Jaime Garcia is owed $9.25 million next season before his club options kick in following the 2015 season. With recurring shoulder issues plaguing the talented-when-healthy lefty and a pitching staff full of capable starters, it’s unclear what Garcia’s role will be next season, or if he’ll even have any.
John Mozeliak, answering questions to a group of Cardinal bloggers in a written Q&A, addressed the issue of Garcia, which was also the subject of a recent United Cardinal Bloggers Roundtable discussion.
“Our expectations are TBD,” Mozeliak wrote. “He’s currently rehabbing from thoracic outlet surgery and right now we are encouraged on how that’s going. But until we see him on the mound and see him in spring training, we won’t know exactly what we have until he’s cleared to throw.”
The prognosis, both on and off the field, seems rather bleak for Garcia.
Sports Illustrated reported in July shortly after Garcia had his surgery that Mozeliak was miffed on how Garcia handled the subsequent surgery and more notably how he informed his teammates and the club’s front office.
The SI story cites a passage from a Post-Dispatch story:
Although he was offered a menu of rehab options before having surgery, Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia alerted the Cardinals this morning that he intends to have a procedure this coming week that will end his season.
…”He’s been a hard guy to count on,” Mozeliak said of the oft-injured lefty. “He’s been a hard guy to keep on the field.”
…The club was irritated by how Garcia notified them.
“It could have been handled a little different,” Mozeliak said. “This (injury) appears to have generated itself in the last couple weeks.”
This is indeed out of character for Mozeliak, who is usually rather low key and often stays away from public criticism of his players. But, in fairness, he had a point here.
On top of his latest issue, Garcia has dealt with a number of shoulder injuries dating back to the 2012 season.
He made nine starts in 2013 and went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 55.1 innings pitched, but again was sidelined that season and in 2012 with partial labrum and rotator cuff tears. He underwent surgery last May 24.
He began 2014 on the disabled list but still dealt with shoulder inflammation early on. He showed flashes of what he can be when he’s right, but his season ended after just seven starts after “discomfort” set in. He went 3-1 with a 4.12 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched.
For context, Garcia logged 479.2 innings from 2010-2012 and won 33 games during that stretch with a respectable ERA of 3.36. In 2013 and 2014 combined, Garcia logged just 99 total innings and saw his home run rate skyrocket. He gave up six home runs in 2013 and 2014 in just 16 total starts. He gave up seven home runs in all of 2012.
The issue that arose over the summer is not the first time that Garcia has angered teammates and management about knowledge and handling of his injuries. He attempted to pitch Game 2 of the National League Division Series while knowingly hurt. The result was two innings of tight-rope walking pitching that nearly resulted in an important loss for the Cardinals, a performance that caused some teammates to publicly disclose their frustration with Garcia.
On one hand, it’s hard to fault a guy for trying to gut it out for his team. Even the latest example, which largely hinges on Garcia opting immediately for surgery rather than rehab, is somewhat understandable. He’s at a crossroads in his career and he theoretically runs the risk of causing even more damage during rehab than if he just went ahead and had surgery. With possible free agency looming for Garcia, it’s entirely plausible that he felt his best chance at landing a deal would be to get healthy and go all in for 2015.
On the other hand, the aforementioned SI article outlines how big of a riff Garcia’s injuries caused among staff medical personnel. Whether Mozeliak is right or wrong in his opinion on how Garcia handled everything, it’s evident that his patience for the 27-year-old pitcher is running thin.
The Cardinals can obviously find a place for a healthy Garcia, most likely in a long relief role. As Mozeliak said, he’s not a guy that they’ve been able to count on much lately so throwing him right into the rotation seems illogical. Not using him in some way, though, also seems illogical.
Best case scenario would be the Cardinals are able to showcase a healthy Garcia in some fashion and move him in a trade. However, if Garcia isn’t healthy by Spring Training or even suffers a setback, it’s entirely likely that Mozeliak could finally decide to just part ways.
Follow Cole Claybourn @HighSock_Sunday or reach him by email at email@example.com.