Cards/Rasmus Trade, A Deeper Investigation

Good morning lads and small timers,

Now that the paint has dried on this Cardinals trade, lets take a closer look under the hood of a deal that I like and have defended all night. As the stroke of midnight approaches, allow me to dive into the half full pool.

I like this trade. I don’t love the trade. It’s hard to love a trade a day after you make it, because the players involved have to arrive and make a little impact before you figure out what you have. However, I understand what the Cards did and support their move. It was a necessary trade.

Colby Rasmus may or may not become a very good player. That’s the main issue. Will his performance ever catch up to his potential?  My guess is no, and that made his departure a well-played move. Many people have complained that a better deal awaited the Cards out there, and that is an empty suggestion that forgets the plummeting stock value of Rasmus in 2011. Lets examine a point here.  Colby Rasmus’ stock went down in 2011. Teams weren’t lining up to look at him or offer an equal return. There were two AL teams in the bidding and both those teams were involved in the trade on Wednesday. Please stop telling me we could of gotten Ian Desmond and another reliever for Rasmus. The Nationals didn’t call and didn’t want Rasmus. They picked up Jonny Gomes, who has similar stats.  The Giants didn’t call, because they want Beltran.

The only suitors, in my mind and through my sources, were The White Sox and Blue Jays. The Cardinals had a shot to get a return for Rasmus and took the chance. What did we lose? A 24 year old center fielder who was hitting .259 in his major league career. This was the third season of Colby’s major league career, and the chance was laid in front of him to step into a bigger role in the offense and reach his potential. He didn’t reach that goal. He regressed. There wouldn’t be a conversation if Colby were producing consistently.  He is hitting .245 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI and these days he is good for a home run or a strikeout.  He lacks consistency, is playing horrible defense and his attitude has worsened. What do you do with that situation? Fix it.  Reroute a player and add a few others.

This wasn’t only about Tony La Russa and Colby Rasmus not getting along. While they feuded over his style of play and coaching, this was a matter of a young player spending 6 years in an organization and taking a major step back in 2011. Rick Ankiel was released, Ryan Ludwick was traded, and the path was paved for Rasmus to make a dent. The pressure of Jon Jay may of gotten to him.  The pressure of a first round draft choice caught up with him. Rasmus may of heard several voices in center field telling him he wasn’t good enough.

Whatever the reason may be, Rasmus wasn’t going to become the great player the Cards drew him up to be, at least not in St. Louis.   Will Rasmus become great in Toronto? I doubt it. I think he will hit a ceiling similar to J.D. Drew, another great draft pick that tripped up before his potential. He didn’t have the drive to change his perception here and improve his play. He gave up weeks ago.  He cashed in his chips and lagged until a trade came up. Right now, he has to be jumping at the chance for a fresh start. I wish him well in Canada, but am glad he is gone.

That isn’t the problem among Cardinal faithful. Most of Cards nation wanted him gone. They had a problem with the return. I will attempt to disagree here, and I will lay down my facts clearly. Lets look at the players.

Edwin Jackson is a two month rental but that’s all we needed to get. With Lohse and Westbrook under contract through 2012, Carp and Waino in waiting and Garcia locked in, why would we give Jackson a 1-2 year extension without negotiating and locking up one of our aces first. Bad move. Jackson can come in, produce and earn an extension. If he pitches decent enough to get us to the postseason and beyond and departs, I am fine with that because if we keep Carp and Waino the rotation is set for 2012.  Jackson was brought in for one reason. A move to pull Kyle McClellan from the rotation.

Do you want to see the Cards roll down the stretch with K-Mac, Westbrook and Lohse filling out the back end of their rotation?  That doesn’t get you far my friends. Here is what Jackson gives you. He is only 27 years old, 3 years older than Rasmus with plenty of mileage left in his tank. Rasmus was up for arbitration in 2012, and who knows what Scott Boras would command for him in court.   Jackson is an innings monster, collecting 200+ innings of work in 2009 and 2010. He has won 3 of his last 4 starts, including a perfect game against Detroit.

