Not being in the postseason for the first time in six years gives the St. Louis Cardinals more time to focus on their offseason decisions, including pitchers Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez.
The Cardinals tried to trade Garcia in the summer, but it didn’t work. They have a $12 million team option they need to make a decision on. Keep him for that price (he made $11.5 million in 2016), or pay him $500,000 and buy him out. After a disappointing season despite being relatively healthy without any serious shoulder problems, the Cardinals are probably leaning more towards buying him out, although the 30-year old shouldn’t have a problem finding a team.
Garcia, starting 30 games and pitching in 171.2 innings, finished with a 4.67 ERA, the worst in a full season for him. His pitching speed and striking out capability seemed to be on the rise, so that’s good news, but he had a real problems with home runs, giving up 1.4 per nine innings. This may be all a matter of bad luck, nothing more. Perhaps in the end, keeping him, even for $12 million, gives the Cardinals control for one more year, and a player they should be able to trade next summer.
Martinez, 25, had a much better season. He’s not a free agent until 2019, but the question regarding him is whether or not to extend him, as he becomes arbitration eligible this offseason. There doesn’t seem to be a rush to do it from either side, but an interest remains. The Cardinals have been known to get these deals done in spring training if it takes that long, but with a player who has shown significant promise, they probably would like to get a deal signed sooner rather than later.
Martinez didn’t make the All-Star game like in 2015, but was similarly effective. He had a 3.04 ERA through 31 starts and a career high 195.1 innings. His WHIP was down to 1.224, his FIP a bit higher at 3.61 and his strikeout ratio was down a bit. One pitcher extension that could be comparable to Martinez is Corey Kluber due to his production (was 29 when he signed the extension with the Indians). He signed a five-year, $38.5 million deal.
However, Martinez is younger and is closer to free agency than Kluber was. This gives Martinez more leverage, and less incentive for him to sign a team-friendly deal, knowing the Cardinals can no longer have him for $500,000 a season now that arbitration is starting.