete surprise.
“You can kind of see the writing on the wall a little bit,” Garcia admitted. “I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve always said I wanted to end my career in St. Louis. I wanted to play my whole career in St. Louis, but I understand the other side of it as well. I have nothing but respect for the Cardinals and the organization and the coaching staff. Everything about the Cardinals, I loved. Yeah, I could kind of see it coming. I wasn’t shocked.”
And as he noted, the disappointment was soon met with the joy of being claimed by San Diego. It’s not the first time a departing player from St. Louis has found himself in a favorable spot–Stephen Piscotty, Matt Adams, Marco Gonzales, and Skip Schumaker are just a few recent examples of players being moved to a desirable situation.
“The faith above may have aligned some stars for us, but I had nothing to do with it,” Garcia laughed. “Prayed on some things–I just wanted to go to a team that wanted me. That’s all I cared about. Basically, when you put a waiver claim out on someone, that means that they want you. To feel that from an organization after you’re just getting let go by an organization is a nice change. It motivates you beyond belief. It’s motivating me to want to go out there and just work as hard as I can and help the Padres win any way I can.”
During the season when a player is moved there is the process of packing his bags and then the farewells around the clubhouse. Being in the off-season, the process has been a little different.
“The amount of phone calls and text messages I received from the teammates I had and former teammates as well, it was overwhelming to say the least,” Garcia said. “It just meant a lot to me, these guys taking time out of their day to say that they’re going to miss me but at the same time congratulate me as well. Like I said, I’m definitely going to miss those guys. Made a lot of great friends–friends for life.”
A popular teammate because of his work ethic and unselfishness, Garcia also provided some big moments for the Cardinals.
“A special one for me was actually my pinch-hit homerun against the Cubs at home,” Garcia said. “Early on in my career, I hadn’t really hadn’t done anything. To hit a pinch-hit homer against the Cubs to tie the game in the 8th and to hear that stadium, then to get a curtain call–I get chills just thinking about it. The fans are great. They always had my back. For not being an everyday player, I felt like they always showed me love. I just wanted to try to go out there every single day and try and compete and help the Cardinals win. I hope I did that.”
St. Louis opens their home schedule against San Diego on April 4th and it was that approach by Garcia that will certainly bring the fans to their feet when he steps up to the plate for the first time.
“I don’t know about that,” Garcia downplayed. “But it’ll be fun to go back to Busch to see the guys. It’ll be a little weird, but it will be fun for sure.”
MORE ROSTER MOVES
–The St. Louis Cardinals also announced that pitcher Matt Bowman has been claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds. Catcher Francisco Pena has been outrighted and elected free agency. Along with Matt Adams, Bud Norris, and Tyson Ross becoming free agents, the moves freed up roster spots for the return of Dexter Fowler, Luke Gregerson, Alex Reyes, and Michael Wacha from the 60-day disabled list.
Adam Wainwright was declared a free agent, but resumed his roster spot after agreeing to a 1-year contract earlier this week.
photo credit: Jeff Curry, Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports