Coming off three straight injury-plagued seasons, Jaime Garcia surpassed 170 innings for just the second time in his career. Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar as he stumbled out of the gate and had a 4.01 ERA heading into the All-Star break. Matters only got worse as he pitched to a 5.60 ERA over 15 games in the second half. His walk rate shot up -- to 7.7 percent from from 2015's respectable mark of 5.9 percent -- as did his HR/9 rate. In fact, his HR/9 more than tripled from the previous season. Due to his propensity for allowing baserunners and the long ball, Garcia failed to be a viable starter. He forced St. Louis to turn to their bullpen early when he'd take the mound, averaging only 5.4 innings per start. Although he struggled throughout 2016, he should be assured of a rotation spot for the Braves following a December trade. Garcia's headed into the final and most expensive year of his contract.
Garcia looked good Tuesday in a batting practice session as he faced hitters for the first time this spring, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. While the Braves certainly aren't expecting Garcia to match the 2.43 ERA and 1.05 WHIP he put up in 2015, they are hoping he can improve on last season's 4.67 ERA and 1.37 WHIP -- both career worsts for the left-hander -- while still providing 30 starts, something he hadn't done since 2011 prior to tossing 171.2 innings in 2016. The 30-year-old is in the final year of his current contract, so he'll have plenty of incentive to prove he can be a valuable and reliable member of the Atlanta rotation as he heads into free agency.
Garcia was traded to the Braves Thursday, Mark Saxon of ESPN reports. The Cardinals have plenty of pitching depth, and given the struggles Garcia incurred last season, the left-hander was deemed expendable by the St. Louis brass. Although Garcia did have a down year in 2016, he did pitch well against left-handed hitters (.246 BAA, 22 percent strikeout rate), which could help him garner a spot in the Braves rotation that is incredibly thin in the southpaw department.
The Cardinals will exercise the $12 million option on Garcia's contract for 2017, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports. Garcia posted both the worst full-season ERA and WHIP of his career in 2016, but he did start 30 games for just the second time in seven years and does not carry a hefty 2017 salary, so the Cardinals decided to pick up the option on his deal. The team has seven strong contenders for a rotation spot heading into next season, so it remains to be seen if Garcia will be part of the top five, and where he will slot in if he is.
Garcia (10-13) lasted just one inning and allowed two runs on four hits in a loss Monday to the Reds. Brandon Phillips stole third base off Garcia, who didn't appear to look him back at all, and that may have been the real reason why Garcia wasn't even allowed back for the second inning -- after all, he threw just 21 pitches, and worse first innings have been endured. Garcia hasn't won a game since Aug. 16; in eight starts since, he has a 7.36 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and 0-5 record. His season will all but certainly end with a 4.67 ERA in 32 starts, the worst of his career as a regular starter.
Garcia will re-enter the rotation and start Monday's game against the Reds, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. Garcia was briefly moved to the bullpen in order to make room in the rotation for top prospect Alex Reyes, but after Luke Weaver's second poor start in a row, the left-hander will step back into the fold. Garcia's ERA in the second half of the season still sits at a paltry 5.43, but the matchup against Cincinnati on Monday does look favorable.