Posted on December 2, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Atlanta Braves can not stop acquiring starting pitchers this offseason. After already signing veterans R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, the Braves have now added lefty Jaime Garcia. The Braves acquired Garcia Thursday in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, sending a trio of prospects to St. Louis. In the deal, which both teams have already announced, the Cardinals acquired pitchers Chris Ellis and John Gant and second baseman Luke Dykstra.
The Cardinals picked up Garcia’s $12 million option for 2017 earlier this offseason, but did appear to be shopping him and a couple other starters, as they have what some would consider to be an excess of starting pitchers heading into next season. Garcia did have a down year in 2016, going 10-13 with a 4.67 ERA, but the 30-year old southpaw does have a long track record of success, including a 2.43 ERA in 20 starts in 2015 coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Garcia is also in a contract year in 2017, so he should be motivated to be at his best.
Garcia joins a rotation in Atlanta that includes veterans Dickey and Colon, as well as ace Julio Teheran and the emerging Mike Foltynewicz. With Garcia joining those four, Atlanta’s rotation should be set heading into 2017, with youngsters like Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair providing depth. The Braves may not be able to matchup with what NL East rivals like the Mets and Nationals have in their rotation, but it does look solid, especially if the aging Dickey and Colon can continue to hold up.
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Meanwhile, the Cardinals should be fine in terms of starting rotation depth, even without Garcia. St. Louis still has a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and youngster Alex Reyes, giving them six viable options when everyone is healthy. The Cardinals also save money by trading Garcia’s $12 million salary for 2017, in addition to adding a trio of prospects to their farm system instead of losing Garcia for nothing after next season.
Moreover, all three of the prospects the Cardinals received in the trade were ranked among the top 30 in Atlanta’s highly rated farm system, according to MLB.com. Ellis came to the Braves last winter in the Andrelton Simmons trade with the Angels. He struggled at triple-A in 2016 but projects as a back-end starter. He should provide depth for the Cardinals this season if they suffer injuries to their starting rotation.
Gant should serve in a similar role this season after making seven starts and 13 relief appearances with the Braves last season. He was originally one of the excess starters in the Mets illustrious farm system and was sent to Atlanta during the summer of 2015. Gant projects as a back-end starter and could be one of the first pitchers St. Louis calls up in 2017 when they need an extra starter.
Dykstra is the son of former big league Lenny Dykstra, and is said to possess many of the same intangibles as his father. He was a 7th round pick of the Braves in 2014 and is a .300 hitter through three seasons in the minors. He doesn’t have much power at the moment, but he can definitely hit for average and is a solid defender with good speed. He spent 2016 in low-A ball and is a couple years away from being on the major league radar.
Ultimately, the Cardinals didn’t receive much out of this trade other than salary relief and minor league pitching depth. However, they didn’t necessarily need Garcia in 2017, so they were able to trade from a position of strength.
Meanwhile, Garcia has a chance to help the Braves be competitive in 2017, as their rotation could be good enough to put them in the mix for a wild card spot. Considering how strong Atlanta’s farm system is, the Braves didn’t give up much to rent Garcia for a year. This could turn into a rather positive trade for them if Garcia ends up helping them remain relevant in the standings in 2017; if not, it does little to hurt them in the long run.