The Atlanta Braves continue to add veteran arms to the rotation, acquiring left-hander Jaime Garcia from the St. Louis Cardinals in four-player trade on Thursday. In exchange, Atlanta sent right-handers John Gant and Chris Ellis as well as minor league infielder Luke Dykstra to St. Louis.
Garcia, 30, is set to make $12 million in 2017 after the Cardinals exercised his option last month. With this trade, the Braves continue their trend of bringing on veteran starters on short-term contracts. Garcia joins Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in Atlanta’s revamped rotation, one that has added 916 starts worth of experience to its ranks over the last three weeks. These moves were designed to create some much-needed stability in 2017, while leaving the door open for the numerous pitching prospects lining up in the Braves system. Additionally, it leaves the Braves open to explore their options for future acquisitions, whether that be in the coming weeks or months or sometime later next year.
Though Garcia has battled arm injuries over the course of his eight-year big league career, he has displayed plenty of promise as well. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008, Garcia returned to finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, when he went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA. He followed that up with a 13-7 season as St. Louis won the World Series in 2011, but shoulder injuries cost him time over each of the next three seasons. He underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2013 and again to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2014.
After making just 36 starts from 2013-2015, Garcia was 10-13 with a 4.67 ERA in 32 games (30 starts) for the Cardinals last season and turned in a career-best 7.9 K/9, but also allowed a career-worst 1.4 HR/9. His fastball velocities sat just above his career norm, while some of his secondary pitches seemed to drop a tick in 2016 (per FanGraphs). Garcia adds a left-handed presence to a rotation that has been without for much of the last two seasons and did not receive a single start from a lefty in 2016.
Atlanta parted ways with another pair of pitching prospects in this deal, after sending two to Seattle to acquire Alex Jackson on Tuesday. John Gant entered my pre-season Braves Prospects list at No. 14, while Chris Ellis checked in at No. 16. Luke Dykstra was not on my previous list or the upcoming end of season update. All three men were mid-level (Gant and Ellis) or lower prospects for most outlets.
Gant, 24, saw some big league time in 2016, going 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA and 21BB/49K in 50 IP, including seven starts. He was originally acquired in the Kelly Johnson trade of 2015. He holds the distinction of having one of the most unusual pitching deliveries in baseball.
Ellis, who is also 24, split 2016 between Mississippi and Gwinnett and finished 12-9 with a 4.49 ERA and 87BB/126K in 146.1 innings. His early success in Double-A did not translate to Triple-A, where he was 4-7 with a 6.15 ERA in 15 starts. This was due in large part to control problems that plagued him throughout the season. Ellis came over as part of the Andrelton Simmons trade with the Angels in November of 2015.
Dykstra, 21, is the son of former All-Star outfielder Lenny Dykstra. He batted .304/.332/.363 in 81 games for Low-A Rome in 2016.