It's becoming more apparent the Cardinals are going to exercise pitcher Jaime Garcia's $12 million option for next season. MLB.com's Jen Langosh was first to report that probability this week.
The decision was not hard. Like, at all. The Cardinals experienced first-hand just how volatile starting pitching can be during the 2016 season. With so much uncertainty heading into next year they have to pick up that option.
Think about it. Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake and Carlos Martinez are locks for the rotation. Okay, that’s three out of the five. I’m almost positive Lance Lynn will be in there. That’s four out of the five.
What about after that? Michael Wacha is far from a sure thing due to the health status of his pitching shoulder. Alex Reyes could easily slide into a starting spot but, man, would he look good in the back end of the bullpen. Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Luke Weaver are all depth - nothing more at this point.
If the Cardinals had declined Garcia’s option for next season and let him go due to his lackluster 2016 season (10-13, 4.67 ERA) they would rob themselves of added depth and get absolutely nothing for him. By picking it up they give themselves additional insurance during a time when there is very little good starting pitching available on the market. They also have a trade chip between now and Opening Day.
At this point I would say it’s unlikely Garcia will be in a Redbirds uniform when the Cardinals break camp next spring but anything is possible. What if Wacha’s shoulder doesn’t respond? What if Reyes still struggles with efficiency and there’s a glaring need in the bullpen?
Even if that doesn’t happen there will certainly be a market for Garcia via trade at some point. Pitchers get hurt. Teams need pitching. And getting a lefty who has just one year left on his deal for a reasonable cost will certainly get you something in return. And something is better than the nothing the Cardinals would’ve gotten had they declined the option.
The Cards are in a tough spot. You saw what type of pitching it took to win the World Series. Before the Cubs and Indians got totally gassed in Game 7 it was a war of great pitching. Good wasn’t good enough. The Cardinals need Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake to be better and more consistent next season to contend in the National League Central.
Pitching is everything. I don’t care how many home runs the Cardinals hit, if they don’t pitch better (and play better defense for that matter) they won’t be going anywhere. It was critical to keep control over Garcia because of the possibility he could be needed and the fact he could fetch something valuable if he’s not.