UCB Roundtable Question #1

UCB_11The United Cardinal Bloggers’ project for February is the preseason roundtable.  There will be 10 questions for this month’s roundtable.  As you may recall from past roundtable posts, a blogger asks a question and the other bloggers who want to participate answer the question.  The answers will be compiled by the person who asked the question into a blog post.   Dan Buffa was originally supposed to ask the question yesterday, but he decided he just wanted to answer questions instead.  So being the nice person that I am, I offered to fill in for him.  Sometimes I don’t mind going first!

So here was my question:
Happy Presidents’ Day! And more importantly, it’s Roundtable Opening Day, which is a sure sign that baseball is right around the corner!  Here’s the first roundtable question for 2015:

This is a 4 part question regarding the riddle that is Jaime Garcia:

1.  Will Jaime be healthy at the start of spring training?
2.  If Jaime shows up healthy at the start of spring training, will he stay healthy during spring training?
3.  If your answer to #2 is “yes,” will Jamie make the starting rotation, and if so, at which position?
4.  If your answer to either question is “no,” what do you think the Cards will do with Jaime?  Do they release him?  If so, who gets his rotation spot?

I’m looking forward to reading your answers.  If you’re where it’s snowing, stay safe!

Diane

And here are the answers:

Mark Tomasik, www.retrosimba.com

Jaime Garcia’s track record indicates it is unlikely he has the ability to be a dependable member of the Cardinals’ staff.

I believe the Cardinals will try to showcase him during spring training, hyping every successful workout and appearance as evidence he has recovered, then trade him to a team desperate for pitching. The Cardinals will agree to pay most of his salary and will seek in a return a prospect. The Astros or Rangers could be landing spots for Jaime.
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Tom, CardinalsGM:

I look for Garcia to begin the season in the rotation or at least he stays in extended Spring Training. However, he envision him not making it through the season without significant injury.

Honestly, I believe he has little in the tank but hope to be wrong.

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Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

Ah, Jaime…

 Yes, he will be “healthy” when camp opens and likely throughout, giving everyone hope that he will join the rotation and be the Jaime we all know he could have been.
But the team won’t rely on that.
A healthy spring will lead to extended spring training. From there, a rehab assignment in the minors. If someone at the big club goes down, he may get a call up. Ultimately, he’ll see as much action as his arm can handle without being on the big league club to try and entice some other team to give a bag of balls and maybe a few bobble heads in exchange for his service.
I’m not sure they release him before the trade deadline. Once the deadline passes, he may find himself on the open market. I fully believe he gets traded…if he actually stays healthy.

Thanks,
Bill Ivie

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Eugene Tierney, 85% Sports:
1.  Possibly; based on the reports, Jaime is ready to pitch. We’ve seen in the past that reports on members of the Cardinals health are sometimes inaccurate. It’ll be one of those things where we’ll have to wait a week to truly see.
2.  It’s possible that he could make it through spring training healthy. He’ll be watched very closely and have limitations early on, which will allow him to last a little longer than in the season.
3.  With all of the injury issues he’s had, I see him competing for a rotation spot but ending up in extended spring training. They’ll try to trade him off, but many teams won’t be interested in an expensive question mark. They probably end up releasing him. He’s not better than what they already have and is not fun watching a guy and wondering when his arm will fall off.

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Daniel Shoptaw, Cardinals Conclave:

Tara and I talked a bit about this last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven.

What struck me was a Tweet from Jim Hayes (I believe) about how the club has recently gone from surprised at Garcia’s progress to really believing he can contribute.  Now, that could be build up for trade talk (something that I’ll admit didn’t come to mind last night), but I think save that there’s little reason to promote a healthy Garcia.  It’s not like they don’t have many other valuable options.  It’s not that they don’t have a preferred solution in Carlos Martinez.  There’s no reason to even bring up Garcia in people’s minds.

If he is healthy and if he is still with the club at the end of the spring, he will be in the rotation.  $9.5 million reasons for that.  And having a quality lefty in the rotation would be an advantage for the Cards.  Like Bill said, though, you can’t rely on that and Martinez and Marco Gonzales will be right there ready to step in if necessary.

A trade does seem likely, though I don’t know that the Cards will want to give him away.  The Garcia situation might be the most interesting thing in camp this spring.

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Doug Vollet, Baseball Geek in Galveston:

Color me skeptical. I realize we’re on the hook for 9.5 Million, but that doesn’t mean he should be an automatic starter if he’s healthy. I’d make him a swing man this season, then if he stays healthy, move him full time into the rotation next year.

