Atlanta Braves Acquire Jaime Garcia

Atlanta Braves bring LHP Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta in exchange for three players.

This is the second time Atlanta Braves GM John Coppollela and Cardinal GM John Mozeliak worked out a deal for a starting pitcher since taking over in 2014.

The Deal

The deal sent three ranked prospects RHP John Gant (21), RHP Chris Ellis (17), and infielder Luke Dykstra (9) to the Redbirds in exchange for their veteran lefty.

Gant made 20 appearances for the Braves last year including seven starts when he posted a 1-3 record over 30 IP with a 4.80 ERA. His 13 relief outings accounted for 20 IP with a 4.95 ERA.  A strained oblique sent him to the disabled list for two months at the end of June.

Gant’s departure after that of Rob Whalen means the players the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson (and Juan Uribe) the first time are gone from the Braves system.

Ellis came to Atlanta as part of the trade that Sent Andrelton Simmons to Anaheim last year leaving only Sean Newcomb on board from that transaction. Although Ellis looked pretty good at Pearl this season, he was hit pretty hard after his promotion to Gwinnett.

The Braves selected Dykstra in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. He repeated A ball this season posting a .304/.332/.363 and stealing seven bases. The acquisitions of Travis Demeritte and Kevin Maitan and a well stocked middle infield at the lower levels made Dykstra expendable.

Former Cardinal Jaime Garcia is now a member of teh SAtlanta Braves

Aug 28, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia (54) pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the third inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Finally a Lefty. . .

Jaime Garcia give the Braves something their rotation hasn’t had since Alex Wood left for the Dodgers; a left handed starter. Selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft Garcia made his major league debut in 2008. Nine relief appearances later he landed on the DL for TJ surgery.

Garcia returned in 2010 rejuvenated and dominant. He made 28 starts that season posting a 13-8 record with a 2.70 ERA (3.41 FIP), 1.316 WHIP while striking out 132 hitters in 163 1/3 innings. That performance earned him a third place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.

His ERA came back to earth in 2011 when he posted a 13-7 record in 32 starts over 194 2/3 innings with a 3.56 ERA (3.23 WHIP). In spite of nagging injuries he posted similar numbers in 2012 before requiring rotator cuff surgery in October.  He tried to return early in 2013 but was back on the DL for the rest of the season after only nine games.

Injuries abound

Looking at Garcia’s disabled list stints I wonder why doctors didn’t simply install a zipper on his shoulder. Rather than recount the full litany of injury I’ll include a table (reformatted) from Pro Sports Transactions.

Date On the DL or began to miss games Returned Notes
9/1/2008 10/8/2008 Elbow Surgery (date approximate)
3/28/2009 8/20/2009 placed on 15-day DL with sore left elbow
9/20/2010 4/1/2011 left shoulder injury (out for season)  (return date approximate)
8/30/2011 9/3/2011 fatigue (DTD)
5/30/2012 6/5/2012 left elbow injury (DTD)
6/6/2012   shoulder injury (DTD) Labrum and rotator cuff tear
6/7/2012   placed on 15-day DL with strained left shoulder
5/1/2013 11/1/2013 surgery on left shoulder (out indefinitely) (date approximate) Torn Labrum
3/29/2014 5/18/2014 placed on 15-day DL with left shoulder inflammation
6/22/2014   placed on 15-day DL with left shoulder inflammation
7/1/2014 10/31/2014 Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery
3/30/2015 5/21/2015 placed on 15-day DL with recovering from surgery on left shoulder
6/27/2015 7/28/2015 strained left groin (DTD) (Moved to DL 6/27/15)

Garcia did throw 171 2/3 innings last year but with a 4.67 ERA(4.49 FIP) and 1.375 WHIP. He also managed to give up 1.4 home runs per nine 25 in his 30 starts and another in one of his two relief appearances. That all sounds pretty bad so why give up three players for him?

Atlanta Braves traded John Gant to St Louis for Jaime Garcia

Sep 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Gant (52) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Reasons Maybe?

