By now, Cardinals fans know the drill. When Jaime Garcia is on, he’s as good of a lefthander as you will find in this league. He makes MLB hitters swing awkwardly and ugly at several of his pitches. He doesn’t need a ton of pitches to get through 7 innings of work and he seems to have conquered the maturation on the mound aspect as he nears the ripe age of 30. However, the biggest problem with Garcia has little to do with pitching and everything to do with health. Can he stay healthy and for how long? Should the Cards invest in that going forward?
Garcia will be making his 10th start in Milwaukee tonight and his 2015 season has been impressive, albeit incomplete. While he doesn’t have the win total due to a lack of run support(19 runs in 9 starts), Garcia hasn’t been reached for more than 3 earned runs in his 9 starts, and he’s only needed more than 100 pitches once. He has a 3 to 1 strikeouts to walks ratio and doesn’t allow a lot of clean contact. His WHIP is a rude 0.92 and hitters have only scraped a .199 average against him. How is he doing it? Every Garcia pitch has movement, whether it’s is 91 mph four seam fastball or his devastating sinker and slider. He doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses but he does induce plenty of groundballs.
Garcia is a wicked bowl of talent that seems to slip off the counter far too often. It’s hard to get excited about Garcia because when you do, it seems to be a flicker of greatness. The southpaw is nearing the end of another season where he won’t make more than 20 starts for the fourth consecutive season. Garcia has an 11.5 million dollar option for 2016 and a 12 million dollar option for 2017, both carrying 500k buyouts. With Marco Gonzales coming up fast and ready to assume a role in this rotation, does Garcia return next year? Do the Cards take that gamble with his health? Let’s answer that question.
If he finishes the season(which is like saying if you finish that 1 pound hamburger inside 5 minutes), The Cardinals should bring back Garcia, as long as it’s just the one year. Until he establishes an ability to stay healthy, the team shouldn’t extend him beyond a year. At the same time, they can’t cut loose a guy who has honestly figured something out. He hasn’t been this sharp in years and whether it’s brief and not long lasting to this point, Garcia is a riddle for Major League hitters. In his weakest outings, his first against the Mets and last against Colorado, he still managed to keep the Cards in the game and pitch well. He hasn’t been beat up once this season and that can’t be discounted.
For now, enjoy the lefty while you can. He’s that traveling rock n’ roll band who may flame out at any moment, cursed by its internal structure and wiring. Garcia is easily one of the best pitchers in the National League…when he’s actually pitching. While a decision on 2016 will loom soon enough, Cardinals fans need to hope, not bet, on Garcia staying healthy the rest of the way.