The St. Louis Cardinals announced Saturday that lefthanded starting pitcher Jaime Garcia will have thoracic outlet surgery and miss the rest of the 2014 season. Despite the fact that he’s under contract until the end of the 2017 season, this latest development could mark the end of his Cardinals career. It certainly couldn’t have been that uplifting for Garcia to hear Cards GM John Mozeliak say that “he’s been a hard guy to count on” following Saturday’s announcement.
Thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve ailment which impairs the area around the shoulder and collar bone, is a difficult ailment to return from, and it would be surprising if Garcia was able to return to effectiveness following this injury. Former Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter dealt with the ailment starting in 2012, and though he was able to miraculously recover from it to pitch late in the season and in the 2012 playoffs, it ultimately prevented him from pitching last season and ended his career. The ailment also played a huge part in ending the careers of San Francisco Giants lefthander Noah Lowry and Texas Rangers lefty John Rheinecker.
After sitting out over a year following surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder, Garcia returned in mid-May and lifted up the Cardinals when they really needed it following the loss of starters Joe Kelly and Tyler Lyons. His numbers were skewed negatively by a poor start against the Kansas City Royals, but he was decently effective in 2014, going 3-1 with a 4.12 ERA, a 1.053 WHIP, and 39 strikes and seven walks in 43.2 innings.
Unless the Cardinals go out and trade for a proven starter, which may be becoming increasingly unlikely considering the team’s poor play of late, this development probably locks young righthander Carlos Martinez into a rotation spot for the rest of the season, or at the very least until righty Michael Wacha returns from injury.
If the Cardinals indeed do want to cut ties with Garcia after the season, it would be a rather difficult financial proposition, as he’s scheduled to make $9.25 million next year and will be difficult to trade following this injury. But after 2015, Garcia has two years of club options that can be bought out for $500,000 each.