The Cardinals have a tough decision to make with Jaime Garcia. In the 2011 season the Cardinals decided to give Garcia a 4-year $27MM extension, which at the time, seemed to be a steal of a contract for a guy who was coming off a third place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting and produced a solid 2011 campaign.
However, Garcia did not make it through 2012 and only pitched 16 games across 2013-2014. He even began the 2015 season on the disabled list. Many were ready to give up on Garcia and most thought it would be a good idea to cash-in on his hot start to 2015 by trading him.
Yet, the Cardinals were decimated by injury and Garcia’s solid performance helped to carry the club along, however unexpectedly it was.
Garcia made 20 starts, his most since 2012, 129.2 innings pitched, 10-6 record, 2.43 ERA, 1.049 WHIP, 97 strikeouts and 20 walks. He posted career-lows for home-runs per nine innings along with hits per nine innings.
In other words, the 2015 Garcia was supposed to be the Garcia the Cardinals were expecting when they signed him to the extension.
Yet the team knew going into the extension that he could get hurt. After all, he had Tommy John surgery in 2008. But, they saw the type of pitcher he could be for the club. The gamble wasn’t as high-risk as many in Cardinal-nation have played it out to be. By no means has it been a steal.
Set to return to the rotation for 2016 will be Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Wainwright and Martinez will be returning from injuries. Lynn and Wacha will be coming off of terrible September/October starts.
As good as the Cardinals rotation looks like it could be, there are still many questions.
The same questions many had going into this past season, but the Cardinals posted an incredible team ERA, yet the team faltered in September and October.
As 2015 was the story of ‘you can never have too much pitching.’ Garcia might be needed. The Cardinals still have to figure out what to do with John Lackey as he will not be coming back to pitching for the league minimum. Lackey most likely will want a two year contract, which is a gamble at his age. And, Marco Gonzales is in the folds, waiting to become a full-time starter at the Major League Level. But, can the club trust young pitchers like Gonzales to deliver in September/October? Each game is big when the Cubs and the Pirates are this competitive.
Garcia has two team-controlled extensions that could be exercised if the team wishes to do so. For 2015 Garcia will cost $11.5MM with a $500k buyout and 2016 costs $12MM with a $500k buyout.
- Buyout his contract and attempt to renegotiate/let him go – The problem with making Garcia a free agent is that some other team will likely come around to make a better deal. With Garcia coming off one of his best seasons (and healthy), some club will be willing to give him 3-4 seasons. An older Brandon McCarthy ended getting 4-years $48MM from the Dodgers off back-to-back injury-filled seasons and just three seasons of an ERA of under 3.35; two of those seasons under 115 innings pitched.
- Exercise the team option and see if he finds his way into the 2016 rotation (not a given). Garcia pitched well and the innings were much needed for St. Louis. Yet, the team has given him four years and twenty-seven million dollars of injury and unfulfilled expectations. Should they give him one more year at the cost of $11.5MM?
If the Cardinals decide to exercise the option they could look to trade him. With Garcia being club controlled for 2017, more teams may be interested. Yet, many thought the same this past season to maximize his value. It’s tough to use a roster spot for a guy you are counting on trading. Seemingly, it’s unrealistic. You cannot use a roster spot for someone you’re not planning on using if they perform.
There was also the issue of Garcia and Mo having it out in the media for a period of time. There were clear frustrations with Garcia in the eyes of the organization. It could happen again if Garcia gets hurt.
Has he earned it?
Even if you go by WAR it is a gamble. In the open market he will probably earn around $10-12MM per season, but some club would offer him four seasons. I cannot see many teams giving up much value to obtain him and take on the burden of a contract.
Yet, when it comes to $11.5MM it doesn’t go as far as it used to. Here are some pitchers that make around that much:
John Danks, Kyle Lohse, Jorge De La Rosa, RA Dickey, Clay Bucholz, Doug Fister, Bartolo Colon, Scott Feldmann…heck, Jason Vargas makes $8.5MM.
Is a one-year insurance policy worth $11.5MM?
It just might be.