Obviously I can’t definitively answer that but one answer could be that Gant and Dykstra were not in future plans.  Gant’s stuff is basically average for a backend starter and Dykstra’s fielding is “fringy” according to Jim Callis. We have more than a couple better than both in the system. Ellis is good stuff but looks like ending up a reliever.

Could he turn into a multi-inning fireballer? Maybe who knows? Right now he’s just one of many.  With that view a shot that Garcia has at least a solid year in exchange for excess players is worth the exchange. Another reason could be a deeper look at statistics we don;t normally play with around here.

DRA- and cFIP

Before I start note that I do not claim to be an expert or even understand how these are calculated. I read what they set out to do and using them makes Garcia a little more understandable.  To start with a definition is probably good.

Contextual FIP (cFIP) “. . .cFIP seeks to provide this missing context (for FIP). . .(and) is modeled to adjust for, as appropriate, the effect of the individual batter, catcher and umpire; the stadium; home-field advantage; umpire bias; and the handedness relationship between pitcher and batter present during each individual plate appearance. . .”

Proponents say that cFIP  is more predictive than other pitcher estimators, especially in smaller samples and equally accurate as a descriptive and predictive statistic.   cFIP is on a 100 “minus” scale, 100 is perfectly average, scores below 100 are better, and scores above 100 are worse. . . “

cFIP Range Pitcher Quality
<70 Superb
70–85 Great
85–95 Above Avg.
95–105 Average
105–115 Below Avg.
115–130 Bad
130+ Awful

The chart is modified from the reference article for size.

Deserved Run Average “ . . .DRA controls for the context in which each event of a game occurred. . .(it) goes well beyond strikeouts, walks, hit batsman, and home runs, and considers all available batting events. DRA does not explain everything by any means, but its estimates appear to be more accurate and reliable than the alternatives. “

Like cFIP, DRA – is DRA concerted to a 100 “minus” scale, 100 is perfectly average, scores below 100 are better, and scores above 100 are worse

How does Garcia fare using those criteria? In 2016 he posted a cFIP of 93 and a DRA- of 91.2 and while I’m Baseball Prospectusing you to death his total average against Tav (how hitters really hit him) was .281. Having said that BP suggests his opposition have a Tav of .261.  You can find all of Garcia’s BP numbers ($) by clicking this link.

Using more familiar numbers BP says Garcia posted a 58% ground ball rate and with a middle infield that’s supposed to be pretty good that makes a difference. Last year the Cardinals defense was less than stellar even though Garcia’s BAbip doesn’t show it.

Jaime Garcia is the newest Atlanta Braves Pitcher

Sep 3, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Another Trade?

Atlanta Braves beat writers are stirring the trade pot with speculation that the addition of Garcia portends a bigger trade for a bigger fish like Chris Archer or Sonny Gray.  It could also be a bat I suppose as the Pirates are shopping Andrew McCutchen hard but the length of his contract – like that of Chris Sale – would seem to be too short to be worth a huge investment.

McCutchen would move to left in Atlanta and hate it and he’s a free agent after 2018. Sale is a free agent after 2019 and one the Braves would not be able to afford. Archer, Gray, a catcher from somewhere unknown or Evan Longoria would be more realistic targets if Coppy does indeed intend to go for it.

That’s A Wrap

When I first saw the trade I thought Coppy had gone all Callaspo again. On the surface the Braves gave away three ranked players for an injury prone pitcher with a habit of giving up home runs. That might end up being the case; then again it might not.

Garcia will be in his walk year at 31 years old. He earns $12M this season and if you believe the current valuation of a win he only have to be a 1.5 WAR pitcher to justify it. More practically, if he stays healthy and keeps his team in the game by throwing 180-190 innings he’ll be worth his money.

The ever optimistic STEAMER projection suggests he’ll post a 3.54 ERA and 3.62 FIP. I doubt he does that well but If he does that the deal most will be satisfied with the acquisition.

At the very least we have a lefty starter again and perhaps another deal on the way. I doubt that but crazier things have happened.

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