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MLB Trade Rumors: Royals interested in Jaime Garcia

The left-hander gets a ton of groundballs.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that starting pitchers Nate Karns (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery) and Matt Strahm (knee surgery) are both out for the year, the Royals have a major hole in their starting rotation. Jason Vargas has been an All-Star, Danny Duffy still looks like a frontline starter, and Ian Kennedy has been mostly solid, but Jason Hammel has faltered and the Royals have tried some rookies like Jake Junis and Eric Skoglund out, but with little consistency.

If the Royals are going to be contenders this year, they will need added rotation depth. According to Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger, that is just what they are targeting, and FanRag reporter Jon Heyman, they are taking a look at Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia.

The 31-year old is best known from his days in St. Louis, where he won 62 games in eight seasons. They dealt him to the Braves last year, where he has been solid with a 4.33 ERA/4.25 FIP and 1.1 WAR, according to Fangraphs. He had a 3.16 ERA until a run of four starts leading up to the All-Star break where he gave up 23 runs in 22 innings. However he struck out seven, allowing just one run in seven innings in his first start after the break against the Diamondbacks. His performance in Atlanta is attracting some potential buyers.

“He’s far and away the best rental on the market,” a scout from an AL team said. “He has as much late movement on his fastball as anyone in the game, and he can sink it or cut it. He’s tough against left-handed hitters, and he has playoff experience. He just dominated a team headed to the playoffs.”

The Braves may not be ready to be sellers yet, however, as they are 5.5 games back of a Wild Card spot.

Garcia has made 17 starts, and is trying to reach 30 starts in a season for just the third time in his career. He has a history of injuries, having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2008. He missed major time in 2015 with a groin injury, but has been relatively healthy since then, making 30 starts with a 4.67 ERA for the Cardinals last season.

Garcia throws an excellent sinker, and his 57.6% groundball rate is the third-best in baseball over the last three seasons. His strikeout rate has gone down while his walk rate is the highest of his career at 3.4 per-nine-innings. He has enjoyed a low BABIP at .285 and has benefited from one of the lowest left-on-base rates in baseball. Garcia does a pretty good job keeping the ball in the ballpark, and has been a bit tougher against lefties this year, but does not historically have a platoon split.

The Royals likely would not have to give up premium prospects to get Garcia, as he is a two-month rental before becoming a free agent this winter. He is owed about $4-5 million the remainder of the season, which should be within the Royals’ financial limits. Jaime Garcia may not be the flashy name like Sonny Gray or Jose Quintana, but he could represent a significant upgrade in the rotation without costing the Royals their top prospects. He was a 2.8 WAR pitcher in just 20 starts last year and has had great runs of success, so he could be a sneaky good under-the-radar pickup.