Ah, yes. Atlanta Braves fans across the globe learned last week that the Braves were making left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia available as the team gets closer to the trade deadline and further away from playoff contention.
None of this can really be blamed on management, however, as the offense has performed well, but the starting pitching, an issue that was focused on heavily during the offseason, has faltered. Sure R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon are closer to being eligible for AARP than they are to their pitching primes, but no one in the industry foresaw a regression like the ones the veteran starters have endured in 2017. Julio Teheran has also struggled, though those struggles seem to be explained here. Mike Foltynewicz looks good for a few starts and then incredibly bad for another, meaning that his progression has not happened as much as the Braves and their fans thought it would following his 2016 campaign.
At least Garcia has been something for Braves fans to sit rather comfortably in their recliners. Sure, he holds just two wins on the season, but his 3.59 ERA and 4.10 FIP have shown that Garcia deserves some extra wins, but his offense hasn’t given him the necessary run support.
As a matter of fact, in Garcia’s last 10 starts before Saturday, the left-hander owned a 2.73 ERA, a 2-1 strikeout-walk ratio, and opponents have an OPS of .632 against him in 66 innings. In five of his last six starts, he’s been even better. In those five starts, he’s pitched 36 innings, has a 1.49 ERA, a 4-1 strikeout-walk ratio, and opponents have a .605 OPS against him.
So who fits the market for Garcia? A lot of teams. With the extra wildcard team in the playoffs, more teams compete and just about every, single one of them could use pitching. But that’s a little vague, right? I have identified teams who have struggled mightily with their starting pitchers this year and would need an arm like Garcia to greatly help their chances. Here are some teams that I have identified and the trades that I think would make a Garcia trade attractive for both clubs.
The Front Runners
At the time of this writing, the Baltimore Orioles own an ERA of 5.43, which is the second-worst mark in all of MLB. Their starters are 17-25 and are averaging just 5 1/3 innings per start. Wow. The Orioles have a 34-34 record, but sit just 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East, 4.5 games behind the first wildcard seed and one game out of the second wildcard berth.
The Orioles have the offense but could use some starting pitching. Here’s the trade
That price might be a bit steep for the Orioles and who in their right mind would want Dickey? Please hear me out.
If Dickey were in the Orioles rotation right now, he would have a better ERA than three guys who have made at least eight starts on the season. Jimenez owns a 6.25 ERA, Kevin Gausman owns a 6.60 ERA, and Chris Tillman owns an 8.07 mark. Dickey’s mark currently is at 5.35, but he’s also averaging almost six innings per start in 2017. Keep in mind that Dickey had a 4.73 ERA entering last Tuesday’s contest against the Nationals and should be expected to hover around that high 4 ERA for the 2017 season. He’s not a guy that will put Baltimore over the top, but he’s certainly better than what is out there currently, due to the fact that he can eat innings. Also, Dickey is pretty familiar with the AL East as he spent his past four seasons pitching above the border for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Braves would take Jimenez in this deal to get him out of Baltimore and free up some salary for the Orioles. Atlanta isn’t going anywhere in 2017 anyway. Taking Jimenez would allow the Braves to grab a high-upside, high-risk arm in Harvey who is a 22-year-old starting pitcher coming back from – wait for it – Tommy John Surgery! It’s a move that a team like the Braves could and should make if the logistics work out. This trade would also open up two rotation spots for the Braves as well so that the team could look at arms like Matt Wisler, Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims at the big league level.
Harvey, Mountcastle and Reyes are the Orioles No. 3, 4 and 9 ranked prospects. Some will think that this is too expensive for Baltimore, but a pitcher putting up a season like Garcia is, and with the Orioles struggling so much in the rotation, it’s something that Baltimore couldn’t easily hang up on. Mountcastle projects as a corner outfielder, Reyes is blocked by Manny Machado at third base and Harvey is a pticher that already has an impressively long injury history.
Who can believe that the Indians starters own a 4.84 ERA in 63 games this year following the team’s 2016 World Series berth from a year ago? Believe it. Josh Tomlin has been awful. Trevor Bauer has been awful. And Danny Salazar, who is on the disabled list, has been – you guessed it – awful. Those three starters have combined to make 36 starts for the Indians in 2017 and own a combined 12-18 record and a 5.73 ERA. (Dickey might be able to help this team as well) The Indians sit in first place in the AL Central by two games with a 36-31 record, but are they comfortable with that rotation for a playoff run? A trade for a starter or two would help the Tribe take the division and propel them it to the playoffs.
So what would the Braves want from the Indians?
If the Tribe would send one of Francisco Mejia or Bradley Zimmer over to the Braves, then Atlanta should pull the trigger now. But Mejia is the catcher of the future for the Indians and Zimmer would certainly be an upgrade over Abraham Almonte or Lonnie Chisenhall in the long term.
Those are the Indians No. 7, 9 and 12 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. Benson is a 19-year-old outfielder, who has not played a game of professional ball. Sure there is potential there, but with him being a ways off and other prospects closer to the big league level, Cleveland could spare to lose him. Diaz is one year older than the starting third baseman Jose Ramirez and would appear to be blocked – unless Cleveland would try to move him to left field – making him another expendable asset. Finally, there is Castro, a 20-year-old shortstop, who is blocked by one of the premier shortstops in the game: Francisco Lindor.
Again, it might be too rich for Cleveland, but every piece is expendable and the trade would make the Indians the easy favorite to capture the AL Central, not to mention Garcia, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco would make a pretty good 1-2-3 punch in the playoffs.
Speaking of teams coming off a World Series berth, the Cubs won the whole thing seven months ago and a lot of it was based on the great pitching it received. That hasn’t been the case in 2017. John Lackey is sporting a 4.98 ERA in 14 starts and Jake Arrieta has taken a massive step backward to the tune of a 4.64 ERA in 13 starts. Kyle Hendricks is on the disabled list meaning that Eddie Buttler, Brett Anderson, and Mike Mongomery have combined to make 14 starts for the Cubs this year. Those three have combined to toss 60 innings and have a 5.55 ERA. Jaime Garcia, you’d look great in blue.
Garcia to the Chicago Cubs for 3B Jeimer Candelario.
Candelario can play third base or first base and Bryzo (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo) have him blocked for the foreseeable future. He’s 23-years-old and has a better projection than current Braves third baseman Rio Ruiz. Candelario is ranked as the Cubs No. 4 prospect and the No. 84 prospect in all of baseball. This is a steep price for the Cubs, but where is he going to play? The Cubs could be favorites for a World Series trophy again this year, but the pitching has got to fix itself. Garcia would come at a considerably smaller price than Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander and would help the Cubs during their 2017 championship hunt.
There are a few other teams that would be interesting to watch but would appear to be long shots at this point in the season.
Seattle Mariners – The M’s need someone to replace Yovani Gallardo, who is approaching Colon-like levels of awfulness in 2017. The Mariners would be chasing the wildcard, but Garcia would certainly be an upgrade and give them a chance to reach the postseason for the first time since Ichiro Suzuki’s rookie year.
Detroit Tigers – The Tigers are a sleeper because many expect them to be sellers at the deadline. But if Detroit were to acquire Garcia, they’d keep him away from the Indians. If that happened, might the Tigers be favorites to take the AL Central?
Pittsburgh Pirates – Like the Tigers, many expect Pittsburgh to be a seller at this trading deadline. But what if they aren’t? Tyler Glasnow, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl have left much to be desired in 2017 and Garcia would be an upgrade. Plus Pittsburgh gets Starling Marte back in July. That is a separate acquisition in itself.
Minnesota Twins – Didn’t they just have the No. 1 pick in the draft? Yes, and they currently sit second in the AL Central with a 34-33 record. Advanced metrics say that the Twins don’t have much staying power, but Garcia would be an upgrade over Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia. There’s only a few things wrong with this. 1) Do the Twins have staying power? 2) In the midst of a rebuild themselves, how much would the Twins give up in the form of prospects?
This deadline will certainly be much more interesting for Braves fans as they have one of the top trade targets on the market and no shortage of teams that could use him for a playoff run. He’ll make most teams better and give whichever team that acquires him a great chance at capturing that desired playoff berth.