ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia's injury-plagued tenure with the Cardinals has come to an end, as St. Louis dealt the lefty starter to Atlanta on Thursday for a trio of young players. In return, the Cards landed right-handers John Gant and Chris Ellis and second baseman Luke Dykstra. Only Gant has previous Major League experience.
When the Cardinals exercised Garcia's $12 million club option after the season, it was with the intention of exploring possible trade partners. Instead of letting Garcia walk as a free agent, the Cards hoped to net something in return. What they got were three prospects, all of whom ranked on the Braves' Top 30 list, per MLB Pipeline.
"Having Jaime part of our organization, I was perfectly comfortable with," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But as things were unfolding, it looked like we had a chance to add three quality players into our system, and we wanted to do that."
Ellis, 24, who had a 4.49 ERA while splitting time between the Braves' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this past season, ranked as the team's 17th-best prospect. He struck out 126 in 146 1/3 innings, but he also dealt with command issues (87 walks) at times.
Ellis features a four-pitch mix, but he relies heavily on his fastball, which typically registers 90-93 mph on the radar gun. Mozeliak projected Ellis opening the 2017 season in the rotation at Triple-A Memphis, where he will add to the starting depth.
Gant, also 24, slotted in as Atlanta's 21st-ranked prospect. He debuted his unusual delivery with the Braves this season and went 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 20 games (seven starts). He was once a Mets farmhand taken in the 21st round of the 2011 Draft.
Gant rose through Atlanta's system as a starter, and the Cardinals will explore his potential in both a starting and relief role to determine the best fit. He's expected to get some multiple-inning opportunities in Spring Training as a result.
"I think most importantly, he gives us flexibility," Mozeliak said.
Dykstra is the 21-year-old son of former Major Leaguer Lenny Dykstra. Ranked 29th on the Braves' prospect list, Dykstra hit .304 in 81 games with Class A Rome last season while playing second base. The Cardinals intend to keep Dykstra at second initially, Mozeliak said, but they haven't ruled out a potential move to another position down the road.
Dykstra has shown little power since being drafted out of high school in 2014, and his on-base percentage slipped a bit this past season (from .353 in '15 to .332 in '16). However, the Redbirds remain intrigued by his ceiling.
"The thing about him that we were most attracted to was his ability to hit," Mozeliak said. "He's still young, so power could eventually come. But I do think when you look at his ability to get on base, it's trending in the right direction. He could clearly take more walks, but he puts the ball in play and has had success."
Garcia was one of the longest-tenured Cardinals, having pitched in the organization since being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft. Though he went 62-45 with a 3.57 ERA in 158 games, Garcia may be most remembered for what he wasn't able to do. A series of arm injuries kept him off the field in parts of several seasons.
Garcia finally shook the injury bug in 2016, but he couldn't parlay that health into sustained success. He finished with a 4.67 ERA in 32 games (30 starts) and was bumped from the rotation in mid-September.
With Garcia gone, the Cardinals are left with a rotation that projects to be all right-handed at the start of the season. It also means that the organization is unlikely to deal another starting pitcher this offseason, even as its pursuit of an outfielder continues. Rather, the Cardinals would prefer to keep their 2017 rotation options of Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes and Michael Wacha in place.
"I would doubt we would be thinking about moving anybody at this point," Mozeliak said when asked about possibly dealing from that group. "You never say never, but you need depth."
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.