The St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday exercised their $12-million option on left-hander Jaime Garcia’s 2017 contract, according to reports from several media outlets.
The Cardinals, who have not yet confirmed the transaction, had until Monday to exercise the option or pay Garcia a $500,000 buyout.
Garcia, 30, was 10-13 with a career-high 4.67 ERA in 32 games, including 30 starts. He was banished to the bullpen for two games in September, but in his final start of the season Sept. 26, he lasted a career-low one inning and allowed two runs on four hits, two of them home runs, in a 12-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals could decide to trade Garcia to fill other needs, perhaps in center field. There is very little starting pitching available in the free-agent market, and the Cardinals already have Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, rookie sensation Alex Reyes and Mike Leake. Lance Lynn also is expected to return after missing this season because of Tommy John surgery.
Without Garcia, the rotation would consist of right-handers.
Garcia threw 171 2/3 innings this season, his most since 2011, but he permitted a career-high 26 home runs. In 2015, Garcia was 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA. He is 62-45 with a 3.57 ERA in an injury-plagued career.
Rich Hill, who was 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is one of the top pitchers in the free-agent crop this offseason. Hill, however, is 36, and has has an injury-riddled career. The Cardinals signed Hill as a free agent in January 2010, but released him six months later.
Since then, Hill has pitched for six teams.