On Monday afternoon, the Atlanta Braves released starting pitcher Freddy Garcia. Garcia later told reporters that Atlanta didn’t want to pick up his contract. For various reasons, this move makes no sense for the Braves.
First off, the Braves would have only owed Garcia $1.5 million this year had he made the big-league starting rotation. With the season-ending injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, it’s very likely that he would have been in the starting five. In 17 innings spanning five starts this spring, Garcia held a 4.76 ERA with 14 strikeouts. He wasn’t ace material, but he wasn’t horrible.
The second, and possibly most significant, reasons are the injuries to Medlen and Beachy. The Braves are down two starting pitchers before Opening Day arrives. Along with them, starting candidates Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd are expected to start the season on the DL. According to reports, it won’t be until April or May until they are activated. That leaves the Braves with just four starting pitchers come Opening Day.
Don’t get me wrong; Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, David Hale and Ervin Santana will do fine, but I don’t see how releasing a cheap starting pitcher with plenty of potential makes sense. If nothing else, having Garcia in the starting rotation to start the season and not force a four-man rotation for the first month or so seems like more than enough reason to keep him. What if another pitcher goes down with injury? What if Minor or Floyd don’t come back when they are expected to?
While it may seem like the Braves are making a move to cut some deadweight, it’s not a smart one. They are down four possible starting pitchers, and it looks as though they’ll be using just four in the first month of the season and then some. Atlanta had a perfectly good fifth option in Garcia who came at a good price and have made a mistake by not taking advantage of it.