Various news outlets are reporting that Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus has been traded along with P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trever Miller to the Toronto Blue Jays for three pitchers and an outfielder.
In exchange, the Cardinals will receive starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski as well as Corey Patterson.
My initial thought: ugh.
The problems with Colby and Tony/management/etc. have been well documented and don’t bear repeating, but the fact remains that Colby is one of the most productive center fielders in the league. He has gone through a pretty rough season this year: fact.
The fact is, he also ranks fifth in the NL among center fielders in home runs and fourth in RBI. Last year, he was third among center fielders in home runs (23), sixth in RBI, and led all center fielders in OPS. He has been superhyped the last few years, but despite his production, Cardinals fans never took a liking to him. Fair or not, his reputation took a hit because he essentially replaced a St. Louis sports legend, Jim Edmonds.
See: Brewer, Erik. Martinez, Tino. Bulger, Marc.
Now, before you think I have a mancrush on Colby, I’ll be the first to admit he’s not the greatest center fielder ever. He takes bad routes to balls every now and then, he rarely dives for close balls, and he has been maddeningly inconsistent at the plate. His maturity level at times was less than desirable, and he had issues with the coaching staff. This trade could do a world of good for him, and if it does, all the better. I’m not convinced, however, that Jon Jay is ready to take the reins in center field. Jay is a solid player, perhaps our best fielding outfielder, and he is a versatile weapon off the bench and as a spot starter. He struggled immensely last year, however, after the Ryan Ludwick trade, hitting under .240 after he took over. Perhaps a season has matured him and he can handle the workload; for this team, I hope so.
So now the starting centerfielder will be either Jay, Allen Craig (when he returns), or Corey Patterson, who was once a much-hyped prospect for the Cubs but never really panned out. He did hit 24 HR and drive in 72 runs in 2004, and he does have some speed, but he hasn’t been very productive in recent years. This year for Toronto he hit .252 with 6 HR and 33 RBI in 317 AB.
The centerpiece in our returns is the starter, Jackson. He did pitch a no-hitter last year in Arizona, but that’s about been the highlight of his career. This year, he’s 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA. For his career, he’s 55-58 with a 4.53 ERA. Jackson can be a very good pitcher at times, but he can also struggle with his command. He’s never been more than a 3- or 4-spot starter. He’s talented, but he hasn’t shown the consistency to stick around for very long; he’s joining his sixth team in nine years.
Octavio Dotel has spent time as a closer in years past (he had 36 in 2004 and 22 last year). A 37-year old righthander, he’s typically used for an inning or less. This year for Toronto, he was 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA, 12 BB and 30 K in 29.1 innings.
One potentially underrated aspect of the trade could be Rzepczynski. A starter his first two years in Toronto, he’s been used as a situational lefty this season. He’s 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA. In 39.1 innings, he’s struck out 33 against 15 BB. Marc could be our situational lefty, but there’s always the outside chance Duncan wants to convert him into a starter. He’s just 25, so he’s got a lot of baseball ahead of him.
As you might be able to tell, I’m not really keen on the trade. I don’t mind trading Rasmus, as reports are that the situation in the clubhouse had become completely toxic and unsalvageable, but I was pretty underwhelmed at the haul the team got for him. Tallet was basically addition by subtraction. Miller’s struggled this year, but he’s also been dealing with a daughter who has a crippling chromosomal disorder, and I wish nothing but the best for him and his family. Walters has shown some promise, and incidentally he too has been dealing with hardship with his family, as he lost his infant daughter in spring training last year. He and his wife are now expecting a son, and he’s pitched well for the Cardinals this year.
For the Cardinals, this trade will come down to whether or not Jackson can be a quality starter in place of Kyle McClellan (who will presumably be moved to the bullpen), and it could well be a trade that helps define John Mozeliak’s legacy here. I think the real winner in the trade, however, is Colby.