There isn't a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization who could have told you with confidence before the season started what they were going to get out of Jaime Garcia in 2015. The 28-year old lefty is an enigma wrapped in a Rubik's Cube.
The talent is obvious. The durability? Well, let's just say no one will confuse him with Cal Ripken, Jr anytime soon.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Redbirds declining Garcia's two remaining club options, thus freeing themselves of his salary. He got healthy. He got an opportunity. He's letting that aforementioned talent absolutely fly.
Through six starts Garcia is, first of all, still healthy. That's the ultimate qualifier. But in 41 innings the lefty has a 1.76 ERA, a .210 opponents' batting average and a 0.90 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). The baseball looks like a wiffle ball out of his hands when things are going right. And that's what is happening right now.
It goes without saying as long as the man stays healthy and strong he's in the rotation for the rest of the year. Beyond that? That's where it gets fascinating.
I can't sit here and ruminate over whether Garcia will stay healthy for a long time and if his shoulder is truly healed following thoracic outlet surgery last year. I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV. All I can do is watch – like you – and trust what my eyes see.
And what I see is a healthy pitcher who's throwing with a purpose. I'm not 100 percent sure about this, but wouldn't you think if Garcia's surgically repaired surgery wasn't healed it would have caused him problems by now?
He's made six big league starts this year in addition to two rehab starts in the minors. That doesn't include all the throwing he did in extended spring training just to get to that point. Never – other than usual soreness all pitchers go through – has he experienced any true problems with that left shoulder.
Again, I can't predict what will happen inside Garcia's body. I don't have a doctorate in anatomy. But until something happens to the 28-year old, each time he makes a start and comes out of it healthy, I have to assume he'll remain healthy.
I could end up looking foolish down the road for saying that. Or maybe I won't.
If, however, Garcia does finish the 2015 season healthy and strong it's very difficult to envision the Cardinals not finding a way to bring him back for next year. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Garcia has a club option for 2016 at $11.5 million. The Cards could pick that up or they could buy him out for $1 million, thus letting him leave for another team.
Or the Cardinals could do something else. They could rework his contract to possibly get a little protection in case he suffers any further injury.
Either way, should Garcia return in 2016 that may complicate the ascent of former first round pick Marco Gonzales. Assuming Adam Wainwright makes a full recovery from his torn Achilles tendon, he'll join Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez in the starting rotation.
Would the Cardinals try and re-sign John Lackey? Perhaps. But he's a free agent and will cost far more than $11.5 million for one season – which is what Garcia costs. Lackey's not left-handed and is eight years older.
As we've seen this past year you can never have too much pitching. Cliché, I know. But true. Injuries happen to arms and knees and Achilles tendons all the time. It's a volatile position. We'll just have to project Garcia a lot further ahead in the Cards future than we originally though apparently.