 Yes, 9.5 million is expensive for a swing man, but I believe in taking precautions. If you rush him back and he gets injured again, he’s useless. build him up this season, and if he’s still healthy at the end of it, exercise the option and put him into the rotation next year. If he’s injured by the end of the season, buy him out and say sayonara.

Daniel replied:

I could see that, but I’m not sure Garcia works well as a swing man.  It would seem (again, this is all supposition) that the best chance of keeping him healthy is keeping him on that regular work schedule of days off, days to throw, etc.  If you are warming him up at irregular times and putting him in the life of a swing man, my gut feeling is he’s more likely to get hurt that way.  I don’t know that–if not, I could see the advantage of him in that position, though we have a lot of lefties in the pen already (and a guy like Tyler Lyons who can do the swing thing as well).

Matt Whitener replied:

The rigors of being a reliever, and the unstable nature of preparing for that role physically, do not fit the goals the team seems to have laid out for Garcia. Frankly, Mozeliak does not speak of that as an option that he is interested in and Matheny does not mention him as a part of the left-handed options ini the bullpen. It is either start or sit for Garcia this year. But the team is pleasantly surprised by his progress, so it is very likely that they will give him a chance to prove what he can do in the rotation at some point in the year after off days become more scarce.

Doug replied:

Well it’s just my opinion. I tend to think outside of the box, and try to find the best fit, regardless of the players’ past. For example, Jon Jay had a good year last year, but I still think Bourjos should be starting, due to the amount of fly balls he and Heyward would suck up.

Matt replied:

Same here. I just tend to think that when its a margin between a health history (and a restrictive one at that) and performance preference, the rules and options have to be different.

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Matt Whitener, Cheap Seats Please:

1.  Will Jaime be healthy at the start of spring training?
Last month at the Winter Warm-Up Mo expressed that he did not anticipate Jaime being ready to go by opening day, but rather to be a mid-season addition in the May/June range. With that said, I believe Jaime’s health will be under evaluation at the start of the spring. I do not expect to see much off of the mound from him, and especially not in the exhibition games. Caution is by and far the top priority for the club regarding him, and I think his training will be under evaluation until after the 25-man is set.

2.  If Jaime shows up healthy at the start of spring training, will he stay healthy during spring training?
That is the biggest question mark for Jaime; remaining healthy. He has proven before he can rehab, but he has not proven that he can maintain it. With the information presented right now, I don’t think that anybody can make a truly accurate assessment of it, but the history is not on his side.

3.  If your answer to #2 is “yes,” will Jamie make the starting rotation, and if so, at which position?

I do not believe that his health will factor into the Opening Day picture, but I also do not think he will be utilized in any other capacity except for as a starter when he is deemed healthy.

4.  If your answer to either question is “no,” what do you think the Cards will do with Jaime?  Do they release him?  If so, who gets his rotation spot?

The team will not release him, if for any other reason he provides depth for the rotation. And proven depth at that. If the expectation is for him to be a bonus or surplus throughout the year, there is no need to release him because the expectation is not for 30 starts, but probably whatever they can get from him.

The rotation spot scenario out of the gate is between Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales, and I do not anticipate that changing. However, the team does intend to be careful with both of those options innings over the full course of the year and considering the fact that everyone with the exception of Lance Lynn and John Lackey are already entering the season with injury flags, having Jaime in the fold as one of the 8 or 9 options to start a game at some point in the season keeps him with value to the team.

Also, he is in the last guaranteed year of his contract, so getting some final usage out of him (considering the fact they have to pay him regardless) is the prudent way to go about it.

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Dan Buffa, Cardinals Farm:

Greetings from North Little Rock, Arkansas. Here, if it drops a half inch of ice, the whole town shuts down so here I am. All I can do now is drink coffee and talk baseball. (There’s a lot worse things we could be doing. – DMS)

1.  Will Jaime be healthy at the start of spring training?
Yes. Garcia had extensive nerve procedures done on his shoulder. There isn’t a real guarantee a pitcher comes back from that the same. However,  he has reported zero ill effects to his superiors but they and we all know what to expect when that news hits our ears. Skepticism.  Mo is probably pushing back the timetable to the media in order to paint a realistic gauge for his troublesome lefthander and also to maintain skeptical about the man’s future. My belief is that Jaime is entering spring training as healthy as possible and will be treated like a rotation spot is within his reach.

