DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays added the final piece to their starting rotation Thursday evening by signing veteran left-hander Jaime Garcia to a one-year deal worth $8 million, with a club option for 2019.
Terms of the option year were not disclosed, but according to a source, the second season is valued at $10 million and can be bought out for $2 million. The deal also includes $2 million per season in incentives, based on innings pitched.
The signing of Garcia means right-hander Joe Biagini will either be moved to the bullpen or open the year as a starter in the Minor Leagues. Biagini will be disappointed by the latest development, but the deal hardly comes as a surprise because general manager Ross Atkins had been open about his search for another starter.
"Jaime obviously has had a very successful Major League career," Atkins said shortly after the deal was announced. "We're excited about everything we've learned about him. ... He's a consummate professional. He's extremely committed to his craft. He has stabilized rotations before, and will certainly be a part of ours."
Garcia is coming off a season in which he went 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA over 157 innings with the Braves, Twins and Yankees. He started the year in Atlanta, but he was traded twice in less than a week prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. After making one start with Minnesota, Garcia was traded to New York, where he posted a 4.82 ERA over eight starts.
Garcia, 31, will likely open the season as Toronto's No. 5 starter behind Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada. He owns a 3.69 career ERA and is best known for his work with the Cardinals. Garcia went 62-45 with a 3.57 ERA and 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings over eight seasons in St. Louis.
Atkins said the Blue Jays touched base with Garcia early in the offseason, and the talks recently began to pick up some steam. The key for Toronto was getting the added flexibility of a club option, as opposed to just a one-year deal or being locked into a long-term deal. By comparison, Andrew Cashner signed a two-year deal worth $16 million with the Orioles on Thursday.
Garcia's velocity has remained fairly consistent over the years. He typically throws 90-91 mph, with a changeup, slider and curveball also in his repertoire. Atkins spoke glowingly about Garcia's cut fastball and his unique ability to create separation between that pitch and his slider.
"Jaime has such a good feel for those three or four pitches," Atkins said. "Whether it's a left-handed hitter, right-handed hitter, subtle difference between two right-handed hitters, the shape of his fastball -- which sometimes has cut action -- the shape of his slider, the shape of his curve, the feel for his changeup, he has the ability to adapt and adjust those pitches for different types of hitters in a unique way."
Toronto will continue to search for more depth, but the signing of Garcia likely marks the final major addition the team makes before the start of the season. The rotation is set, as is the lineup, but another minor tweak or two in the bullpen is still possible.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Toronto's payroll currently sits at approximately $160 million, which is $6 million less than the estimated total of the 40-man roster from the 2017 season. Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said earlier this offseason that his payroll was expected to remain about the same as last year. That would leave at least $5 million left to spend, but it doesn't take into account some of the incentives that have been added to Garcia's deal and Minor League contracts for players such as John Axford and Craig Breslow.
"We do have remaining resources," Atkins said without getting into specifics. "I think we're mostly focused on pitching. We'll not limit ourselves, but mostly focused on pitching at this point."