Rethinking the Colby Rasmus trade


With several days in which to reflect, I have come full circle on the Colby Rasmus trade.  Not whether he should have been traded or not, but did we get fair value in return.

The clouding factor was a rumor that Tampa Bay was willing to trade Wade Davis, Jeff Neimann or Alex Cobb for Colby Rasmus.  Speculation or not, it is very hard not to get excited about any of those three pitchers, especially the young Alex Cobb.  So when it is announced that instead we received Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson, it makes you do this ….

Fortunately, we have an ability to continue processing things in the background, while at the same time observing things – like Edwin Jackson can be very impressive on the mound, and Octavio Dotel is not Miguel Batista 2.0.

Prior to the trade, the Cardinals had all sorts of problems.  We can go back to the off-season and point at deals done or not done as the systemic problem, but the fact still remains that going into the last 2 months of the season, the Cardinals had major problems on their roster.

Specifically (and more or less in order of importance, to me)

  • Left handed relief
  • Right handed relief
  • Not enough innings being thrown by the starting rotation
  • Poor middle infield play
  • Horrific base running
  • Poor outfield play (range, throws)
  • Offensive vulnerability to left handed pitching

Yes, general manager, John Mozeliak, could have made a Colby Rasmus for Alex Cobb trade.   In fact, if he makes that deal in the off-season, we might actually shout with glee.

But …. and there’s always a but

That trade does not help a single issue facing the 2011 Cardinals.   Strategic move to make the club better in 2012 and beyond, yep.  But teams in contention don’t make deals just to improve next year, they have all winter long to do that (cue the Heath Bell chatter).

With that one trade, John Mozeliak addressed at least three of those problems, perhaps as many as five.  AND he did it without adding another issue to the list.  With all due respect to the talent and potential of Colby Rasmus, the more mature and experienced Jon Jay was playing better right now.  Maybe not much, and it may not hold up until the playoffs end in November, but Jay is playing up to his expectations, perhaps exceeding some.

What did we give up besides an exciting young center fielder that should have been a core member of the next Cardinals dynasty ?

  • Trever Miller – struggled in 2010 and had a disastrous 2011.
  • PJ Walters – we love PJ and want to see him make it in the majors, but he is not a part of a pitching staff that will include Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia.
  • Brian Tallet – impressive at the beginning of the year, struggled after breaking his hand

PJ Walters was the tough one to see go, but that is a sentimental comment, not pragmatic in the least.  It is fortunate that the Cardinals farm system has enough pitching depth to make Walters’ departure a non-event.   And to be blunt, we cringed every time either of the lefties took the mound.

Let’s see what we got in return for Colby Rasmus, a sentimental pitcher with possible MLB abilities and two broken pieces.

Edwin Jackson.   Talented flame thrower that will drop right into the rotation, and should benefit from some Dave Duncan magic dust, or whatever it is that Duncan does to pitchers.   At the absolute worst, he is a tail of the rotation guy, but has top of the rotation stuff.   He allows Kyle McClellan to go to the bullpen, with strengthens both the right and left side there.

That helps

  • Left handed relief
  • Right handed relief
  • Not enough innings being thrown by the starting rotation

Marc Rzepczynski is the key to this deal for me.  He is the one thing that the farm system cannot produce in the near term, a quality left hander.   His numbers suggest future starter, but his short term role as the lefty in the pen improves our relief pitching in ways we never thought possible.  With Kyle McClellan’s success against left handed hitters, this is a double plus thing.

That helps

  • Left handed relief

Octavio Dotel is an interesting part of the deal.  He may be the pitcher that we had hoped Miguel Batista was as the season got under way.  He still throws hard, has lots of movement on his pitches, and still seems to know where the strike zone is.  His first few appearances have been impressive, so I filter expectations against small sample size – but it looks like the right side of our bullpen is now solid as a rock.

That helps

  • Right handed relief

Corey Patterson, and I can already hear the giant sigh across Cardinals Nation.  Remember, it was not Corey Patterson for Colby Rasmus, he was just portion of a deal that contained many parts – each hoping to bring something of value.  It may be that Patterson will not impress us much at the plate, as some of my Reds buddies have told me.   But he does add some speed in the outfield and on the bases.  We have already seen both, as well as a pretty good arm.   The expectation for Patterson is as a fourth or fifth outfielder and defensive replacement for the big guys when the Cardinals have a late lead, and he should do fine in that role.   More important, for a team whose stolen base leader has spent the last month in AAA, Patterson will be most welcome as a punch runner, maybe for those big guys who just gave the team a late inning lead with a hit.

That helps, to some degree

  • Horrific base running
  • Poor outfield play (range, throws)

Yes, John Mozeliak could have gotten a star player in return for Colby Rasmus, and I’m sure that’s what many of us hoped he would do – me included.  But he used his lone bargaining chip in a way that many of us would not have considered, and made the team better in many ways.

What about those other problems ?

If David Freese can stay healthy and Allen Craig comes back playing like he did before his leg injury, the Cardinals should be far less vulnerable to left handed pitching.   And news of a Rafael Furcal trade may (MAY, COULD, POSSIBLY, HOPE) help the left side of the Cardinals infield.

I didn’t really like the trade at first, but I have to tip my cap to Mo and the front office for making the most out of a bad situation, fixing up the team for a solid run in 2011, and not sacrificing the team’s future to do so.

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4 Responses to Rethinking the Colby Rasmus trade

  1. M Oates says:

    Yes, the trade brought more depth and Colby was going to be a topic for his duration at STL. Right, wrong or different, we are more solid. The new ppl in the roster will change the clubhouse.

    I am still interested in what this all means in 2011 and in the off season.

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    • Agreed, Matt. Many of the short term issues of the team have been address, but there is still the Mayan Calendar scenario – what happens after the Pupocalypse 🙂 It will be interesting to see of the improvements are enough to hold off the Brewers and Pirates. If Freese remains healthy, and Craig returns close to what he was at the time of his injury, it just might be.

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  2. The trade had to be made. And the deal with Tampa Bay is all speculation. We don’t know those facts for sure. The Cardinals got good value. It’s just why it had to happen that leaves the bad taste (no matter which side of the blame game you are playing).

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    • Agreed, William. And thanks for this and the other comments.

      I sort of stayed away from the why part because, as you point out, it doesn’t matter – each side of the debate has reason to be frustrated.

      Nice to see Rasmus get those doubles yesterday, and the huge ovation that the Toronto fans gave him. That was a very nice moment to watch.

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