ST. LOUIS -- A 22nd-round draftee who missed a year in the Minor Leagues with an elbow injury, Jaime Garcia knows the fleeting nature of a baseball career. So when the Cardinals young left-hander was given the opportunity to attain financial and professional security for the next four years or more, he didn't hesitate.

Garcia and the Cardinals finalized a four-year contract extension on Wednesday, with a pair of club options that could keep Garcia in St. Louis through the 2017 season. Multiple reports, including the first report from a staffer at KTRS Radio in St. Louis, peg the total guaranteed value of the contract at $27.5 million.

The deal covers Garcia's three years of arbitration eligibility, during which time he would have been under team control, as well as what would have been the first year he could have been a free agent. The option years would cover what potentially would be his second and third years of free-agent eligibility. Garcia turned 25 on Friday.

"I love this game," Garcia said. "I don't really play this game for the money. Obviously [with] some security, you're able to help your family. But [the team] wanted to do this and I wanted to do this. ... I don't really think about free agency or anything like that. I know I'm still going to be 30 years old or 31, and I really trust myself."

Garcia also saw the pact as an opportunity to take care of his family, including family members who still live in Mexico. He said he hopes to bring his immediate family to Texas to live with him. Garcia's mother was in attendance at the Busch Stadium news conference when the deal was formally announced.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, gain cost certainty on a player who has emerged as one of the franchise's most important talents. Garcia has been one of the club's two most effective starters this year, his second full season as a Major League starter.

St. Louis has been even more averse than most clubs to going to arbitration, and Garcia's contract means he will not see a hearing or go through that process. The club exposes itself to some risk, inherent in any long-term deal with a pitcher, but the two club options also provide a significant potential benefit for the team.

"We could have gone through that [yearly] process," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But a lot of times when you get into that situation, you start focusing on that one-year deal vs. multiyear. He was willing to engage in it during the season. We were willing to talk about it. So everybody felt the timing was right."

Garcia is 9-3 this year with a 3.22 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 32 walks in 117 1/3 innings. For his career, he's 23-12 with a 3.06 ERA, 240 strikeouts and 104 walks in 296 2/3 innings.

The left-hander was a 22nd-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He finished third behind Giants catcher Buster Posey and Braves outfielder Jason Heyward in balloting for the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year award.