Zac Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Adolis Garcia of the Texas Rangers have been putting on a show throughout the playoffs. The worst part about that for Cardinal fans is the fact that both players were once in their minor league system.
Hindsight is always 20/20. The issue with Cardinal fans getting riled up about both of these players is that neither had a stellar minor league career and neither was a top prospect nationally or within the Cardinals' system. Gallen reached as high as #24 in 2017, and Garcia was never in the top 30 in the organization. Suffice it to say, neither Zac Gallen nor Adolis Garcia were highly-touted prospects who required the front office to make plans around.
That fact alone makes their meteoric rises to stardom even more admirable. Gallen and Garcia put in the work to make themselves better, and it has worked. They are leading their respective teams' charges in the postseason. However, Cardinal fans should not look at their recent successes and think ill of John Mozeliak for trading Zac Gallen in 2017 and designating Adolis Garcia for assignment in 2019.
Gallen was a part of the massive trade for Marcell Ozuna. After the 2017 season, the Cardinals were looking for a big bat in the middle of the lineup to fit around Yadier Molina, Tommy Pham, and Matt Carpenter. On the pitching side, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Lance Lynn formed a formidable rotation. Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Jack Flaherty were on the rise in the prospect ranks. The Cardinals had too many pitchers at many levels, and they needed a big bat. At the time, the trade made a lot of sense.
Gallen's minor league stats were actually quite strong at three levels. Across High-A, AA, and AAA in 2017, Gallen had a 2.93 ERA, 1.172 WHIP, and struck out 121 batters in 147 innings. He did a good job at limiting home runs, and he had a 3.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Gallen showed potential, but there were too many pitchers ranked higher than Gallen in the pipeline. He showed signs of future success, but the Cardinals felt like they had better pitchers on the rise. It stinks to see him succeed in a different uniform, but looking back at the context of the trade, it makes sense.
Adolis Garcia is in a bit of a different situation. He was never ranked in the Cardinals' top 30 prospects, and his minor-league stats were not eye-popping. The Cardinals designated him for assignment after the 2019 season. He showed promise in the minors with a .818 OPS in 529 plate appearances for AAA Memphis in 2019, but he had a miserable audition in St. Louis later that year. In JUST 17 plate appearances, he struck out 7 times, didn't walk at all, and had a .118/.177/.294 slash line. He had just three hits, only one of which was an extra-base hit.
That is a microscopic sample size. His minor league stats showed that he had the potential to hit, but the Cardinals had an outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill, and Dexter Fowler in 2019. In the minors, St. Louis had an ascendant Dylan Carlson, Randy Arozarena (ouch), and Lane Thomas coming up through the ranks. Garcia did not have a spot on the roster. To add more credence to the Cardinals' decision to trade Garcia, he was even DFA'd by the Rangers in the Spring of 2021 to make room for Mike Foltynewicz.
Garcia had decent minor league numbers, but he wasn't as highly touted or as polished as a prospect as other players were for the Cardinals. It would have been nice for the Cardinals to at least get a player in return for Garcia, but designating him for assignment opened up a spot for Kwang-Hyun Kim, a left-handed starter that the Cardinals badly needed at the time.
Both Gallen and Garcia showed some potential to become good players, but no one could have predicted their rise to stardom. It stinks to see both players go away, but there is not a single team in the Majors that doesn't have players they regret trading away. The Dodgers traded a young Yordan Alvarez, the Pirates traded away Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows for a depreciating Chris Archer, and the Chicago White Sox Fernando Tatis Jr. to the Padres for James Shields.
St. Louis has made some poor decisions with trades in the past, but they have had just as many successes with trades. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado were both fantastic trades on the part of John Mozeliak. Hopefully, we don't have as many trades that ended up the way the Gallen trade ended up, and hopefully, their player development and evaluation will improve in the future.