The Yimi García Dilemma – is he being misused or is he just no longer good?

Yimi Garcia
Yimi Garcia / William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason back in 2021, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Yimi García to a two-year, $11 million deal with a club option for a third year. The Jays believed at the time with his veteran experience and solid track record, he would help stabilize the back end of the Jays’ bullpen along with in-season acquisitions Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber that very same year.

In his first year with the Jays in 2022, García indeed provided the reliability that was expected of him, pitching to a 3.10 ERA, 1.049 WHIP, ERA+ of 122, with 16 walks and 58 strikeouts in 61 innings. However, some red flags started to surface near the end of the season when he began to struggle, giving up 16 hits and eight earned runs in just 13 innings for a 5.54 ERA and 1.38 WHIP down the stretch run in September and October.

Little did the Jays know, García’s struggles would carry over into his 2023 season, and so far, he is nothing close to the dominant form he had shown when he first signed with the team. This year, he is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA and 1.54 WHIP, both close to his career highs. In addition, he has given up 16 earned runs with nine walks and 27 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, so his strikeout ability is still evident, but he has been hit hard.

What has happened to him? That is a question many Jays’ fans and management must be wondering, while becoming more and more frustrated as a result. Here, we take a closer look at some of the possible reasons for his struggles.

Perhaps Yimi García cannot handle high leverage situations

More often than not, MLB relievers can perform admirably when pitching in situations under less stress and scrutiny, but tend to flop a bit when put in tense/tight situations. Their ability to handle high leverage situations typically is the main difference between those that get paid the big bucks and those that just fill in the holes in between. Since John Schneider has been using García mostly in high leverage situations, perhaps the hurler is just less effective in those instances and should avoid being used for that.

That hypothesis definitely is false, because García has been used many times in the past for high leverage situations with great success, especially back in his time when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Miami Marlins. Looking at the Leverage Index (LI) for García, his game-entering LI back in 2021 with the Marlins was a career high 2.13, compared to just 1.51 in 2022 with the Jays, and even lower this year at 1.36. He has shown effectiveness and success with the Marlins as their closer during 2021 despite the high LI, and he had done a similarly effective job with the Jays last year with a slightly lower LI, so claiming that he suddenly can’t handle tough situations is not a valid argument.

Yimi García may just no longer be good

It’s easy for one to say, “they’re just no good anymore for whatever reason”. But there’s always a reason why someone with a solid track record suddenly starts performing below standards. Could age be a factor, as he is already on the wrong side of 30? Well, García is only 32, and relievers tend to age a little better than starting pitchers, so it shouldn’t have that huge of an effect on him just yet. Maybe there’s some underlying injury that we don’t know of? If that is the case, the Jays would already be working on it and definitely they wouldn’t try to jeopardize García’s career to keep playing through it.

Then, could it just be he is unhappy with the environment he is pitching in? No one knows what happens behind the scenes, but sometimes, just a change in scenery can help bring back a player to their previous form and effectiveness (if one would recall when the Jays got Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit back in 2016). So that could be something that the Jays should consider, in trading García for a recoverable asset, if this is how he will continue to perform, so that both parties would gain something out of it.

Nevertheless, both the Jays and García need to figure something out soon, before he becomes more and more a liability in the bullpen, rather than helping the club to future success.