There will be no rush to judgment on what the St. Louis Cardinals will do in regards to the contract of Jaime Garcia this offseason.
“It’s probably something that we just need to take the 30-some odd days that we have here and see what makes the most sense,” answered General Manager John Mozeliak at his end of season press conference to if the lefty was still a fit with the team.
“I’ve not heard a thing,” shared Garcia as he packed up after the season finale. “It’d be pretty cool to come back here. I have some great friends here, but I understand it’s a business and whatever they’ve got, I’ll be more than happy.”
Making his most starts (30) and pitching his most innings (171.2) since 2011, Garcia avoided the disabled list but four of his last six starts were 4.0 innings or less.
“On one side, I was healthy it’s the first time I’ve been healthy in a long time, but I know that I’m way better than what I was able to do,” said Garcia. “I believe in myself. Just kind of disappointed that I wasn’t able to help the team here towards the end.”
“I think in Jaime’s case, it was definitely a struggle,” said Mozeliak. “There were nights where he looked like he was a number one or number two starter and there were nights I’m sure the manager wanted to punch me.”
“Wherever I’m going to be pitching, I’m going to be good and try to do my best–whether it’s here or somewhere else,” said Garcia. “Wherever it is that they want me, I’ll be ready.”
Just so things aren’t misconstrued, Jaime Garcia is not going to be confused for Madison Bumgarner any day soon. That being said, as the Cardinals ponder if they will pick up their option for the left-hander in 2017, here’s a couple of points to consider.
Only five left-handed pitchers in the National League made more than the 30 starts by Garcia in 2016. Bumgarner had 34, followed by Robbie Ray, Gio Gonzalez, and Jon Lester with 32. Brandon Finnegan made 31.
Durability has certainly been a question in the past and fatigue was a factor at the end of the year, but Jaime did not make one trip to the disabled list in 2016.
Not surprisingly, a closer look at the stats of the NL lefties shows Bumgarner and Lester as the only two with at least 15 wins and to top 200 IP.
Garcia ranks in that second tier of lefties, which topped 170 IP and all but Ray had at least 10 wins. Arizona’s Patrick Corbin was close with 155.2 IP but had only 5 wins.
The next tier of lefties featured six starters ranging from 127-133 IP. Scott Kazmir and Clayton Kershaw were the only two that had double-digit wins.
Gonzalez, who is a year older than Jaime, has a similar contract situation with Washington. Like St. Louis, the Nationals hold a team option of $12 million or can buy out Gonzalez for $500,000. There is also a $12 million vesting option for 2018, if Gio pitches at least 180 innings for Washington in 2017.
The stats can go on and on–good and bad. And certainly the Cardinals are doing their own set of analytics. But the samples above only underline the not so simple answer of what to do with Jaime Garcia.
“As we sat here a year ago, we felt really comfortable with our rotational depth and you saw how quickly that got tested in Spring Training,” reminded Mozeliak. “There’s not much of a free agent pitching market out there, so if we felt like we were going to come up short at some point, then we’d be better off just securing him. But I think we’re going to need the 30 days to sort through this.
If all goes perfectly to plan, the Cardinals would have Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake, and Alex Reyes available for the rotation with Marco Gonzales, Luke Weaver, and Tim Cooney providing depth. But as Mozeliak noted, when has a season–especially with pitching, gone according to plan?
Asked if Michael Wacha was still viewed as a starter, “sure” was the answer from Mozeliak so where he fits also remains to be seen.
But a healthy offseason for Garcia to train and prepare for an bigger workload in 2017 may be worth the $12 million option. Or it may allow for a trade which can upgrade the team in another area or perhaps there is an implosion and return to the disabled list.
It’s the same dilemma the Cardinals and Garcia have entertained for years–when he is on, he has elite-level stuff. But when he is off, well…everyone knows how that looks too.
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports