Blue Jays: Taking a deeper look into the good signing of Jaime Garcia

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Jaime Garcia
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Jaime Garcia /

The Toronto Blue Jays patience this off-season paid off today when they came to terms with left hander Jaime Garcia. While the signing is by no means a flashy one, Garcia will slot in quite nicely as the 5th man in the Blue Jays rotation, which also sends a positive ripple effect into the bullpen, or starting pitching depth in Buffalo.

Let’s first start by saying the Blue Jays were never going to sign the likes of a Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. There was a small chance they’d pursue a Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb as well, but it really wasn’t likely they’ve land one of those two either. That left the rest of the crop which included Jaime Garcia, the recently signed Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Chris Tillman, and other arms likely that could be had on a minor league deal.

It does seem as if the Blue Jays got the best of the third tier of free agent starters in Jaime Garcia, who’s been a reliable starter when healthy. He has had a rash of injuries throughout his career, but has managed 20+ starts each of the past three seasons, including 30 in 2016 and 27 in 2017. The 27 in 2017 is a bit lower due to the three different teams he was a part of, due to two different trades.

When healthy, you know what you’re going to get from the veteran left hander. In 20 starts in 2015 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Garcia posted a 2.8 fWAR. In 30 starts in 2016, he was at 1.2. Finally, between three teams (Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, and New York Yankees), Garcia had a solid 2.1 fWAR. He will be a reliable starter when healthy.

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For his career, Garcia has a 67-55 record in 174 starts, a 7.28 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 0.83 HR/9, 56.2 GB%, 3.69 ERA, and 3.66 FIP. Those are some petty solid surface statistics and numbers that will definitely play well in the Rogers Centre. The groundballs are a very attractive element of what Garcia brings to the Blue Jays. Compared to the other free agent options, Garcia has the lowest career FB% at 25.5%. Jason Vargas is at 42.5%, Andrew Cashner is at 30.7%, and Chris Tillman at 39.0%. Garcia definitely plays the best of those four at Rogers Centre.

It’s no surprise that Garcia’s worst years of his career have been when his HR/FB% has been above 10.0%. He’s had seasons of 7.3%, 8.9%, 7.2%, and 7.1% and those were all his best seasons of his career. If he can stay healthy and keep the ball down in the zone, he may be able to provide the Blue Jays a lot more than what you’d expect out of a #5 starter.

He doesn’t have blow it by stuff with a fastball that averaged 91.3 MPH in 2017, but he has a wide variety of pitches at his disposal. You can tell Garcia is comfortable throwing them all as well, as he distributes his pitch usage quite well:

  • 2017: FA% 29.9, SI% 31.3%, CH% 18.3, SL% 13.6, and CU% 6.9

To top off this free agent signing, PECOTA has projected the following ERA’s for these starting pitchers in 2018:

  • Jaime Garcia: 132.7 IP, 4.38 ERA
  • Andrew Cashner: 130.0 IP, 5.26 ERA
  • Chris Tillman: 106.2 IP, 5.72 ERA
  • Jason Vargas: 123.2 IP, 5.53 ERA
  • Alex Cobb: 128.1 IP, 4.91 ERA
  • Lance Lynn: 121.0 IP, 4.46 ERA

Garcia is projected from an ERA standpoint, which is by no means whatsoever the be all and end all for a starting pitcher, to be better than those listed above at a very good cost compared to what Cashner got, and likely what Cobb and Lynn will get.

Finally, the contract breakdown is quite nice for the Blue Jays. Garcia will make $8 million in 2018 with a club option for $10 million in 2019 with a $2 million buyout. There are also up to $2 million in incentives. This will help the rotation for next year should they decide to keep Garcia around as both J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada will be free agents.

Now, Joe Biagini will continue to be worked as a starter in spring, which allows for him to be a multi-inning reliever for John Gibbons. Gibbons seems to favour Biagini in the bullpen, and I like him there. The other option is him as the 6th man to come up from Buffalo. I prefer the bullpen option as it simply adds another quality reliever to the Blue Jays bullpen. Regardless, the signing of Jaime Garcia is all positive for the Toronto Blue Jays. Just stay healthy, Jaime!

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