Trading Jaime Garcia
Jaime Garcia has been irritating me since at least the middle of the 2011 season. His inconsistencies (made worse by some flashes of brilliance) and his mental/emotional problems make him the squeakiest wheel on a largely-harmonious team.
When Garcia sat out most of the second-half of the 2012 season, there were doubts from some in the clubhouse about the severity of his injuries. Then, during the postseason, Garcia insisted on pitching a critical game despite having shoulder pain that he concealed for several days, further angering his teammates.
Now comes news that Garcia, apparently throwing again, intends to pitch in the World Baseball Classic in March. The Cardinals said that they intended to “talk to (Garcia) privately about priorities.”
This “talk” should be a one-sided tirade by John Mozeliak explaining in no insignificant terms that Garcia is a selfish, flaky prima donna who puts his own interests ahead of his teammates and the organization that invested in him.
It’s clear that Garcia has tremendous talent. It’s also clear that he has the mental/emotional stability of warm Jell-O. I believe growing up as a “child” of the Cardinals’ system has made his Rainman-like emotional needs worse, as Garcia obviously feels that he can do whatever he wants. Garcia reminds me of a child of wealthy parents, emboldened by his heritage to abuse the staff. He’s a spoiled, inconsiderate brat who thinks he is not accountable for his actions.
So it might be time for a change.
The Cardinals are fortunate in that they have a minor league system loaded with major league arms. At this moment, the Cardinals have three starters (Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, and Shelby Miller) for the position vacated by Kyle Lohse. That doesn’t even take into account the mouth-watering prospects lurking just below the surface (Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha). The club is in a great position to deal Garcia and not miss a beat.
The larger question: would anyone want Garcia given that he supposedly had a small tear in the ligament of his left elbow? Absolutely. In addition to several outstanding performances (including seasoned postseason appearances), Garcia continues to rank among the top 10 ground-ball pitchers in baseball. Garcia also has a favorable contract that keeps him under $12M a year through 2017. Oh, and did I mention he’s lefthanded?
Garcia would be a chip that could secure the Cardinals a long-term shortstop prospect and (possibly) more outfield prospects. Let’s look at a few possibilities:
The Cardinals are in desperate need of a shortstop prospect, someone who can secure the middle infield for five years along with Kolten Wong. Fortunately, there are a few teams loaded with shortstop prospects that could use a middle-of-the-rotation lefthanded starter like Garcia.
BOSTON – The Red Sox have five of the top 50 shortstop prospects in all of baseball. Defensive specialist Jose Iglesias tasted a bit of major league action last year. Still a year (possibly two) out is big-hitting 20 year-old Xander Bogaerts. Also hiding in their system (and potentially blocked) is Oscar Tejeda, a raw and toolsy shortstop with 10-15 homer power.
Would Boston part with one of these three prospects for Garcia? Given Garcia’s left-handedness and his ability to keep the ball down, he would fit in well at Fenway as well as around the league. Also, have you seen Boston’s mostly-pathetic rotation these days?
SEATTLE – The Mariners have a couple of excellent shortstop prospects bubbling beneath defensive-savant Brendan Ryan. They have two near-ready prospects: Nick Franklin and Brad Miller. Franklin has been called a “switch-hitting Michael Young” and is described as a “gritty” shortstop (somewhere La Russa is drooling). Meanwhile, Miller is a offensive monster with huge power numbers.
Aside from already-legendary Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals don’t have many rising outfield prospects. James Ramsey is largely considered the other close major league candidate, with Charlie Tilson and speedster C.J. McElroy outlying possibilities in a couple of years.
There are quite a few MLB-close prospects that the Cardinals could snag with a trade of Garcia. The idea here would be to find strong, offense-first outfielders who would eventually replace Matt Holliday and/or Jon Jay (if he becomes too expensive five years from now). In trades like this involving a major-league caliber pitcher like Garcia, there would need to be a bundle of players (preferably a major league-ready bench/utility player with a big bat.
Yadier Molina won’t last forever, and the current crop of catching prospects the Cardinals have lined up to start the 2018 season aren’t awe-inspiring.
While Allen Craig is definitely the first baseman of the near future, I have doubts about his knees over time. Meanwhile, Matt Adams will either (a) need to learn to take a walk, or (b) be traded so that he can get playing time. Again, the farm system is thin at first base. Theoretically, big bat Carson Kelly (a third baseman) could make the move there if the organization sticks with David Freese. This might be an area addressed by a trade of Garcia.
Ultimately, I believe that Garcia is blocking a rotation spot better served for one of our younger, cheaper, less neurotic starters. In addition, Garcia’s instabilities and lack of team-character attributes makes him a viable and desirable trade chip. He has value to other teams, especially now while his contract is so team-friendly.
I would be quite surprised (and disappointed) if Garcia finishes the 2013 season as a Cardinal.