St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals deal left-hander Garcia to Braves for three prospects

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded left-handed starter Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves for prospects, reports ESPN’s Mark Saxon.
The St. Louis Cardinals have traded left-handed starter Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves for prospects, reports ESPN’s Mark Saxon.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded enigmatic left-hander Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves for prospects late Thursday.

The trade was first reported by ESPN national baseball writer Mark Saxon.

Heading to the Cardinals for Garcia are right-handers John Gant and Chris Ellis and infielder Luke Dykstra. None are considered to be top-of-the-line prospects, although Gant reached the big leagues for the first time last season.

Gant, 24, was a 21st-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2011. He was 3-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 13 games, including 10 starts, with low-Class A Rome, of the South Atlantic League, and Class AAA Gwinnett last season. He has a unique windup, during which he lifts his leg, replants it and then works to the plate.

Ellis, 24, was 11-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 28 starts at Class AA Mississippi and Gwinnett. He was drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Angels in 2014. Ellis was a Southern League All-Star last summer.

Dykstra, 21, the son of former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra, batted .304 with 17 doubles, one triple, no home runs and 41 RBIs in 81 games at Rome. The right-handed batter was drafted by the Braves in the seventh round in 2014.

Gant also pitched in 20 games for the major-league Braves, making seven starts. He was 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA, walking 21 and striking out 49 in 50 innings. He allowed 54 hits, but limited left-handed batters to a .248 average.

Garcia, 30, had a one-year contract option for $12 million picked up by the Cardinals after the World Series in October. In eight major-league seasons, all with the Cardinals, he was 62-45 with a 3.57 ERA. He has been plagued by injuries, starting more than 30 games just twice.

In 20 starts in the second half of St. Louis’ 100-win season of 2015, Garcia impressed with 10 wins and a 2.43 ERA. Right-handed batters hit just .218 against him.

But inconsistency caught up with Garcia again in 2016. In a career-high 32 starts, he was 10-13 with a 4.67 ERA, but insisted all along he was healthy. He lasted five innings or less in 14 starts.

As the Cardinals fought for a wild-card playoff spot in September and October, Garcia went 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA.

Garcia was banished to the bullpen after two skittish starts Sept. 8 and Sept. 13. In two relief outings, Garcia seemed to improve, earning another shot in the rotation.

However, Garcia lasted a career-low one inning in a miserable performance Sept. 26 against Cincinnati, a 15-2 loss that wound up being his final game with the Cardinals.

Even without Garcia, the Cardinals still have six starting pitchers in ace Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Mike Leake. All, however, are right-handed. Lynn is coming off Tommy John surgery.

St. Louis heads to the winter meetings, scheduled for Sunday through Thursday in National Harbor, Md., in search of a center fielder, third baseman and perhaps another starter.