Well played, John Mozeliak.
The GM was correct; there was a trade market for Jaime Garcia. If anything the Cardinals received more of a return than I anticipated.
Not that the Atlanta Braves handed over elite prospects to obtain the eccentric left; as anyone of sound mind understands there was no chance of that.
Garcia is an old 30. His career has been sidetracked by frequent arm injuries, interruptions. He was mostly terrible in 2016. And he can become a free agent after the 2017 season.
Among MLB starters who made at least 30 starts in 2016 only Milwaukee’s Chase Anderson had fewer quality starts (6) than Garcia’s 10 last season.
And as I’ve written before: in Cardinals franchise history, there are 198 instances of a pitcher turning in 30 starts in a season — and none had fewer than 10 quality starts. This was one of worst seasons, ever, by a Cards’ rotation regular. Garcia had no consistency.
I was skeptical of a trade market forming for Garcia. Obviously Mozeliak knew otherwise. When I first heard that a trade had gone down, I thought the Cardinals would be fortunate to get a decent prospect (with some upside) and a throw-in prospect.
Instead, Mozeliak received right-handed pitchers John Gant and Chris Ellis. MLB.com ranked both 24-year-olds among the top 21 prospects in the Braves’ farm system. Gant already has pitched in the big leagues and could find his way to the St. Louis bullpen in 2017. And the Cardinals really like Ellis’ potential. He’s got some Lance Lynn in him — including the Ole Miss connection.
MLB.com already has placed Ellis (No. 24) and Gant (No. 27) on the Cardinals’ top-30 prospects list.
Here’s MLB.com on Ellis: “(He) has the size, strength and repertoire to succeed (in the majors) as a starter, with the upside perhaps as a No. 4. If that doesn’t work, his fastball-slider combination would play up more in relief, a role he had in his first two years at the University of Mississippi.”
The Braves’ throw-in was Class A second baseman Luke Dykstra. Unless some power surfaces during his development, there isn’t much to get excited about.
Perhaps some of the delusional among us were expecting Dansby Swanson coming over from Atlanta, but I think Mozeliak got a solid return for a diminished Garcia.
Not that you can ever have too much pitching, but the starting-rotation depth is sufficient:
Trevor Rosenthal (trial basis in spring training)
John Gant (maybe.)
Mike Mayers (maybe.)
And more of young-gun prospects are on the way.
And by adding Ellis and Gant the Cardinals deepened their pool of young pitching and that could make them more comfortable about trading young pitching talent to get a center fielder, or left fielder.
The added plus is removing Garcia’s $12 million salary from the payroll. The Cardinals had already trimmed $17 million (Matt Holliday), Brandon Moss ($8.25 million).
Even with the signing of free-agent lefty reliever Brett Cecil to a four-year contract that will pay him $7.75 million in 2015, the Cardinals have carved out a nice bit of payroll space in preparation of going shopping.
That payroll, $145 million last season, probably sits at around $120 million right now — after factoring in the expected salary increases for arbitration-years Cardinals that include Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Matt Adams, Kevin Siegrist … and possibly Seth Maness, if the Cards tender Maness a contract offer. He’s coming off elbow surgery, so …
So what’s next?
–– Do the Cardinals (as expected) make a run at free-agent center fielder Dexter Fowler, age 31? I question if Fowler, who has other offers and options, wants to play for Mike Matheny. So how much would the Cardinals be willing to overpay?
— Do the Cards (as rumored) pursue free-agent third baseman Justin Turner, age 32? Turner went from being a backup infielder and MLB journeyman to developing into a strong and productive hitter during three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. By the way, here’s a headline from a piece written for the Fox Sports site in 2015: “Justin Turner a different hitter since working with Marlon Byrd.”
(Well. OK, then.)
— Do the Cardinals part with premium pitching prospects to address their outfield concerns?
— Do they move more salary by trading a veteran like, say, Jhonny Peralta, as prelude to a larger trade?
— Are the Cardinals really, really set on Aledmys Diaz at shortstop or will they move him to another defensive spot and explore the shortstop trade market?
— Do they get involved in the trade bidding for Chicago White Sox ace lefty Chris Sale?
Mozeliak has money to spend. His Garcia gambit worked. He has roster spots to fill, and a team to upgrade.
The baseball winter meetings begin Monday near Washington D.C.
It’s time for the Cards to make something happen.
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend…