The Atlanta Braves are backpedaling away from their youth-filled rotation in a hurry. After signing veterans Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, the team traded for 30-year-old Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia on Thursday night, filling three rotation spots in the span in a three-week span.
The Braves sent right-handed pitchers Chris Ellis and John Gant and infielder Luke Dykstra to the Cardinals in the deal. All three players were top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
Garcia, who is poised to become the first left-hander in the everyday Braves rotation since Alex Wood, is essentially a one-year rental at $12 million in 2017.
The former 22nd-round pick has spent six full MLB seasons in the Cardinals rotation, posting a career 3.57 ERA in 896 innings pitched. Last season, his numbers dropped considerably as his ERA nearly doubled from its 2015 mark (4.67) and opposing batters hit home runs off him at a career-worst rate. However, Garcia’s 1.2 wins above replacement would have ranked third-best among Braves starters behind only Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz.
The acquisition all but pushes pitching prospects Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair out of the Opening Day rotation.
General manager John Coppolella commented on multiple occasions that the stalled development of MLB-ready young arms served as a signature disappointment of the 2016 season, but adding three veteran pitchers while still exploring the trade market for an ace — the Braves have been linked to talks surrounding Chris Sale (White Sox), Chris Archer (Rays) and Sonny Gray (A’s) — is a dramatic shift in philosophy, even if Colon, Dickey and Garcia are midseason trade possibilities.
The Braves rotation ranked as the second-worst in baseball last season, ahead of only the Cincinnati Reds. The finished 29th in WAR, 28th in ERA and 26th in fielding-independent pitching. Those numbers only declined in the second half even as the team made its strong late-season push.
Along with super-utility option Sean Rodriguez, the Braves have added four potential starters this offseason before the Winter Meetings have even started.
Gant, 24, is the most MLB-ready arm the Braves gave up in the deal. He made 20 appearances for the parent club in 2016, including six starts, posting a 4.86 ERA in 50 innings. Originally acquired in the 2015 trade involving Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe along with Rob Whalen, who was traded to the Mariners earlier this week, the right-hander with the quirky delivery projects as a back-end starter or long reliever. Ellis was the highest-rated prospect of the bunch, sitting at No. 17 for MLB Pipeline. The right-hander dominated for Double-A Mississippi last season before struggling at the Triple-A level.
Luke Dykstra, a former seventh-round pick in 2014, was instrumental in pushing the Rome Braves to the South Atlantic League title and being nominated as Baseball America's Minor League Team of the Year.
Now a possibility Wisler and Blair start w/ Gwinnett. But if ATL deals for a top SP, good chance Folty, Blair or Wisler would be included