Take out a horrible year in 2007 with Tampa(5-15, 5.76 ERA), and Jackson is 50-38 for his career. Jackson is a good pitcher with potential. This year he has only allowed 8 home runs in 121 innings, collecting 97 strikeouts against 31 walks. He is also a second half monster who gives you innings. A big reason the Cards have faded in the past month is the lack of innings from the back end of their rotation. Instead of K-Mac and Lohse struggling to give you 6-7 innings every time, Jackson steps in and fills whichever role needs attention. Jackson isn’t being asked to save the world in St. Louis. He is being asked to fill a 5th rotation spot.

Marc Rzepczynski is a quality lefthander, collecting a 2.97 ERA and a .159 BA against lefties in 2011. A former starter, MR(that name drains me) will fix the bullpen’s left side issues. Instead of La Russa using Salas to get lefties out in non save situations, MR enters the situation and gets it done. This is the jewel of the deal here. A quality lefthanded reliever who has only allowed 2 earned runs in his past 11 innings and has only allowed 2 home runs in his entire 39 innings of work. He is holding hitters to a .201 average. This is a guy you can depend on.

Corey Patterson is a bonus addition but look at what he is doing with limited playing time. Patterson has 6 HR and 33 RBI and is hitting .252, stats that aren’t too far off from Rasmus right now. That’s what I look at. The latest production of a ballplayer. Take away potential and expectations and give me the stats. CP is 7 years older than Rasmus but is producing on a moderate level. He moves from a starter in Toronto to a 4th outfield spot here. Patterson has 13 steals.  In 5 less games, Patterson has 2 more hits than Rasmus.  The comparisons between CP and Raz are vital because this is the current performance rate, an important stat.   Who has 13 steals on the Cardinals? Nobody. The Cardinals went 2 weeks without a stolen base in July until Molina stole one in Pittsburgh.  Patterson will fix that.

Octavio Dotel won’t be the closer here, but he is pitching well this season, posting a 3.68 ERA with 30 K-11 BB. Dotel isn’t a closer.  He is 106-151 in saves in his career. Dotel allows you to make Mitchell Boggs or Jason Motte expendable in the next few days. Dotel gives the Cardinals another hard throwing arm in the pen with experience. He either becomes a weapon or turns into Miguel Batista Jr., as mentioned earlier. Dotel isn’t a big piece here, but a small bonus.

Once again, the market for Rasmus wasn’t great. Look at it. His stock took a huge Mike Tyson like right cross to the cheek in 2011.  In 2010, his trade value was high because he was producing. This season, the teams weren’t willing to provide a piece of their roster for this questionable performer. If you are the Nationals, do you trade Desmond and a lefty in the pen for Rasmus? If you are the Padres, do you include Heath Bell in a package for Rasmus? Really.

Right now, Colby’s value is down. The Blue Jays have plenty of power and had the pieces the Cards wanted. Don’t slam this trade because you crafted several others in your head, where real life stats disappear and potential fantasy points arrive. Colby Rasmus wasn’t working well in St. Louis and needed to go.

This can be called Rolen and La Russa, Part 2. I agreed with La Russa in 2006-2007 when Rolen threw his tantrum about playing time and ended up being traded to Toronto for Troy Glaus, who gave the Cards a good year while Rolen rebuilt his shoulder in Canada.   Rolen wasn’t producing, was playing with a bad shoulder and La Russa sat him down for Scott Spiezio in the 2006 playoffs.   I supported the move and deemed Rolen a bad product when he left. Don’t forget La Russa called JD Drew’s bluff and got him moved for Adam Wainwright years ago. Drew was a injury prone disappointment, and La Russa stopped playing him also. Call TLR any name but respect the man for putting the hot hand on the field. Here was another case of a favorite in the organization failing to produce and La Russa pushing him into a platoon role.

The Cardinals are a win now team slowly building up its young talent and farm system. The Cardinals didn’t have to forfeit Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez in this deal. If the Nats wanted Miller or Martinez(the centerpieces of our rotation in the years to come), I would of turned them down.   This is the Cardinals attitude right now. Win, but guard the future just in case.  It’s no secret the Cards are pushing for a major playoff run this season. The atmosphere for 2012 is unknown at the moment, so the Cards are looking to lay their chips on the table here. Albert Pujols, Carp, Waino, and Berkman are all coming off the books in November. We have no idea what this team will look like next season.

