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Cardinals opt to keep Garcia

The St. Louis Cardinals have ended the speculation about starting pitcher Jaime Garcia’s fate by picking up the southpaw’s 2016 option.

But while a lot of folks have concluded that this directly means an end to the Redbirds’ interest in free agent starter John Lackey, I’m not sure we should jump to conclusions at this point that next season’s starting rotation is set in stone.

While Lackey likely won’t be back, it’s because another team is probably going to drive his price tag higher than St. Louis general manager is willing to pay for a hurler in his late 30s.

Garcia’s option turned out to be a bargain for a pitcher of his ability. But if the Birds could have had Garcia or Lackey for one season at the same price, I’m not certain things wouldn’t have gone the other way.

If St. Louis decides to go with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn and Garcia, I’m happy with it. Especially if the Cardinals can do something to bolster the offense through free agency, I’m happy with things the way they are.

But, if they can’t re-sign Jason Heyward and/or some help at first base, they could use some of their pitching depth to try to make a trade to help the offense.

Both Garcia and Lynn are under control for two years at reasonable prices and could have some trade value for offensive help.

To fill the hole or holes in the rotation:

▪ The Cardinals, who tried to trade for David Price at least once and likely twice, have been consistently linked to the lefty ace who would help to take pressure off oft-injured starter Wainwright.

▪ They could possibly sign St. Louis area native Mark Buehrle to a reasonable short term contract should he want to fulfil his dream of pitching for the team for which he rooted when he grew up.

▪ The Birds could count on Wainwright to stay healthy and replace one of the lost pitchers at the back of the rotation with Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney or Marco Gonzales.

▪ If Lackey just really wanted to stay in St. Louis, he could be re-signed at a reasonable price to fill the hole from a trade. The Cardinals showed interest in trying to negotiate an extension with Lackey before the 2015 season.

While Garcia has too much talent to be allowed just to walk away, it was interesting how publicly critical the team was of him when he blew up in the second inning of his playoff start - and then was unable to continue.

The Cardinals were also critical of Garcia a year ago when he decided to have surgery that the team didn’t think was prudent.

I like Garcia’s talent. I think he’s gotten a bit of a bum rap the last few years because of his shoulder troubles. But when he’s healthy, there aren’t many pitchers with nastier stuff.

But the way I perceive the team views him makes me skeptical. So, until spring training starts and he’s in Jupiter, I’m not going to be convinced Garcia will be a member of the 2016 St. Louis rotation.