This past Wednesday, another game went into extra innings. Such affairs generally tax a bullpen. It surely did not help that Tillman was chased in the third and the bullpen had to keep it together. In the end, the Orioles relied on MehFarland with Darren O'Day in reserve. Garcia apparently was not an option, which is understandable given that it was a high leverage situation. At this point, one might argue that not much is great down in Norfolk to replace Garcia with Chaz Roe down and Mychal Givens up, but someone like Oliver Drake (recently voted by players and managers as the best reliever in the International League) should be able to be passable.
This leaves us with a general question as to why exactly is Garcia here? Since coming off the DL after experiencing a dead arm issue this Spring and going through a laborious month-long rehab stint in the minors where his velocity improved but did not get back to the upper 90s, Buck has seemingly gone out of his way to not pitch Garcia. He has appeared in one game in a blowout situation. It appears the arm issue is still present because Garcia has not warmed up in consecutive games.
This is a problem. As it stands, Garcia is a junk inning pitcher. His value is essentially at replacement level if not slightly below. That would be fine as a junk inning pitcher, but he hurts the club in that he cannot save the bullpen by pitching multiple innings and there appears to be no rubber in his arm. That kind of role is best served by someone who can be very flexible in innings and when they appear. It was what helped T.J. McFarland stick with the club and why it was largely thought that Garcia would eventually be sent back to the Red Sox organization.
That said, you can see why the organization wants Garcia. Though he has had injury issues, he has a live arm when healthy that produces a loud upper 90s fastball and a curveball with plus potential. He is a valid late inning power arm prospect, which the Orioles are in short supply. If the Rule 5 status was not keeping him on the active roster, he would be pitching for the Orioles in Frederick or, perhaps, trying to work through things in Bowie. The general expectation is that he would be ready for prime time around late 2017, which is an example of showing that Dan Duquette cares to some degree to continue building to the future instead of using a more stable bullpen. Of course, that stability we are discussing is about the last man in the pen and that position is rarely consequential.
Anyway, Garcia has to make it to September 1st. To remain on the club and be optionable for next season, he needs to be on the active roster for 90 days. If he finishes the season, he bests that mark by seven days. In other words, he cannot go back on the DL again.
This leaves us with the question about what the Orioles should do moving forward. Should they cut their losses and discard a fringe late inning power arm prospect in exchange for a more dependable junk inning pitcher or should they keep hiding him on the roster? The bullpen was exposed this past week as a product of the club having its sixth and seventh extra inning games of the season within four days of each other in combination with a starter being chased early. The likelihood of that happening again would seem quite remote. Second, the last guy in the bullpen typically would see about one game every seven to ten days, which is what Garcia has seen.
It is also hard to imagine that the next best guy would have performed differently in those given game situations. Would Drake or Givens be much better facing Trout or Pujols than Matusz was facing Murphy? Would Drake deliver a significantly better performance than McFarland did on Wednesday? Those two events do not exactly seem to have been greatly affected by Garcia on the roster. You could argue that Tommy Hunter would have been nice in those situations and I would agree with that. However, the club effectively dealt Hunter for Parra, so that ship has departed the dock. It also seems a bit conservative to bring up Drake to protect the bullpen from the scenario this past week, which is unlikely to occur again over the next two and a half weeks.
In the end, Garcia does make the club weaker, but that additional negative value is quite small and likely inconsequential. The determination of the Orioles making the playoffs is more likely to reside with how well the starting pitchers pitch as opposed to how well the club covers them when an early exit is made. The scouts were quite enamored with what they saw in Garcia in 2014 and the front office appears to have bought into it even though Garcia has not been that guy in 2015. If you have trusted the process that has led to the Orioles making the playoffs in two of the past three years, then you should probably trust the process here as there are many factors we do not know. And, the factors we do know, we should recognize that they are largely inconsequential for the role Garcia is seemingly assigned.
In fact, if you think the club needs a more flexible arm in the pen, then I would suggest that the team could make due with a short bench over the near term. Junior Lake and Nolan Reimold are largely redundant. If that need for an arm is present, then optioning Lake and bringing up a guy like Drake makes sense. Moreso, a move like that does little to impact the flexibility of the batting lineup.