Nov. 28: Ben Nicholson-Smith clarified on Twitter that the bonus for pitching 60 innings or appearing in 60 games is actually $500K, not the $250K he previously reported.
Nov. 27, 11:07PM: The 2024 option has a vesting element, as per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith (Twitter links). The Jays have a $5MM club option for 2024 with a $1MM buyout, but that third year becomes guaranteed at $6MM if Garcia tosses 60 innings or makes 60 appearances in 2023, or if he pitches at least 110 innings or 110 appearances in 2022-23 combined.
Garcia will receive a $1MM signing bonus, a $4MM salary in 2022, and $5MM in 2023. Garcia also receives a $250K bonus if he hits the 50-inning mark, and other $250K bonuses at the 55-inning and 60-inning thresholds. An unknown team offered Garcia a more lucrative multi-year deal, Nicholson-Smith writes, but the reliever rejected that deal in order to join a Blue Jays club that looks to be closer to contending.
8:14PM: The Blue Jays have agreed to a deal with right-hander Yimi Garcia, as per former player Carlos Baerga via Instagram (hat tip to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi). It is a two-year contract worth $11MM for the 31-year-old Garcia, as per TSN’s Scott Mitchell, and the Jays also have a club option for 2024. Garcia is represented by agent Kelvin Nova.
Garcia comes to Toronto after something of a tough end to his 2021 season. After the Marlins dealt Garcia to the Astros at the trade deadline, Garcia posted a 5.48 ERA over 21 1/3 innings with Houston. While his strikeout and walk rates improved following the trade, he had some bad luck in the form of a very low 42.6% strand rate. With a 2.98 SIERA for his time as an Astro, the argument can certainly be made that Garcia deserved better, and things didn’t really improve thanks to a couple of rough outings in the playoffs.
On the whole, Garcia had a 4.21 ERA/3.61 ERA over 57 2/3 combined innings in 2021, with a 25.3% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate that were both better than the league average. Garcia allowed quite a bit of hard contact, but he continued to boast one of baseball’s very best fastball spin rates. Perhaps most promisingly, Garcia’s home run rate was a manageable 14.5%, after the long ball led to a lot of issues when he pitched for the Dodgers in 2018-19.
Those home run concerns notwithstanding, Garcia has been a pretty solid bullpen arm for much of his career, posting a 3.60 ERA over 232 1/3 career Major League innings. Garcia has rebounded nicely from a 2016-18 stretch that was essentially a wash due to injuries, as he tossed only 30 2/3 combined frames in those three years due to knee problems, biceps problems, and Tommy John surgery. Los Angeles elected to non-tender Garcia after the 2019 season, and he was quite effective with the Marlins after signing with Miami that winter.
A two-year deal is a nice score for Garcia in the wake of this career history, and also a reasonable price for Toronto to pay for a veteran relief arm with postseason experience. The Jays have generally not spent much on relief pitching during Ross Atkins’ tenure as general manager, with the partial exception of their one-year, $5.5MM deal with Kirby Yates last offseason that immediately went south when Yates needed TJ surgery of his own. Garcia’s health history contains some obvious red flags, though he hasn’t had any true injury problems since the start of the 2019 campaign, apart from a month missed in 2020 during the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak.
A swath of bullpen injuries badly hampered the Jays for the first few months of the 2021 season, and while the numbers began to generally improve, the Blue Jays lacked depth beyond their top quartet of closer Jordan Romano, Trevor Richards, Adam Cimber, and Tim Mayza. That group is all back next season, and with Garcia added to the mix along with other pitchers (i.e. Julian Merryweather, Ryan Borucki) that will hopefully be healthier, the Blue Jays are aiming to turn their relief corps from a weakness into a strength.