Thursday night, the Cardinals ended an–well, tumultuous seems a bit strong, as does controversial, so let’s go with unpredictable–era by sending Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves for three prospects. Somewhat interestingly, the Cardinals also got out completely from under the $12 million Garcia is owed next season. A tenure marked with some brilliance but with a lot of frustration came to a close.
As Meet Me At Musial listeners know, I always defer to my friend John Nagel when it comes to prospect evaluation. John’s not overly excited about the return for Garcia, but there is some value there. The way I see these guys, the Cardinals lost a lot of Memphis-shuttle pitchers this year, with Tim Cooney being picked up by Cleveland and Marco Gonzales out of options. They needed some guys that could come up and contribute, albeit in a limited way, if a starter went down or a bullpen arm was needed. John Gant (who I will for a long time confuse with former Cardinal farmhand John Gast) actually faced the Cardinals twice in the April series against the two clubs last season, though with not really any success (two innings, five hits, four runs). He’ll probably be the first guy up, since he replaced Garcia on the 40-man roster.
With the 40-man pretty full, getting a guy like Chris Ellis also has some value, because he’s an insurance piece that doesn’t take up much room. Once the season gets going, Tyler Lyons will move to the 60-day DL and temporarily free up a spot if they ever needed to promote Ellis, but having a guy in Memphis who is still young enough to have some upside is a nice thing to have in case it all goes south. You’d hate to rely on him to save a season, but he could plug a hole for a week or two if necessary.
As for Luke Dykstra, it would seem he’s more in the “lottery ticket” vein. He’s had a little success in the lower ranks and maybe he could turn into something that eventually would be helpful at the big league level. That help isn’t likely to include power, but if he can be that leadoff-type guy (which would require a lot more discipline to take some walks), there could be something there. He’s a long way off and maybe the organization thinks they can tinker and get more out of him. That could go for the two pitchers as well.
Garcia’s time in St. Louis is likely to be remembered by fans for his head-case reputation (deserved or not) and some significant playoff failures, but when he was on he was one of the best lefties to come through the Gateway City in quite some time. It’s indicative of his inconsistency that he was nominated for two Games of the Year on the Cardinal Blogger Award ballot while having his worst full-season ERA of his career. Garcia was outstanding in his real rookie season of 2010, coming in third in the ROY voting with a 2.70 ERA and 13 wins. He never quite reached those heights again, though his 2015 season, only slightly marred by injury, might argue with that statement.
Back in 2010, Nick (my co-founder here at the Conclave) had a great campaign going with his push for Garcia to be on the roster. (I still regret never getting a Honkin’ for Jaime shirt.) Garcia rewarded Nick’s insight that season and always tantalized folks with his talent (something he seemed to often get the most out of facing the Brewers). There’s no-hit stuff with Jaime, but there’s also a lot more games of four or five runs early or a deflating loss after a good run. Garcia’s time in St. Louis had probably run its course, especially with his relationship with the front office occasionally being on edge, but we wish him well in Atlanta (for however long he may stay there).
That wasn’t the only news of the weekend, though. In a bit of a surprise to me, the club non-tendered reliever Seth Maness. I didn’t know until I saw Derrick Goold mention it in a tweet that Maness didn’t have Tommy John surgery but a less involved elbow surgery. Given my discussion with Davis Ward, I kinda expected they’d stick with Maness, but the limited 40-man flexibility probably spelled his doom. (I still am surprised Jose Martinez hasn’t been cut, given the room that the seem to need.) We talked about it in the Exit Interview, but Maness had a pretty good run after his first DL stint last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s got a new team fairly shortly, one that could have the luxury of letting him get better to hopefully provide dividends.
Matt Holliday already knows his new team, the New York Yankees. Holliday will be $3 million poorer than he could have been if the Cardinals exercised his option but still got a pretty solid “make good” contract. I still think the Cardinals probably should have kept Holliday on the option to see if he bounced back, but there’s no doubt that an AL team with the DH makes a lot of sense for him. The Cardinals go to New York in April, so it won’t be long before we get an up close and personal look at him in pinstripes. That’s going to feel pretty weird, isn’t it?
According to Mark Saxon, the ESPN writer that covers the Cardinals, his sources tell him that the Cards are planning one major free agent signing and one major trade in the next week or so, giving the team a new look and feel before the holidays. We’ll see if that happens–I’d believe the signing is more likely to happen as trades can flake out at the last minute. If the club is doing both, it would seem that the signing would not be Dexter Fowler, because I don’t know what you trade for if you aren’t getting a center fielder. However, the only other “major” signing would seem to be Justin Turner, whom the Cards may or may not have interest in, depending on who you believe. I hope that the Cards make a splash in some regard, if only to make it easier to come up with a blog post!