Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Meet a Prospect Special Edition: Jaime Garcia

Over the weekend and before the July 31st trading deadline the New York Yankees went a long way into solidifying their starting rotation for the second half push and the postseason by acquiring left-handed starter Jaime Garcia from the Minnesota Twins. With a veteran lefty with postseason experience now on the roster, thus giving the Yankees options with the recently demoted Caleb Smith and pitchers like Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery who may face inning workload concerns, now may be the best time to get to know Garcia, so let’s do it. This is Meet a Prospect: The Jaime Garcia Special Edition.

Jaime Omar Garcia was born on July 8, 1986 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico as the second of three children to a father of the same name, Jaime Garcia Sr. Garcia was raised between the border of Reynosa, Mexico and McCallen, Texas and attended Sharyland High School in Mission, Texas where the lefty caught the attention of the Baltimore Orioles who drafted him in the 30th round of the 2004 MLB First Year Players Draft. The Orioles chose not to sign Garcia back in 2004 which left Garcia available to be drafted again in 2005. This time the St. Louis Cardinals came calling in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft thanks to scout Joe Almaraz. Almaraz was a scout with the Orioles in 2004 and a scout that wanted to sign Garcia before the team opted not to due to a poorly translated test. Almaraz moved on to the Cardinals organization in 2005 and he finally got his man.

Garcia toiled around in the Cardinals minor league system before getting the call up on July 11, 2008 where he made his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Garcia pitched two innings of relief giving up just one hit, walking one and striking out two. That was the best moment Garcia would have in 2008 though as the left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery after the 2008 season. Garcia missed most of the 2009 season after the surgery before coming back in the minor leagues in mid-September of 2009.

Garcia was deemed healthy for the 2010 season and made the team as the Cardinals fifth starter out of spring training camp. Garcia made the most of the opportunity pitching his way to third in the NL Rookie of the Year Voting after posting a 13-8 record with an ERA of 2.70 in his first full season with St. Louis. Garcia continued to anchor the Cardinals starting rotation all the way to the World Series when the Cardinals and the Texas Rangers faced off head-to-head in 2011. Garcia started Game 2 of that World Series becoming only the second ever Mexican-born pitcher to start a World Series game and the first since Fernando Valenzuela did so back in 1981. The Cardinals ended up beating the Rangers in seven games to claim the franchise’s 11th World Series title overall and Garcia’s first as a professional baseball player.

Garcia rode that high of winning a World Series into the 2012 season but after just 20 starts the left-hander was shut down due to shoulder discomfort. Without Garcia the Cardinals still reached the NLCS losing to the eventual World Series Champions in the San Francisco Giants. Garcia returned for the 2013 season but after posting a 5-2 record and a 3.58 ERA the lefty underwent shoulder surgery that once again ended his season on May 17. Garcia worked his way back with hopes of pitching again in 2014 but before he could make it back to the Major Leagues he developed shoulder bursitis which kept him on the shelf until May 18, 2014. Garcia pitched for the Cardinals until July 5 of that season before needing another left-shoulder surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome. For the second consecutive season Garcia was limited to under 10 starts for St. Louis.

Garcia, the ever-resilient one, returned to the mound in May of 2015 for the Cardinals but by July was back on the disabled list again, this time for a groin injury that he sustained while running the bases against the Miami Marlins. Garcia returned just in time to throw a combined no-hitter on July 23 while on a rehab assignment with the Peoria Chiefs before also allowing Ichiro’s 4,191st professional hit tying him with Ty Cobb. Garcia pitched well down the stretch though pitching nine quality starts in his last 10 starts and proving his health which allowed the Cardinals to exercise his team option for the 2016 season worth $11.5 million.

Garcia pitched his seventh and final season with the Cardinals in 2016 before the Atlanta Braves acquired him in a trade with the Cardinals for Chris Ellis, John Gant and Luke Dykstra. Garcia made 18 starts for the Braves posting a 4-7 record and a 4.30 ERA in 113 innings before the Braves traded the lefty to the Minnesota Twins along with Anthony Recker for prospect Huascar Ynoa. Garcia made one whole start for the Twins giving up three runs in 6.2 innings pitched against the Oakland Athletics before once again being shipped out in a trade, this time to the New York Yankees along with cash considerations for prospects Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns. Minnesota will be paying all of Garcia’s $12 million salary for the remainder of the 2017 season aside from a pro-rated league minimum that the Yankees are on the hook for. Garcia will be a free agent at season’s end.

Garcia is here to not only fill innings for the Yankees but to take some pressure and innings off the young arms of Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. Garcia was a relatively minor acquisition in terms of prospects and the deal not only got the Yankees a proven and postseason tested arm but it also cleared a 40 man roster spot for the club. Welcome to the club Jaime and more importantly, welcome to the family!

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