2.  If Jaime shows up healthy at the start of spring training, will he stay healthy during spring training?
Yes. At this point, 45 shoulder injuries(I kid) and counting, the Cards must keep in mind, as they do with other starters, that a certain care and protection is needed. Pop the hood, check the plugs and oil, and let them roll in April. Now, Garcia is coming back from something more serious than an offseason cleanup, so maybe he gets treated a little differently. However, in keeping with the framework of the question, if Garcia shows up healthy(yes), he leaves spring training healthy.

3.  If your answer to #2 is “yes,” will Jamie make the starting rotation, and if so, at which position?
This is a sad but true topic. If he makes it through spring training ready to go, why would he start in extended spring training?

If he is not deemed hurt yet needs a few extra starts to ensure the shoulder is ready, he takes a short trip to Memphis.  If Jaime is healthy, he is in the rotation. I’ve been an advocate for Carlos Martinez since Thanksgiving, but the fact is Garcia is making 9.5 million this season and has proven in the past to be quite an asset when healthy. To borrow a terribly overused cliche, he could be the poor man’s Cole Hamels. The Cards would be stupid to not use him if he is ready to go because:

a. Let him pitch, and see what he can do. How long can he stay healthy?
b. Let him drive up his trade value so other teams will be reaching for his services come July because the Cards, media and fans know there is no future for him in The Lou.
c. Jaime in the bullpen isn’t something I want to see unless Derek Liliquist invented a mood detector device for certain “mentally fragile” players.

If healthy, Jaime needs to pitch on the St. Louis Cardinals in the rotation in the 5th spot. Plain and simple.

4.  If your answer to either question is “no,” what do you think the Cards will do with Jaime?  Do they release him?  If so, who gets his rotation spot?
While neither of my answers were no, I will play the devil’s advocate hypothetical game and answer this.

If Jaime doesn’t leave spring training healthy, they will not release him. They simply can’t afford to, with the fragility of the staff. Waino and Wacha have warning labels on their arms and Lackey’s arm is stout yet old so he deserves an eye. Jaime won’t be released. The Cards must keep him in extended spring to get healthy or send him to Memphis to regroup. They can’t cut the chord in March. If he can’t start the season in the rotation, Carlos Martinez takes that spot.

I agree with Daniel Shoptaw. Jaime is going to be the most interesting player in camp this spring.

Thanks for asking,

Dan Buffa

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Ben Chambers, The View From Here:

I think Jaime will be healthy, although I think once the team heads north, he’ll be kept at extended spring, sent to a rehab assignment, or both. The main reason that I think there’s no way that he makes the starting day rotation is all the talk about Carlos Martinez. They have been saying all winter that Martinez is pretty much the guy. If he takes the last spot, then there’s no room for Garcia.

That said, once he proves he’s healthy, you have to either trade him or give him a spot in the rotation. He’s not going to do well in a swing role and that may be harder on him. You can’t keep him in AAA because when he is healthy and right, he’s pretty good. There is a chance that someone goes down with an injury and that prompts him to move into the rotation, like when Kelly got hurt early last year.

I still think that the most likely option is that he gets traded early, or at least by July.

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Tara Wellman, Bird Tales

This is the kind of question that will likely see very similar answers, meaning we’ll all seem brilliant or foolish by the end of Jaime Garcia’s 2015 season (whenever that may be…)! But, let me grab my Mozeliak-inspired GM specs and scarf (hey, it’s cold and I don’t look good in a bowtie.) and give it a go.

1.  Will Jaime be healthy at the start of spring training?
Here’s the thing with that — everyone is “healthy” when camp starts. Everyone “feels good” and is “ready to go.” The organizational outlook is eternally optimistic this time of year, as proven by the recent uptick in positivity concerning Jaime Garcia’s preparedness. But, let’s be real — he has a track record that doesn’t lend itself to an easy buy-in on what he’ll bring to the table.  Now, I’m not questioning the reliability of reports that say he is, in fact, healthy. I fully believe that he feels as strong as he thinks he should at the moment. But, I also remember how great Chris Carpenter felt the spring after his own bout with similar nerve issues, and how strong Garcia felt between surgeries in the past. Until Jaime ramps up his baseball activity levels enough to really test the multitude of recurring arm issues, the definition of “healthy” is relative.

