Jaime Garcia went seven innings Wednesday without giving up an earned run, making it now 19 2/3 innings since he last did so. He has been far an away the Braves best pitcher in the month of May, but Atlanta only managed to win two out of his five starts despite his impressive performances. Atlanta (22-29) finished 12-16 for the month, and perhaps even more discouraging, lost Freddie Freeman, one of the best players in baseball, for at least two months. The Braves have a miniscule chance of reaching the playoffs, and it will not be long before this front office begins parting ways with some of their veteran core pieces.
Garcia will be one of the players teams will be calling off the hook for. The price for reliable left-handed starting pitchers are high. With Garcia in the last year of his deal, it is not a matter of if he is traded, it is a matter of when. This makes Garcia’s outings going forward of the utmost importance. It is why even though the Braves lost Wednesday, there is still a sweet victory to take out of it.
April was not so kind to Garcia. His longest outing went just 6.1 innings, and he did not have a start where he gave up less than two earned runs. His ERA sat just a tick-mark below four. The market for that caliber of pitcher, while existent, is not nearly as desirable as what the Braves could be looking at if Garcia continues to baffle lineups. The return for April’s Garcia could be something like the Pirates got for Jonathan Niese at the deadline last season, or maybe what the Mariners received for J.A. Happ in 2015, which was essentially nothing.
Now the May version of Garcia will bring the Braves a nice haul from a competing team. Garcia has been dominant with precise location and a loaded repertoire of pitches. His groundball to flyball ratio was 69 to 28 in May compared to his April ratio of 44 to 51. He has kept the ball down, avoided walks and pitched more efficiently allowing him to go deeper into ball games. His 3.18 ERA for the season would be the third best mark of his entire career.
It is frustrating for Braves fans to have to wait another year to compete, but Freddie Freeman’s injury leaves the Braves with very little hope this season. The first fifty-plus games have shown some encouraging signs for the future. The offensive firepower is evident, and several players are looming on the horizon. The rotation will begin to look more youthful, as some of these veteran arms are flipped for prospects. Garcia has been the Braves best starter so far, but he was never in the Braves long-term plans. Atlanta needs to continue to acquire young prospects to ensure continuous success. Garcia is the best trade-chip they are going to have, and the Braves need him to pitch like an ace until they find a buyer.