Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
In case you haven't heard by now (which, how could you not?) the Toronto Blue Jays have solidified their rotation by signing veteran lefty Jaime Garcia (don't spell it "Jamie"). To boot -
Garcia spent the vast majority of his Major League career with the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming a regular in 2010 before being traded to the Atlanta Braves in December of 2016. He played half the season with the Braves last year before being traded to the Twins in July, and finished the season with the Yankees after being traded by the Twins after starting just one game at 6⅔ innings.
The signing provides the Jays a very low risk/high reward scenario that doesn't present them with a stranglehold in terms of limiting or eradicating their financial flexibility should an area of need or injury pop up (backup catcher, anyone?). It's not a signing that's going to turn heads and entice people into thinking that the Jays are exponentially better than they were two days ago. But very rarely does the signing of a player that will pitch in the back-end of any rotation lead to such a conclusion.
When you think about the role of the fifth starter, Garcia certainly provides the Jays with a bit more stability when we compare him to what we thought we were entering the season with; especially when we remind ourselves just how dire the situation was last year when we mention the likes of Joe Biagini, Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger, Cesar Valdez, Chris Rowley, Mat Latos, Nick Tepesch, Casey Lawrence, and Tom Koehler. Sure, there are pockets of individuals within the Jays' fandom that feel Biagini ought to be stretched out more and given the proper chance to become a starter instead of flip-flopping from the bullpen to the rotation. Hell, I'll include myself as part of that group - but I also won't ignore the notion that Shapiro and Atkins have preached about depth within the organization from the jump. There's nothing to say that Biagini won't begin the year in AAA Buffalo to continue the process of transitioning into a starter (properly) and will be better prepared if/when an injury arises. To boot, Ben Nicholson-Smith echoes such sentiments in his piece on the Garcia signing -
"The Blue Jays will continue stretching Biagini out this spring even with Garcia in the mix. An injury would push Biagini back into the rotation, and that possibility can’t be overlooked with Aaron Sanchez still looking to reestablish himself after missing most of 2017 due to finger issues. Even if the entire staff stays healthy, the Blue Jays’ front office would be comfortable optioning Biagini to triple-A."
But I digress...
Garcia's career stat-line isn't eye-popping, but it doesn't necessary have to be when the remainder of the rotation is made up of Stroman, Sanchez, Happ, and Estrada. Based on Baseball Reference's projections of Garcia's 2018 season, the Jays could have done a lot worse.
With a projected ERA of about four and a half, the Jays certainly raised their floor entering the 2018 season. Sure, a lot of people were harping on the notion of acquiring Alex Cobb to fill the fifth starter role which, sure, would have been nice. But when you look at Cobb's projections heading into 2018, it's really not that much of a difference compared to Garcia (I know, I know... projections). Moreover, when you consider the projected cost of a guy like Cobb (MLBTR had him at 4 years - $48MM), signing him to a more lucrative deal for ppprrrooobbbaaabbblllyyy the same production this year would be foolish. Like I mentioned earlier, this signing allows the Jays to still have some wiggle room should a situation arise in which they need to spend more money. Garcia is only on the books for $8MM this year - $4MM less than Cobb's projected value, and on a shorter term should this not work out. The Jays are only really committed for one year, here, which doesn't corner or limit them in subsequent years. Whereas, Cobb may.
Further, Garcia ranked fifth among starting pitchers in ground ball rate, which will be a big advantage for the Jays in such a hitters' friendly park like the Rogers Centre or any other AL ballpark, really. When we look at the aforementioned players that acted as part of the back-end of the rotation for the Jays, in total they gave up 47 home runs. 47 HOME RUNS! Garcia, in comparison, gave up only 18 (only 6 of which while pitching in the AL). To call this an upgrade over what the Jays had and what we were walking into the season with is an understatement.
Plus, if we're going to move away from the stats and comparisons, the fact still remains that this is a fifth starter! We're not talking about someone that is expected to move the needle so drastically that people are going to start betting on the Jays to win the Division. It's just a fifth starter. I'd much rather have the Jays sign someone and only commit a guarantee of $10MM in total ($2MM of which could be used a buyout for 2019) to act as part of the back-end of the rotation. I'm not sure what people were really expecting, but this is the prime definition of a low-risk signing.
I guess I'm trying to appeal to those that are dumping all over this deal, as if they expected the Jays to pull off a major trade or sign a front of the rotation starter as their fifth. This isn't a bad signing whatsoever. I get that it's been an underwhelming offseason, but it's not like the Jays are alone in that category. With the exception of maybe the Yankees and Cubs, not that many teams made splash moves that take my breath away. The Jays weren't willing to sign someone like Cashner for 2 years or Cobb for 4 years, and for good reason. They weren't willing to give Arrieta the "Yu Darvish-esq" contract he's looking for (or rather, turned down) either, for good reason. This isn't some example of the Front Office being cheap, or dumpster diving, or whatever clever phrasing you want to use to describe this deal. It's just not.
So enjoy it! Whether you want to admit it or not, the Jays' rotation got better than it was two days ago. When you look at it under that lens, you'll realize that it could've been a lot worse.
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