2.  If Jaime shows up healthy at the start of spring training, will he stay healthy during spring training?
How the Cardinals attempt to bring Garcia along this spring will impact the answer to this question. Based on Jaime’s history, they will likely try to move him along slowly in order to get a clearer picture of how the nerve issue (among other things) will react to normal training. An easier pace and lessened strain should get him through the spring. If they push it, though, to see how “healthy” he really is, there’s a good chance he ends up missing a spring start or two, and possibly even shutting it down all together, a la Carpenter. My best guess, though? Yes. He makes it through Spring Training, much to the chagrin of Carlos Martinez.

3.  If your answer to #2 is “yes,” will Jamie make the starting rotation, and if so, at which position?
The truth of the matter is, everything hinges on how quickly he can be game-ready without pushing so hard that he breaks again. (And that is my fundamental problem with Garcia … but that’s a conversation for another day!) Just because he makes it through spring training without a relapse doesn’t mean he’ll have shaken off all the rust. It’s been a long time since he pitched in a big league game. There’s a chance he has to be so careful in how he trains that he won’t be ready when the Birds break camp. Then, there’s Martinez. Without a doubt, he’s been groomed as the guy to beat for anyone dreaming of joining Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and John Lackey in the rotation. In fact, Martinez and Garcia haven’t been spoken of in the same breath all winter. If Jaime is still rusty (or simply a couple weeks behind the others) and Martinez is ready to rock and roll, I’d prefer to see Carlos get the 5th spot. I don’t think Mo wants to let Garcia go, but I also don’t believe he’s anxious to jump back on that horse without full confidence that his $9.5 million man is up for the challenge. So, while a 100% Garcia is undoubtedly an asset to the Cardinals’ 2015 rotation, I am not yet convinced that a 100% Garcia is a realistic option right out of Jupiter.

4.  If your answer to either question is “no,” what do you think the Cards will do with Jaime?  Do they release him?  If so, who gets his rotation spot?
This is the (nine) million dollar question, isn’t it? What do you do with an injury-prone, potential superstar if you don’t have confidence in his ability to contribute for more than a handful of starts? He’s not a AAA guy. He’s not a bullpen guy. He needs a perfectly bubble-wrapped scenario in order to succeed. Martinez, again, is the guy who will get the spot. Marco Gonzales provides a solid backup option as a #5 guy, and there are others in Memphis who could fill in here and there. If he’s healthy enough to draw interest from potential suitors, I’d say it’s worth hearing them out. But, with 2-3 current starters facing their own sets of question marks, it would be hard to let him go in case he became a necessary asset. So, what do they do?

*takes off GM dress-up clothes*

Sorry, Mo. This one’s all yours.
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Daniel Solzman, RedbirdRants.com

1.  Will Jaime be healthy at the start of spring training?

I would like to think that Jaime Garcia will be healthy at the start of spring training.  But to be honest, after what happened with Rafael Furcal during the 2012-13 offseason, you can understand my pessimism on the matter.

2.  If Jaime shows up healthy at the start of spring training, will he stay healthy during spring training?
We can only hope that he stays healthy.

3.  If your answer to #2 is “yes,” will Jamie make the starting rotation, and if so, at which position?
This is the hard part.  The way things look now, there are four locks for the rotation: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, and Michael Wacha–that is assuming Wacha is completely healthy entering this year.  The final spot, in my mind, is between Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales.  I’m not fully convinced on Carlos as a starter quite yet.  Yes, he has a high
ceiling but his Minor League numbers just haven’t translated at the Major League level.  Will Yadier Molina’s locker being next to his during Spring Training lead to a change in this?  I hope so.

The Cardinals are paying Garcia nearly $10 million this season.  He may be a long reliever out of the bullpen but I just don’t envision him making another start for St. Louis unless it’s a spot start.

4.  If your answer to either question is “no,” what do you think the Cards will do with Jaime?  Do they release him?  If so, who gets his rotation spot?

(Daniel didn’t give me an answer to #4, although I suspect the answer is contained in his answer to #3).

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Thanks to my fellow United Cardinals Bloggers for answering my question!  You can go to their blogs by clicking the links after their names. Who knows – you might find some more Cardinals blogs to enjoy!  If you want to see the other roundtable questions after those posts are completed, bookmark United Cardinal Bloggers.

Only 2 days until pitchers and catchers report, which means baseball is right around the corner!  I do feel sorry for those poor folks on the East Coast.  I’m sure they were ready for baseball three weeks ago.

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!

Diane

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