Blue Jays reliever Yimi García about to earn guaranteed contract for 2024

Blue Jays reliever Yimi García has turned around his 2023 season, and will see his 2024 club option convert to a $6 million guaranteed contract with just three more appearances this season.
Jul 21, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Yimi Garcia (93) throws
Jul 21, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Yimi Garcia (93) throws / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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With his 1.1 innings of two strikeout, scoreless relief on Monday against the Dodgers, Toronto reliever Yimi García is now only three appearances - or 6.1 innings - away from having his 2024 club option convert to a $6 million guarantee with 110 games or 110 IP across the 2022-2023 seasons. That looks like a bargain if he keeps pitching like he has in June and July.

After a rough start in April and May, García has turned around his 2023 season in a big way. In 24.2 innings through May 30th, his ERA was 6.20 and he’d allowed 29 hits, 9 walks and blown 2 saves. Since then he has a tidy 2.00 ERA in 20 appearances covering 18.0 innings, with 20 strikeouts versus only one walk and 2 saves. Importantly, his 46 appearances this season combined with 61 appearances in 2022 mean he’s only three games away from 110 games combined that would guarantee his contract for 2024.

The Blue Jays signed the righty as a free agent after the 2021 season, inking him to a two-year, $11 million deal with the club option for 2024. It’s been a good contract for Toronto at a $5.5 million AAV, with García adding +0.5 bWAR as a Blue Jay, but more importantly acting as a high leverage bridge to the back of the bullpen and closer Jordan Romano.

The 32-year old has logged 53.0 high leverage innings out of the Jays bullpen since 2022, and while he has blown 7 save opportunities against only 3 saves overall for Toronto, his 4-seam fastball, with above average velocity and spin, has been an outstanding pitch in relief.

According to Statcast, he’s been generating a whiff rate of 32.2% on that offering this season, up from 29% last year. After striking out 33% of hitters faced last year with the 4-seamer, he’s striking out 36.7% on the pitch this year. The batting average against the pitch is up to .273 this year from .127 last year, but that seems to be improving since the early season wobbles.

His fastball velocity is up from 94.9 mph in 2022 to 95.9 mph this year, just off his career high of 96 mph in 2021 when he converted 15 saves in 18 opportunities for current Jays bench coach Don Mattingly’s Miami Marlins. Despite the velocity increase, he only uses the 4-seamer 30.7% of the time vs. 44.3% last year. His curveball usage has climbed from 16.8% to 32.8% in 2023, and that comes at the expense of his slider, which he only throws 9.9% of the time this year vs. 17.5% last year.

Not to be overlooked is his World Series experience with Houston in 2021, when he logged four scoreless innings and allowed only one hit and one walk against 2 Ks in helping the Astros to the Championship. That experience could help should the Jays go on a deep post season run this year and next. So an early congratulations to Yimi García on guaranteeing his contract for 2024.