The Under-the-Radar Phillies Trade Candidate
I was wrong. Very wrong. The Phillies were approaching what seemed to be a real roster crunch as Spring Training was ending and the club had to find room for bench players Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava. Time and time again, I though the Phillies would simply release right-handed reliever Luis Garcia. Instead, the Phillies got Baltimore to take on Alec Asher, and Garcia reported to Triple-A. After joining the Phillies, Garcia has pitched very well. Could Garcia be the trade candidate no one is speaking of?
At first, it seemed like a mistake that Asher would be given away. But with the Orioles in 2017, Asher was 2-5 with a 5.53 earned run average and now finds himself pitching for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. As for Garcia, he had a minor league option remaining and began the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where Garcia even started a game and had a 5.79 earned run average after four appearances. After a disastrous start from the likes of left-handed pitchers Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez, Garcia joined the Major League club for what seemed like the hundredth time. But this time it has been good.
Now 35 games later, Garcia is 1-1 with a 2.35 earned run average. Slowly, Garcia has been moving further and further back in the Phillies bullpen. As Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris continue to struggle, the Phillies took a different approach on Sunday. With a three-run lead, manager Pete Mackanin called on Garcia to come into the ninth inning for the save. 10 pitches later, the Phillies completed a series win against the Milwaukee Brewers and Garcia picked up his first save in 2017.
Garcia's only really poor outing came on June 7 against the Atlanta Braves. You may remember this game as the game that Andres Blanco pitched. Blanco relieved Garcia, who had to that point given up four runs in a mop-up role. Blanco allowed a fifth to score, to make it five earned runs for Garcia. Since that day, Garcia has allowed just one earned run; in fact, the last 18 games in which Garcia have appeared for the Phillies have been scoreless.
Garcia's story is a good one. After playing five seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals systems, Garcia left baseball and was cutting hair in Morristown, New Jersey, when he scored a tryout with the Phillies. Garcia quickly rose through the Phillies system and made his Major League debut in 2013.
Trading Garcia now might make a good amount of sense. While Garcia is indeed having one of the best stretches of his career and remains under club control for three more seasons if they keep him, there are two factors that could make this a good time to make a move.
First, Garcia is now 30 years old. Garcia may be doing really well now, but you just cannot beat Mother Nature. Garcia's body clock may not allow him to continue this pace going forward, even under the club's control.
Second, Garcia is out of minor league options. The Phillies will not be able to send Garcia to the minor leagues in the future if necessary. That was one point that made Garcia attractive to the Phillies, keeping him around for the 2017 season. Of course, Garcia has pitched well and has stayed with the big league club.
While reliever Pat Neshek is getting all the trade attention, Garcia could help a club not willing to pay the price for Neshek, which may net the Phillies a pretty penny. But for a club who cannot afford to take on salaries or give up a top prospect, Garcia may be a reasonable piece to bolster a club's bullpen. If not, Garcia might just find himself the Phillies closer the rest of the way.