New Cuban outfielder could see time with the Cards this season
JUPITER, Fla. -- Newly acquired Adolis Garcia is still a couple of weeks from seeing Grapefruit League action after agreeing to a minor league contract, but Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak believes the Cuban outfielder could contribute to the major league club this season.
"In terms of skillset, I just feel like I would describe him more as a five-tool player, so from a defensive standpoint, above average, from an offensive standpoint, I think there could be some power," Mozeliak said.
St. Louis announced on Friday evening the agreement with Garcia, who turns 24 next week, but did not disclose the terms. A non-roster invitee, Garcia was already in camp on Saturday morning, hours before the Cardinals' spring training opener against Miami.
Garcia earned MVP honors in Serie Nacional, Cuba's highest league, in 2016 after hitting .319, with 14 homers and 71 RBI in 81 games. He also threw out 15 base runners.
After a brief stint in Japan playing for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League last season, he was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball in December.
"Obviously there were other offers and there were other teams, but I picked St. Louis because of the tradition and because it is such a wonderful organization and I knew that I was going to identify with the team and fit in," Garcia said through an interpreter.
While Garcia worked out with the Cardinals on Saturday, he won't play in games until after he returns to his current residence in Haiti to receive a work visa. That process is expected to take a few weeks.
Manager Mike Matheny doesn't know yet what he has in his newest Cardinal, but he cannot wait to find out.
"He's a specimen, I'll tell you that," Matheny said.
Primarily a center fielder, Garcia can play all three outfield positions, a boon to the Cardinals as they look to add more athleticism to their system.
He will have to demonstrate that he's in playing shape and take at least one round of live batting practice before playing in an exhibition game.
"It looks like he's in plenty good shape, so we'll just kind of put him out there and see how it comes together," Matheny said.
Garica is the younger brother of Adonis Garcia, who hit .273 with 14 homers for the Atlanta Braves last season.
"My brother has been my role model and has been the goal that I want to reach," Adolis said. "Having him be in the position that he's in is really helpful to me to see where I want to end up eventually."
A native of Ciego de Avila, Garcia played for Team Cuba during the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. One of his three home runs in the tournament gave Cuba a walkoff win over Puerto Rico in the bronze medal game.