Cardinals facing decision on Garcia for 2017

Club has $12 million option on lefty, who was finally healthy in '16

Cardinals facing decision on Garcia for 2017

ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals brought some closure to Matt Holliday's contract situation last week by acknowledging their intentions to decline his club option, a decision remains to be made on lefty starter Jaime Garcia. He's the third-longest tenured member of the organization, though unlike the other two (Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright), Garcia's return to St. Louis in 2017 is not guaranteed.

The Cardinals exercised the first of two club options they had on Garcia last winter. Now, the organization must decide if it wants to do so again on a $12 million option for '17. If it's not exercised, the club will pay a $500,000 buyout. A final decision must be made within five days of the conclusion of the World Series.

As of Sunday, when the Cardinals' season ended one win shy of a tiebreaker game, Garcia had no indication of the club's plans.

"I understand it's business, and that they have to do the best thing for the team," the 30-year-old said as he packed up his belongings. "But no matter what happens, I'll be good."

That's because, despite disappointing season results, Garcia believes he enters the offseason better positioned for success than he's been in years. That confidence hinges largely on health, which, for the first time since 2011, was not an issue for Garcia in 2016.

Aware of his shrinking reliability in recent seasons, Garcia acknowledged approaching his work last offseason with a focus on health, nutrition and arm care. He then met his season goal by making each of his scheduled starts. Garcia assumed that if he could take the mound healthy every five days, his mechanics would fall into place.

But they didn't. Instead, Garcia fought his timing all year and finished with a 4.67 ERA, 1.375 WHIP and 26 homers allowed over 171 2/3 innings. He became a liability in the rotation after a six-start stretch, beginning in mid-August, when he posted an 8.23 ERA. His return as a starter on Sept. 26 lasted one inning. It was his final appearance of the season.

"My goal last offseason was to go home and figure out what I needed to do to be healthy for 33 starts," Garcia said. "I spent a lot of time getting to know my body and on the mental side of the game, just getting to trust your stuff and knowing that I was healthy. At the same time, my mechanics and my timing took a hit because I wasn't really concerned about that. Numbers have always been there for me. Even when I was hurt, I've always had success."

Once Garcia turned his focus wholly over to his mechanics, it was too late -- for this season, at least. But he heads into the offseason confident that he can correct the mechanical flaw he identified between relief appearances in San Francisco and Colorado.

"Now it's just a matter of putting it together this offseason," Garcia said. "I know that I can keep the health, but at the same time get back to being more successful. I'm excited about that."

The Cardinals expect to replenish their rotation depth with the return of Lance Lynn, Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney from injury. That could make Garcia expendable. But with the free-agent market thin in starting pitching, Garcia can still be a valuable piece. He could supplement that depth, or be a trade chip.

"There's still a lot of baseball left for me," Garcia said. "Whether it's here or somewhere else, I know somebody will give me the opportunity to do what I know I'm capable of doing."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.