Garcia’s extension and other notes

The big rumor out of St. Louis right now has nothing to do with potential trades, but rather retaining one of our own. No, not Albert Pujols. It seems that reports are circulating that the Cardinals and 25 year old left handed starter Jaime Garcia are closing on an four year extension.

Garcia was drafted in 2005 by the Cardinals and won the fifth starter’s role in spring training in 2010 after coming back from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 2.70 ERA over 28 starts and 163 innings. He also finished third in rookie of the year voting.

With Garcia being a potential “Super Two” during the offseason, one of a handful of players with more than two but less than three years of MLB service time who become arbitration eligible a year earlier. The four year deal would buy out his four years of arbitration and offer him two option years, according to the rumor. Something I’ve expected to happen this offseason, and very similar to the deal proposed to Adam Wainwright when he hit his arbitration years.

The rumored cost of the contract is a 4 year, $27.5 million deal with two option years. That puts the average annual value of the contract at $6.875 million per year. With the type of pitcher Garcia seems to be evolving into, this looks like a stellar deal for both the Cardinals and Garcia. The Cardinals lock up one of the top young pitchers in the game through the 2015 seasons and Garcia doesn’t have to worry about pitching for his next contract.

Laird back, Walters up. Dickson, Hamilton back to Memphis.
First off, I don’t think it’s a knock on Brandon Dickson at all that he was sent down. It was the simple need for another fresh arm in the bullpen and Dickson was the easiest to send down. Dickson has made two appearances and thrown 4 innings with no runs allowed.

For Mark Hamilton, his trouble came with his versatility. Despite hitting .333 with a .417 OBP after being called back to St. Louis due to the injury to Albert Pujols, Hamilton is really only a first baseman. That meant that Tony Cruz, who can player first base, third base, and catcher, got the chance to stay in St. Louis. Another reason for Cruz is the fact that Hamilton hits left handed, and the Cardinals have a number of left handed hitters already on the bench in Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso.

Also for Cruz, I think he’s shown enough to take Laird’s job next year. There is no doubt that he can swing the bat, as he was the initial spark in the Cardinals’ come back the other night against the Reds. He also has the confidence of the catching staff, as he has been paired up with Chris Carpenter a couple times. That is something I think is big, considering someone on the rotation (who I assume was Carpenter) reportedly didn’t like throwing to Bryan Anderson.

It’s been an up-and-down couple of years for P.J. Walters, but things look to be turning around a little. Walters and his wife lost a daughter in February of 2010 and started the 2010 season late. Despite the trouble he put together his best minor league season to date, an 8-5 record with a 3.81 ERA. Earlier this season the Cardinals DFA’d him off the 40 man roster to make room to bring up other players. He stayed with Memphis to pitch. However, he got put back on the 40 man roster yesterday and called up. Then he threw two perfect innings of relief in his season debut for St. Louis.

To make room on the 40 man, Bryan Augenstein got DFA’d off the roster. He has been pitching for Memphis since coming back from a groin injury sustained in April in a game against the Diamondbacks.

Market for relievers saturated, trade for starter still possible.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney on Twitter today, the trade market for good middle relievers will be saturated over the next couple weeks. This is really good news for the Cardinals who are looking for middle relief help. The more available middle relievers, the more likely the Cardinals are to strike a deal and the more likely it is to not cost the Cardinals an arm and a leg.

There are still going to be a few good starting pitchers available on the market, and the potential has been left open for the Cardinals to acquire a starting pitcher instead. This would allow the team to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen to return to his role. Of course, this is could be beneficial as McClellan has had difficulties getting through the sixth inning. He has pitched in the sixth inning 13 times this season and has a 9.26 ERA. That basically means he is good to allow a run in every sixth inning he pitches, certainly trouble for a team that has middle relief problems.

I’ve been a proponent for the plan to acquire a starting pitcher and let McClellan return to his bullpen role. That gives you a chance to lock down four other wins every time through the rotation. It doesn’t matter who starts if the bullpen is going to blow the game.

Another interesting split for McClellan is that he has been horrible with Yadier Molina behind the plate this season. He has a 3.38 ERA in 4 games with Gerald Laird, a 3.97 in 2 games with Cruz, but a 4.68 in 10 games with Molina. Players have hit .275 against the McClellan-Molina battery, while .248 with the McClellan-Laird and .217 with the McClellan-Cruz.

Sanchez begins rehab stint, Craig getting close.
Eduardo Sanchez pitched last night for the Springfield Cardinals, turning in a 1-2-3 inning in his first of his appearance. He got into trouble in his second inning of the appearance, allowing a run and leaving a man on second base before striking out his last batter. Overall, he threw an inning and a third and looked sharp in that first inning.

Allen Craig was doing some running, but still has a ways to go before he can resume baseball activities after breaking his knee cap. Both he and Sanchez are very important pieces of this ballclub, and it’d be great to get them back healthy and ready to go as soon as possible.

Cardinals put two pitching prospects in Midseason Top-50.
Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez both found their way into Baseball America’s Midseason Top-50 prospect list. In fact, both were in the top-20. Miller, who has been tearing it up for Double-A Springfield since his promotion, is 7th on the list. Martinez, who wasn’t even on the Preseason Top-100 list, slots in 18th. Miller is 20 years old and Martinez is 19. Both are projected as top of the rotation pitchers, which bodes well for the Cardinals’ minor league system.

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