ATLANTA -- When the Braves acquired Jaime Garcia from the Cardinals in December, they were intrigued by the success he's had when healthy and the fact he would have extra motivation in a contract year.If Garcia extends his recent success, he'll surely draw attractive offers on the free-agent market. But
ATLANTA -- When the Braves acquired Jaime Garcia from the Cardinals in December, they were intrigued by the success he's had when healthy and the fact he would have extra motivation in a contract year.
If Garcia extends his recent success, he'll surely draw attractive offers on the free-agent market. But he may first find himself as a hot commodity leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Garcia further enhanced his potential trade value as he pitched into the eighth inning of Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the Phillies at SunTrust Park. The Braves southpaw has produced a 1.23 ERA over his past four starts. In the process, he's made himself more attractive to the Astros, Cubs, Yankees and other clubs who will be seeking to enhance their postseason hopes by acquiring a quality starting pitcher within the next two months.
"This is probably the best I've seen him pitch, the last couple times out," said Braves first baseman Matt Adams, who was also Garcia's teammate in St. Louis. "It just seems like he's in control out there and he's trusting his stuff. He's letting his pitches move the way they're supposed to move and keeping hitters off balance."
Before the season began, there was reason to believe the Braves would trade Garcia this season. This was partially based on the belief they would be wise to proactively find the right time to flip the injury-plagued hurler, who has made more than 20 starts just three times over his nine-year career.
Now as the Braves find themselves eight games under .500 and facing the reality Freddie Freeman likely won't return before the end of July, Garcia has given them even more reason to actively evaluate what kind of return they can get for the 30-year-old veteran, who has provided a clearer glimpse of his potential as he has hit the strike zone more consistently than he did during the first six weeks.
As Garcia posted a 4.65 ERA through his first seven starts, he allowed opponents to hit a respectable .229 against him, but often was damaged by the effects of his walk rate (4.87 walks per nine innings). He has been much more efficient as he's 1.53 BB/9 over his past four starts.
Howie Kendrick's two-out homer during Tuesday's fourth inning ended Garcia's perfect-game bid and the pitcher's streak of 22 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Three straight hits, including two doubles, and a balk led to two more runs for the Phillies in the sixth.
Garcia limited the Phillies to three runs over 7 2/3 innings. He has pitched into the seventh and allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his past four starts. In the process, he has provided much-needed stability within Atlanta's rotation and also enhanced the possibility he'll end up being traded before July ends.
"I think he's kind of narrowed the zone down," manager Brian Snitker said. "With his movement and the improved command, he's been really fun to watch."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.