Jaime Garcia didn’t have the best year in St. Louis for the Cardinals, but the team picked up his very reasonable $12 million option for next year. Many presumed the option was picked up due to the barren free agent market for starting pitchers that it would be to trade Garcia. That has now happened as Mark Saxon at ESPN was the first to report that Jaime Garcia has been traded to the Atlanta Braves.
The return on the deal includes John Gant, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. Gant was the Braves 22nd best prospect, per MLB.com, with the following writeup:
Gant will never wow with pure stuff, but he has an extremely good feel for pitching. He can move his average fastball up and down, in and out. He throws his changeup with good sink and his curve has improved to give him three Major League average offerings, all of which he can throw for strikes. He has a funky delivery that causes deception and he uses his 6-foot-5 frame well to throw downhill.
Gant's ceiling is limited to that of being a back-end starter. With good mound presence and a fearless approach to go along with his pitchability, he's a pretty good bet to reach that ceiling.
Joel Sherman added the other names to the trade:
Can confirm Garcia to #Braves #stlcards get Luke Dykstra— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 1, 2016
Dykstra is an infielder and the Braves 29th best prospect per MLB.com, who had this to say:
Since being drafted out of the California high school ranks in the seventh round of 2014, Dykstra has shown the ability to handle the bat. He's hit pretty much everywhere he's gone, including when he earned a promotion to full-season ball in 2015 and returned there in 2016. He hasn't shown much power to date, but he might develop some extra-base pop as he continues to mature, and he makes consistent hard contact. He's a solid runner who is a fringe defender with an average arm, a high school shortstop who seems to be settling in at second base as a pro.
Ellis was the Braves 17th best prospect, per MLB.com, and it is possible he could have the most immediate impact out of the bullpen, perhaps as soon as this year:
Ellis has the size, strength and repertoire to succeed as a starter, with the upside perhaps as a No. 4. He'll get every chance to reach that ceiling, though a move to the bullpen -- where he pitched his first two years at the University of Mississippi -- would allow his fastball-slider combination to play up even more.
The move is probably a necessary one given where the Cardinals rotation stands, but it is still bittersweet as Garcia has incredible stuff and on a few occasions, he was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He pitched the game of his life this past season against the Brewers in April, striking out 13 against one hit and one walk in a shutout. He also had a great game against his future team in August, striking out 11 against three hits and one walk in eight shutout innings.
While he took the mound 30 times this year, his overall numbers were disappointing with a 4.49 FIP and 4.67 ERA. It is possible some of those numbers were due to fatigue over the course of a long season that could be fixed by the offseason, and some of the numbers could be due to poor luck with homers.
Garcia has just the one year remaining on his four-year $27.5 million contract that he signed back in 2011. When healthy Garcia pitched well, but in early 2015, the deal looked like it would not pay big dividends for the Cardinals as he failed to make it to Opening Day healthy and a buyout of his first option seemed inevitable.
After pitching less than 100 innings combined in 2013 and 2014, Garcia didn’t pitch until the end of May in 2015, but once he did, he was brilliant, helping the Cardinals to a fantastic pitching performance that entire season. Garcia made 20 starts with a 3.00 FIP and a 2.43 ERA. He flashed his always great movement to get ground ball after ground ball.
Some might remember Garcia for his removal in the 2015 NLDS after getting a stomach virus. Others might remember his two-inning start in the 2012 playoffs, but what shouldn’t be forgotten is his role as starter on the 2011 championship team. He made five starts that postseason including a brilliant seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the World Series before the bullpen blew a 1-0 game.
While his career with the Cardinals has some might-have-beens due to injury, since World War II, Garcia ranks 25th among Cardinals in innings with 896 and his 13.5 WAR ranks 23rd, within a win of Joe Magrane, John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar. Strikeouts are a bit easier to come by nowadays, but Garcia’s 723 ranks 12th over the last 70 years of Cardinals baseball.
This was a necessary move, and the Cardinals acquired some pieces that could prove useful in the future, but Garcia was an important part of some of the best teams in Cardinals history. When he was on he was unhittable, and especially given that the Braves aren’t likely to contend next year, I hope he has a fantastic season.