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The Cubs lost Robel Garcia to the Reds on waivers. What can we learn from his time in Chicago?

Garcia was a great story last year. Was he anything more than that?

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

This past Sunday, it was announced that the Cincinnati Reds claimed Robel Garcia on waivers from the Cubs. Depending on your stance regarding the present versus the future, the Cubs losing Garcia for the waiver fee (which I often refer to as "surrender value") is either “meh” or “bummer.” However, I think the Robel Garcia trip is a history lesson worth revisiting, in case you want to learn something today.

Garcia was an international signing by the Indians, and washed out after two tries at the Midwest League. He went to play in Italy, did well there, and was located by the Cubs as a free agent. He showed up in 2019 spring training as a minor-league invitee and was sent to Double-A Tennessee. In his first month in Double-A, he both spent time on the injured list and was named Player of the Month. Quite a trick to turn.

After shredding Double-A for 22 games, he was called to Triple-A. Normally, I'm a huge fan of the slow-play, but the Cubs didn't necessarily have long-term rights to Garcia. He was theirs until November unless he was called to the parent club. As such, getting him to Triple-A quickly, to see if he was MLB-ready in 2019, made scads of sense. If he indicated he likely belonged at the MLB level, he should get there immediately if not sooner. However, what sort of evidence is required for you to think a player belongs at the MLB level? This is a legitimate question. Most people who followed him at all in Triple-A agreed on three things:

He had power.

He had contact concerns.

His defense was at least a bit sub-standard.

Does that scream "Call him up" to you? It sure doesn't to me. Nonetheless, the Cubs called him up, and three things were apparent:

He had power.

He had contact concerns.

His defense was at least a bit sub-standard.

He was who they thought he was, which happens quite often. The most realistic time to call up a hitter to MLB is if he is clearly better than Triple-A at the time. Garcia was when he timed up a fastball, but rarely else.

I'm going down a rabbit hole from 30 years ago. I'm reminded rather regularly regarding this topic that proof is quite rare, but evidence is somewhat plentiful. Garcia's Triple-A performance hinted that he was a flawed player with high highs, and very low lows. His MLB performance bore that out. While I wish there would have been a way to get Garcia through waivers, there wasn't. I wish him well, regardless the opposition, because people are more important than fabric.

The next time you want to call a player to MLB? Consider listing the evidence you have that he'll succeed. Sometimes, the player won't likely succeed (think emergency relief arm), but the gamble is low enough risk to give it a try.

I'm loath to add anyone to the 40-man roster without compelling evidence it makes sense. Adding Garcia makes sense for Cincinnati, unless they would have to release a better player. Waiver wire additions are usually a proper gamble, unless the pipeline is enviably deep. The Cubs aren't there.

Garcia was a great story last year, but his MLB production was both break-even (as far as WAR) and expected. "I hope he does well" isn't a proper justification to muddy the waters regarding the roster. Next year, if the major and minor leagues are both functioning, hold out for a player to do well in Iowa before you want him in Chicago. On rare occasion, a player might do better in MLB than Triple-A. It's a bad gamble. If the team is so broken to need more in MLB than was hinted in Iowa, maybe the team has bigger problems than calling up a player with limited expectations.