Toronto Blue Jays: Jaime Garcia is the Logical Target

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 05: Jaime Garcia
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 05: Jaime Garcia /

When looking at the starting pitching free agent market, there are a lot of names in the mid to low tier, but which one is the best target for the Toronto Blue Jays?

Sportsnet‘s Ben Nicholson-Smith went over some starting rotation options that would be realistic targets for the Toronto Blue Jays, in their quest to add another big league starter for the 2018 season. However, I am going to focus on one specific starter who fits the Jays perfectly.

Jaime Garcia, 31, spent the 2017 season on three different teams, compiling a solid 2.1 WAR and 4.25 FIP in 157 innings. While he is not the flashiest option out there, he has a few things going for him that would greatly benefit the Blue Jays staff.

Firstly, he induces a large number of groundballs. He had a 54.8% GB% in 2017, ranked fifth in all of baseball for pitchers with a minimum of 150 innings pitched, and is at 56.2% for his career.

Garcia’s 18.6 LD% (line drive percentage) ranked 14th-best in baseball and his 30.5% hard% (hard contact percentage) ranked 30th in baseball in 2017. A starter who keeps the ball on the ground and can limit hard contact is a good fit for most environments, but certainly for Rogers Centre, where balls can fly all over the place.

Secondly, in addition to inducing groundballs, Garcia can strike hitters out as well. His SwStr% (swinging strike percentage) of 11.2% in 2017 ranked 22nd in all of baseball. His 7.39 K/9 was very solid and right in keeping with his career line of 7.28. While his walk rate did go up in 2017 (3.67 BB/9), his career line is much better (2.78).

Lastly, the Toronto Blue Jays are not signing a player based on his past, they are signing that player for what they reasonably expect out of them next season. So what can be reasonably expected?

Garcia’s 2018 projections look very reasonable. While ZiPS projections are less favorable to him, projecting a 4.71 ERA and 1.1 zWAR, Steamer and Depth Chart projections on FanGraphs both project him to have a 2.2 WAR and 4.26 ERA in 2018. His 2017 line was a lot closer to the Steamer/Depth Chart projections, and a lot closer to the rest of his career when he has pitched a meaningful amount of innings.

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For a team like the Jays who currently have an 84-win projection (with the current roster), adding upwards of two wins would put them a little bit closer to the desirable high-80’s win projection that usually gives teams some hope for serious playoff contention.

In November, MLB Trade Rumors predicted the contracts of the 2017-18 free agents. Clearly, a lot of those predictions remain to be seen due to the market moving at a snail’s pace, but Garcia was projected to sign for two years, $16 million.

If the Jays can get him for that, or possibly less due to the market, then it would not only help their 2018 rotation, but could also give them an arm for 2019 if the deal is longer than a year. An average annual value of $8 million is very reasonable for the type of starter he is.

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While some fans will look at the higher end starters like Yu Darvish, the reality is for what the Blue Jays have left to spend, they will be looking at the mid to lower tier free agents. While quite a few of the starters referenced by Nicholson-Smith would be reasonable gambles to take depending on price, the numbers suggest Garcia might be the most logical.