(BaseballStL) -- Anyone who’s watched Jaime Garcia throw when healthy knows he’s flat out disgusting at times. The late movement on his fastball is among the hardest to hit in the game today. Hitters look downright foolish at times trying to center the ball.
There’s just one problem. Garcia’s spent more time than on the DL than anyone anticipated when he signed his 4-year, $27 million contract in July of 2011.
I doubt GM John Mozeliak envisioned the lefty making just 16 starts in 2013 and 2014 combined. That includes just seven last year before succumbing to shoulder surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
When Jaime Garcia is healthy he’s almost always extremely good. That’s not the question. The question is whether or not the Cardinals can count on him enough to pencil him into the rotation. That’s not a decision to make in a vacuum.
Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and John Lackey are entrenched into the starting rotation come Opening Day. Carlos Martinez is the leading candidate to take the final spot. Former #1 pick Marco Gonzales is a legitimate fallback option in Martinez isn’t up to the task.
Rarely have you heard the Cards mention Garcia as a contender…at least not more than a throw-in consolation.
I’m really not sure what to expect from the 28-year old. On one hand he’s too good to keep off the mound if healthy. On the other you could be setting your team up for failure by letting him loose. So what to do?
Well, the next six months are easy. Spring training is an easy way to let more than five starting pitchers prepare for a full Major League season. Garcia can get his work in and show everyone he’s healthy. If the shoulder starts to bark at any point in February and March? The decision is easy. That’s because there is no decision.
But what if Garcia gets through a full Grapefruit League schedule healthy and strong? What then? I suppose it’s impossible to answer that question until we know what kind of results he had compared to those of Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales.
No matter what, you’d imagine the Cards would like to see Garcia go through a rehab assignment with a minor league club – say, AAA Memphis – to further prove his health. Those can last 30 days. That means a decision, one way or another, would have to be made at the end of April.
By then they could have a better feel for what Martinez and Gonzales can provide. They could also have a feel for what value Garcia might have in a trade.
All options are on the table at this point. The lefty is in the final guaranteed year of that 4-year deal he signed in 2011. If he has any hope at all of having a team – whether it’s the Cards or someone else – pick up the options in 2016 and 2017 then now is the time to come through.
Let the games begin.