I did not see this coming.
Freddy Garcia is packing his stuff. The Braves told him he will not be on the Opening Day roster. He is now a free agent
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 24, 2014
BREAKING: The Atlanta Braves are releasing starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, allowing him to become a free agent and pursue other options elsewhere.
Given the dearth of starting pitching – particularly experienced starting pitching, this is indeed a surprise. Garcia has pitched well this Spring – very well, in fact. He had one hiccup start, but that could easily be attributed to the fact that his wife was in active labor at the time, and indeed gave birth while he was racing down the coast after his day ended.
Overall, he was 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 5 starts and 17 innings. He walked 6 and K’d 14 with a .212 batting average against. In that lone poor start, he was said to be getting ‘squeezed’ by the home plate umpire as well, so there were actually multiple factors leading to that outing’s results.
On Sunday, he rebounded well, with 5.1 innings of 2 hit ball, 1 walk and 4 Ks. At that point, he seemed to be a shoo-in for the last starter spot, but then… a “not so fast” moment came from the Fredi that matters: manager Fredi Gonzalez:
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) March 23, 2014
I guess not. Dave O’Brien, who is “in” on the dugout chatter and such, actually was tweeting his assumption of Garcia’s presence on the roster just this morning. The combination of his experience and reliability seemed to make this a fairly straight-forward call… at least to start the season.
#Braves apparently going with Schlosser in rotation. Garcia would’ve made $1.25M guaranteed if on OD roster. Frankly, I don’t get this one
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) March 24, 2014
Garcia’s reaction? About like you might expect:
Okay, So What Now?
Gus Schlosser makes the team? Sure looks that way, as a host of other minor-league re-assignments were made today… and he’s not one of them.
- Tyler Greene: to AAA Gwinnett
- Joey Terdoslavich: AAA
- Jose Constanza: AAA
- Tommy La Stella: “Re-assigned” (was at AA, likely going to AAA as expected)
- Ryan Buchter: AAA
Remaining in Contention for the Bench and Bullpen… and if I’m counting right, they all make it…for now:
- Tyler Pastornicky (who likely makes the team, given Greene’s assignment to AAA).
- Ian Thomas
- Anthony Varvaro… who is still there based on history, certainly not current performance
- Cory Gearrin
>>This will still be a fluid situation: Mike Minor is on the DL now, and likely will remain until the end of April. Santana isn’t there now, but may open the year on it. DO’B points out that if he doesn’t pitch in another major league game this Spring, he can start sooner since the Braves can thus back-date his DL-effective date… avoiding the full 2-week stint. Thus, if all goes well from here, 2 guys from this group: [Hale, Pastornicky, Thomas, Gearrin, Schlosser (most likely)] will be back in AAA once Santana and then Minor (later) are ready to play.
Why Did They Cut Garcia?
Two answers stick out to me:
- Money. Okay, by baseball standards, it’s not a lot. But it is $1.25 million: the amount that the Braves would owe Garcia if he remained on the roster after March 27th.
- Rotation Space. At this point, if looks like Garcia was effectively going to be the 5th starter – behind David Hale. Mike Minor should be ready to go by the end of April, and there’s hope (though personally, I’m still thinking it’s overly optimistic) that Gavin Floyd might be starting by mid-May or so. That bumps Garcia and maybe even Hale.
So should the Braves pay $1.25 million for a pitcher they’re gonna use for maybe for 3-4 starts and then either throw away or send to the bullpen? Apparently, Frank Wren decided that the answer was “no”. They at least had the decency to dump Freddy early: that will give him the best chance to latch on elsewhere.
Meanwhile: your rotation depth now consists of David Hale and Gus Schlosser. And this pair will be used as needed to fill in the gaps left by Gavin Floyd and Mike Minor.
Gus Schlosser 101
I did a little work on him in January, as Gus was one of the “other” players included in the Braves’ Caravan visit to Huntsville (I don’t say that to be mean or to demean him – but hey, Craig Kimbrel was obviously the headliner!). He’s 6-4/220 and is now 25-1/2 years old. He’s also now an official “success” story, having been a 2011 17th round pick out of Florida Southern (Lakeland) College and their funky Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.
Gus is a righty who hasn’t been known as a “stuff” guy, but then again, neither is David Hale. He did manage a 2.39 ERA in 135 innings at Mississippi last year, though wasn’t blowing people away in doing so (6.72 K/9). It’s been this Spring where he’s jumped up several notches in the pecking order, though: 2.03 ERA with more strikeouts (13 in 13.1 innings) and five walks with a remarkable .152 BAA.
I agree with other opinions that this will give him a chance to do a bit of “on the job training” with limited exposure … and frankly more upside than whatever Freddy Garcia still had available in his tank.
Opening Day is 7 days away.