Cards exercise option on Garcia, decline Broxton's
Left-handed starter will earn $11.5 million in 2016
ST. LOUIS -- On the heels of a bounce-back season, Jaime Garcia had his $11.5 million option for 2016 exercised by the Cardinals on Monday. The move, which would have been unexpected at the start of the season, became more attractive for the Cardinals as they watched the left-hander perform well and stay relatively healthy upon his return from a third arm surgery.
Securing a place for Garcia in their 2016 plans was part of a series of moves the Cardinals made to begin their roster reshaping. As expected, the Cardinals declined the $10 million mutual option on Jonathan Broxton, who will receive a $2 million buyout instead. That money was sent over by the Brewers as part of the Trade Deadline agreement that brought Broxton to St. Louis.
The club also outrighted infielder Pete Kozma, catcher Ed Easley and catcher Travis Tartamella to open up three spots on the 40-man roster. Each of those three become free agents as a result. Another six 40-man roster spots became vacant on Monday when Matt Belisle, Randy Choate, Carlos Villanueva, John Lackey, Mark Reynolds and Jason Heyward became free agents.
Garcia's tenure with the Cardinals has long been a complex one. He has showcased himself as one of the best left-handed starters in the league, but has also spent much of his career battling injuries. Since undergoing elbow surgery after the 2008 season, Garcia has had two additional procedures to address a shoulder injury and thoracic outlet syndrome. Those operations limited Garcia to 16 starts in 2013-14 and left the Cardinals expecting little of him in 2015, the final guaranteed year of what many initially perceived to be a team-friendly extension that Garcia signed in 2011.
But Garcia surprised many when he returned in May 2015 and, aside from a month-long absence due to a groin injury, once again became a reliable rotation piece for the Cardinals. He posted a 2.43 ERA in 20 starts and helped the club to wins in 10 of his final 12 regular-season outings. His biggest disappointment was how it all ended, with Garcia lasting just two innings in a National League Division Series start that allowed the Cubs to grasp series momentum.
With Garcia set to return in 2016, the Cardinals are less inclined to search for additional starting pitching this offseason. They also will have Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons as rotation options. Top prospect Alex Reyes is also looming.
The Cardinals never planned to retain Broxton for that $10-million price tag, but they were aided by his fit as a late-inning relief option over the final two months of the season. He had a 2.66 ERA in 26 games after the July 31 trade.
Kozma, the Cardinals' top pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, was a sparingly used bench player on the Major League roster last season. His being out of Minor League options complicated things for the Cardinals, who felt it necessary to retain Kozma all year because of their dearth of other backup shortstop options, despite the fact that he offered no offensive firepower.
Kozma leaves the organization having hit .222/.288/.293 over parts of five seasons. He made his greatest impact as a shortstop replacement for Rafael Furcal in the final month of the 2012 season. His game-winning single against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS that year remains one of the Cardinals' biggest hits in recent postseason memory.
Easley made his Major League debut in May and then rejoined the club in September after catcher Cody Stanley was docked with an 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Taramella joined the big league team even later in the month after an injury to Yadier Molina thinned the Cardinals' catching depth.
The Cardinals may consider re-signing Easley and/or Tartamella to a Minor League deal this winter.