The Cardinals picked up Jamie Garcia's final option year because left-handed pitchers are an asset, even with a checkered medical history.
So what if the Cardinals already had a loaded rotation for next season with Lance Lynn returning to active duty and Alex Reyes graduated to the big leagues?
Somebody would want Garcia. That somebody, it turned out, was the Atlanta Braves organization.
His $12 million price tag is reasonably by today's standards. So the Cardinals were able to flip him to the Braves for pitching prospects John Gant and Chris Ellis plus second base prospect Luke (son of Lenny) Dykstra.
That is just one more example of smart asset management by Cardinals GM John Mozeliak. This deal could help set the stage for another trade, this time to add outfield help.
All three prospects ranked among the Atlanta's Top 30 according to MLB.com, although none rose to the upper tier.
Here is MLB.com on Ellis:
Ellis might forever be known as the "other guy," along with Sean Newcomb, to come to Atlanta in the Andrelton Simmons deal with the Angels. That doesn't' mean Ellis doesn't have his own big league future to think about.
The Angels pushed Ellis in his first full season after taking him in the third round of the 2014 Draft and he spent half the year in Double-A as a result. The 6-foot-5 righthander has two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider. While the heater sits at around 92 mph, it plays up because of its life. His power slider has shown the ability to miss bats. His changeup should give him a third Major League offering. He was generally around the strike zone during the first half of 2015, but struggled with his command and control once he got to Double-A.
Ellis has the size, strength and repertoire to succeed as a starter, with the upside perhaps as a No. 4. He'll get every chance to reach that ceiling, though a move to the bullpen -- where he pitched his first two years at the University of Mississippi -- would allow his fastball-slider combination to play up even more.
Here is MLB.com on Gant:
Gant, acquired from the Mets at the Trade Deadline in 2015 along with Rob Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, could be a great example of "slow and steady win the race." After three summers in rookie or short-season ball, Gant had a breakout in the South Atlantic League in 2014, then pitched across two levels in 2015, finishing off with a very strong first impression for the Braves in Double-A post-trade. It was a bit of a surprise when he made the Opening Day roster in 2016, helping initially out of the bullpen. He was making the move to the rotation in June when an oblique strain put him on the shelf.
Gant will never wow with pure stuff, but he has an extremely good feel for pitching. He can move his average fastball up and down, in and out. He throws his changeup with good sink and his curve has improved to give him three Major League average offerings, all of which he can throw for strikes. He has a funky delivery that causes deception and he uses his 6-foot-5 frame well to throw downhill.
Gant's ceiling is limited to that of being a back-end starter. With good mound presence and a fearless approach to go along with his pitchability, he's a pretty good bet to reach that ceiling.
Here is MLB.com on Dykstra:
The son of former big leaguer Lenny Dykstra (and brother of Nationals farmhand Cutter), it should come as no surprise that Luke Dykstra is described as a gamer, a baseball rat who plays hard at all times. In the early stages of his pro career, it's also looking like he can hit a little.
Since being drafted out of the California high school ranks in the seventh round of 2014, Dykstra has shown the ability to handle the bat. He's hit pretty much everywhere he's gone, including when he earned a promotion to full-season ball in 2015 and returned there in 2016. He hasn't shown much power to date, but he might develop some extra-base pop as he continues to mature, and he makes consistent hard contact. He's a solid runner who is a fringe defender with an average arm, a high school shortstop who seems to be settling in at second base as a pro.
It's early in his career, but Dykstra is hovering around the .300 mark through his first three pro seasons. They say hitters always find their way to the big leagues, and ones who get high marks for makeup usually maximize their opportunities.
All in all, that looks like a good haul for Garcia. At worst the Cardinals gained the ability to do some other things, particularly given their pitching depth.