For that matter, we have to push this season for a title. The magicians go to work after the last pitch, which makes the Rasmus trade look smart and intuitive. Instead of letting him walk into arbitration with a few guns, you get a couple required pieces to help you win in 2011 and take your chances in 2012. The difference between the Cards and the rest of the NL Central is they contend every season but do so in a low key business slick manner.  An instant look at the trade today does produce question marks and puzzlement but a deeper look allows you to see what the Cardinals got for Rasmus and essentially 3 bricks(Miller, Tallet, Walters).

Jackson-A quality 5th starter that may get better when dipped in the Dave Duncan Wishing Well.

Rzepczynski-A quality lefthanded reliever

Dotel-A power arm who is holding hitters to a .180 batting average in 2011

Patterson-A speedy outfield option that can steal bases and play solid defense with a little pop.

All for Colby Rasmus, a player full of hope yet standing at a crossroads. Would you rather see Jon Jay traded for a few less pieces and let Colby finish the season hitting .255, 18 HR, 60 RBI, a step back from 2010? Jay is the better player at the moment, is cheaper and offers you the chance to bolster your team.

The Cardinals are a better team today than they were yesterday. Yesterday, we didn’t have a new intriguing young starter to move K-Mac to the pen. We didn’t have a quality lefty. They didn’t have base stealing threats on the bench. They didn’t have a veteran power arm that makes a younger piece movable.  We had 2 worthless lefties, a career minor league starter and Colby Rasmus.

This is a good, not great, trade.  The Cardinals aren’t taking a huge hit in next year’s payroll with Jackson. They have Rzepczynski locked up for 3 seasons. Dotel and Patterson also comes off the books. This is a low liability deal for the Redbirds that could pay off huge in the end. A low key John Mozeliak special. A friend told me the other day he wished Mo had more balls to go after King Felix in Seattle and I laughed at him.   Mo would need more than balls to acquire the Cy Young winning righty from the Mariners, and quietly he has made a lot more smart moves than bad ones in his 4 years as Cards GM.

He is a business man who doesn’t overextend himself. Mo moves slow but he carries plenty of bite in the end. The Cards gave Colby 2.5 seasons to step into the center field role that awaited him since Edmonds left, and Rasmus failed to grab it. Name reasons and they are worthless. If Rasmus runs to Toronto and hits well, good for him. There is no way a baseball fan can say he would of been able to bounce back here. He had his chance and he blew it. The Blue Jays can deal with a guy who has a .332 on base percentage, 77 strikeouts, and only 78 hits in 94 games this season. The con’s outweigh the pro’s for Rasmus in 2011.

Here’s something to finish things up.

JD Drew’s first three seasons in MLB with at least 120 games(75 percent of a full season)-

2000-18 HR, 57 RBI, 137 Games, .295 BA

2002-18 HR, 58 RBI, 135 games, .252 BA

2004(Atlanta)-31 HR, 93 RBI, .305 BA, 118 BB(Drew’s best season to date)

In his 5th season, Drew finally broke through after years of up and down play, injuries, potential chased yet never found and only when he went to another baseball team.

Colby’s first two seasons-

2009-16 HR, 52 RBI, .251 BA

2010-23 HR, 76 RBI, .276 BA

2011(94 games)-11 HR, 40 RBI, .245 BA

If The Blue Jays keep Rasmus around for next season and 2013, he may break out for them. Rasmus could produce in the second half of this season. Hypothetical-My bets on him keeping up his current pace the rest of the way and the Blue Jays paying him whatever he gets in arbitration.

In the end, at the final scroll, I like this deal. It carries risk and reward, but the Cards suffered little liability, improved their team and will be giving younger players a chance to shine in a bigger spot. Can Jon Jay keep the production up? What will Jackson provide? Will the bullpen improve? Questions to be answered another night.

If this helped you make up your mind on this trade, I am glad. This second round summed it up.

Now, after 8 hours of work in a hot warehouse, 3 hours of softball at night, and another day of fun in the rapid sun in less than 6 hours, I am taking my body to a more comfortable position.

Take luck and thanks for reading,

Dan L. Buffa

“The L is for Larry”

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