The Cardinals have finally made some progress on their quest for pitching stability, signing lefty Jaime Garcia to a four year extension. The deal was announced Wednesday afternoon, and although it doesn’t exactly do much in the way of providing and/or improving stability this season, it solidifies a top spot in the starting rotation for the foreseeable future.
The new contract guarantees Garcia $27.5 million, a significant upgrade over the $437,000 that he makes this year. It comes with a $500,000 signing bonus and built in club options for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
After the jump, I’ll break down the details of the contract and what it means for both the team and Garcia himself.
*If club decides to pick up option ($500,000 buyout alternative)
The 25-year-old Garcia collected his team-high ninth victory of the season on Sunday to head into the all-star break with a 9-3 record along with an ERA of 3.22, 100 strikeouts, and 32 walks in 117.1 innings pitched. He is the team leader in ERA, strikeouts, starts, and wins above replacement for a pitcher (2.6) as well. Garcia has won each of his last three starts, and given his Major League leading 1.14 ERA at home this season, it’s certainly easy to understand why he was eager to stay put in St. Louis. Jaime’s 1.78 career ERA at Busch Stadium is the lowest among players with at least 20 starts in their home ballpark since 1920. Whether you’re a Cards fan or not, that’s quite an astonishing statistic.
I find it a rather strange time for St. Louis to dish out an extension just a day after the all-star game, but I suppose now is as good a time as any to reach an agreement. Maybe the team wanted to reward their young ace with a late birthday present (Garcia turned 25 last Friday). This gives the Cardinals one less thing to worry about when the trade deadline rolls around on July 31st, and it gives John Mozeliak a better sense of just how aggressive he can be as a buyer at the deadline. While the Cards could potentially be both buyers and sellers in the coming weeks, I think it’s highly likely that a strong effort will be made to bring an additional pitcher to St. Louis, whether that’s a starter, reliever, or both.
Garcia’s extension also provides the organization with a much clearer picture of how much money is available when contract talks with Albert Pujols resume. Speaking of Pujols, isn’t it funny to think that Albert’s next contract could end up giving him more money in one season than Garcia’s entire contract gives him over five years?
It should be noted that Garcia’s contract covers all three years of his arbitration eligibility. Anyone familiar with the process knows that it can get really ugly between a franchise and a player in some situations, so avoiding it altogether is generally in the best interest of everyone involved.
No matter how you look at it, the Cardinals certainly got the most out of this contract extension. Not only do they lock up a guy who figures to be an integral part of the franchise for the rest of his prime, they get two options at the tail end of the contract which would allow for his release in the case of injury or poor performance. The team has to feel good about the outcome as they have serious flexibility and are now in control of Garcia’s future in many ways.
As far as what this extension means for Jaime himself, it brings financial stability to a young star with a bright future. This could very possibly relieve any pressure or stress that he has been feeling personally, and it has to give him confidence knowing that the front office wants him to be part of this team moving forward. As a 22nd round draft pick who had reconstructive elbow surgery in his first season, there was surely a period of uncertainty. Now, Garcia plans to take care of his family in Mexico, bringing the immediate members to Texas to live with him. I’m sure he is just excited as I am about the idea of a Wainwright-Garcia one-two punch at the top of the Redbird rotation for many years to come.