St. Louis Cardinals Will Pick Up LHP Jaime Garcia’s Option for 2016


As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss first reported early Sunday morning, the St. Louis Cardinals will pick up the $11.5 million-dollar option on lefthanded starting pitcher Jaime Garcia‘s contract and retain him for the 2016 season.

Getting the Cardinals to willingly pay him an eight-figure salary for another year is a massive victory for Garcia, who made just 16 total starts in 2013 and 2014 and dealt with a series of chronic shoulder issues that many believed would cut his career short. Even during a 2015 campaign that was Comeback Player of the Year-worthy, Garcia still missed roughly 11 weeks of the season due to two separate DL stints: one to open the season as he continued to rehab his shoulder, and another during July while dealing with a groin strain sustained while running the bases.

While he was on the mound, however, Garcia was dominant, putting up the best numbers of any starter on the team with the NL’s best regular season record. Over 20 starts, Garcia averaged just under 6.2 innings per start while amassing a 2.43 ERA, a .225 opponent batting average, and a 1.05 WHIP. Had he qualified for MLB’s ERA title, he would have placed second only to Clayton Kershaw among lefthanders (though fellow non-qualifying lefty starters Rich Hill and Steven Matz also put up superior numbers).

As strong of a commitment as an $11.5 million-dollar payout would seem to be at face value, the Cardinals actually made a pretty low-risk investment with Garcia. They get another year out of a pitcher who was arguably their best during 2015, and if he returns to his injury-riddled ways, he’ll come off the books at the end of 2016 and everything will more or less be water under the bridge. On the flip side, if he continues to dominate during 2016, the Cardinals will have the opportunity to keep him from free agency for yet another season, as he has a $12 million-dollar option for 2017.

With Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez now penciled into the 2016 rotation and Alex Reyes, Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney, and Tyler Lyons available to serve as in-house depth options, righthanded starter John Lackey has likely made his final start in a Cardinals uniform. The team needs as much available cash as possible to try to re-sign outfielder Jason Heyward, who some have speculated could earn a payment approaching nine figures due to his elite defensive ability and versatility, impact speed, and consistency at the plate. Therefore, giving another big contract to a starter who wouldn’t even be guaranteed to be a part of the initial rotation wouldn’t make much sense.

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While the 37-year-old Lackey was a highly reliable member of the Cardinals’ rotation for the past 15 months, the eight-figure salary and multi-year commitment that he’s likely to command in free agency just doesn’t match well with the Cardinals’ spending strategy. He’ll likely end up signing with a competitive team (the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Houston Astros would seem to be good fits) and serve as a sturdy back-of-the-rotation option in 2016 and beyond.

Next: How the Cardinals Can Win Free Agency

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