By Andrew Perna
Shortly after trading Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes, the Boston Red Sox sent another member of their 2013 World Series starting rotation packing.
Boston dealt Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Lackey is the second starter the defending National League champions have acquired this week. They landed Justin Masterson in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
Lackey, who will turn 36 in October, has pitched well for the second-straight season coming off Tommy John surgery. He had a 3.60 ERA, 1.231 WHIP and 116 strikeouts (32 walks) in 137.1 innings for the Red Sox.
If you rank them by WAR, Lackey becomes the third-best starter in the Cardinals’ rotation. He contributed 1.6 WAR to the Red Sox, while Adam Wainwright (4.8) and Lance Lynn (1.7) have done more for St. Louis to this point. If Michael Wacha returns healthy in September as expected, the Cardinals will feature a strong playoff rotation with a nice mix of veterans, stars at their peak and youngsters.
St. Louis is in a race with the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates for the NL Central crown. Of those three teams, the Cardinals did the most to boost their chances ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
In addition to Lackey, the Cardinals also acquired minor league left-hander Corey Littrell and cash from the Red Sox.
Lackey is owed a little more than $5 million over the remainder of the season, but could pitch for peanuts in 2015. There is an option in his deal at just $500,000 and he reportedly told the Cardinals that he intends to honor it. That means St. Louis will pay the right-hander less than $6 million (not taking cash received into account) for roughly 40 starts. That’s a bargain in today’s economic landscape.
Grade for St. Louis: B+
The Cardinals won’t pay Lackey much, but they did trade two Major League-tested players for him. Craig has struggled, but many believe his issues are mechanical and can be rectified with work. He is owed more than $26 million through the 2017 season and if he returns to usual form -- .306/.358/.492 in 1,420 plate appearances -- would be a nice piece for what has become a revamped Boston roster.
Craig spends some time in the outfield, which is a position of organizational strength for the Cardinals. Even after trading James Ramsey to the Cleveland Indians in the Masterson deal, they have a few impressive outfield prospects in the pipeline. This trade could mean Oscar Taveras becomes the team’s everyday right fielder. Perhaps in a harbinger of things to come, Taveras homered against the San Diego Padres just hours after the deal.
Kelly is under team control through the 2018 season and despite a disappointing effort in 2014, he provides an intriguing option in the rotation. At 26 and with just 38 Major League starts under his belt, he is still finding his way on the mound. His 4.37 ERA, 1.457 WHIP and 2.50 K/BB ratio this year aren’t very reassuring, but Ben Cherington is banking on that being an aberration.
Grade for Red Sox: B-
At current face value, Craig and Kelly don’t seem like much of a return, but they provide long-term value for the Red Sox. That is especially the case if they are able cure what has ailed the duo this season. Lackey would have been an incredibly cheap and effective starter in 2015, but instead they are able to plug two holes.
Craig, who can also play first base and seems like a perfect replacement for David Ortiz at DH if he ever retires or moves on, will provide an offensive jolt to an outfield that also added Cespedes on Thursday. The combination of Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Cespedes can help mask any defensive shortcomings Craig has in the Fenway Park outfield.
Amid a disappointing season, the Red Sox are attempting to quickly retool for 2015. In a matter of hours they turned Lester and Lackey, who have one combined season left on their contracts, into three Major Leaguers under team control for a combined eight seasons.
Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Official Trade
By Andrew Perna
The St. Louis Cardinals, looking to fortify their starting rotation as they battle the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central, have acquired Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians.
Masterson, who will come off the disabled list (knee) later this week, has a 5.51 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 98 innings this season. The Cardinals will send outfield prospect James Ramsey to the Indians in exchange for the 29-year-old right-hander.
The Cardinals were linked to bigger names like Jon Lester and David Price leading up the deal with the Indians. Reports are conflicted as to whether landing Masterson takes St. Louis out of the running for the pair of left-handers.
Masterson, who will be a free agent after the season, discussed a potential contract extension with Cleveland until negotiations broke off early in the spring without a resolution. Masterson, who was an All-Star last season, was believed to be seeking a multiyear deal at more than $15 million annually.
Just a season ago, Masterson went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 195 strikeouts in 193 innings. The Cardinals are hoping his latest stint on the DL has fully rectified his knee issues and will lead to a more productive remainder of the season.
Will Carroll of Bleacher Report tweeted soon after the trade that it wasn’t an indication that St. Louis is worried about Michael Wacha, who they still expect to return this season.
The Cardinals, who entered Wednesday two games back in the NL Central, have the eighth-lowest ERA (3.39) in the Major Leagues. However, they rank in the lower half of baseball in quality starts, which has taxed their bullpen slightly.
Adam Wainwright has been otherworldly and Lance Lynn has been a revelation, but the remainder of the staff is a question mark.
Wacha was great early in the season, but he’s unlikely to return until September. Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, 23 and 22 respectively, have endured growing pains as starters. Jaime Garcia (4.12), Joe Kelly (3.90), Tyler Lyons (5.79) and Marco Gonzales (7.07) have made 20 starts, largely disappointing each time out.
The Masterson that pitched for the Indians in the first half of the season isn’t a much better option than the four pitchers mentioned above, but a healthy and re-energized one would help push the reigning National League champions back to the postseason.
Grade for Cardinals: B-
Cleveland didn’t have a reason to hold onto Masterson. Not only had he struggled, but they are on the outside of the American League playoff race and clearly felt his agent valued the right-hander more than they did.
Grade for Indians: A-
Ramsey was an expendable piece for the Cardinals, who have a series of outfield prospects in the pipeline. A first-round pick in 2012, MLB.com recently ranked him as St. Louis’ No. 6 prospect. Evaluators are concerned about how his power will develop because of a small frame and aggressiveness at the plate.
St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Official Trade
By RealGM Staff Report
The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA).
In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.
All statistics are through Sunday, July 27
Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.
1. (1) Oakland Athletics – 4.25
It's becoming more and more likely that Oakland will sit in the top spot for the remainder of the season.
2. (3) Washington Nationals – 3.95
A gradual rise has the Nationals, seven wins in 10 games, as the class of the National League.
3. (2) Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.91
Los Angeles has the best road record -- 34-23 -- in baseball.
4. (4) Los Angeles Angels – 3.79
With Troy Tulowitzki on the DL, Mike Trout (5.6) will soon lead the Major Leagues in WAR.
5. (5) Detroit Tigers – 3.65
The Tigers, who ranked ninth in ERA in each of the last two seasons, sit 22nd entering the week.
6. (6) Seattle Mariners – 3.63
7. (12) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.56
T8. (7) Atlanta Braves – 3.50
-- (T9) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.50
-- (11) Baltimore Orioles – 3.50
11. (T9) San Francisco Giants – 3.49
12. (8) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.48
13. (T13) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.44
14. (15) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.42
15. (16) Cleveland Indians – 3.35
16. (T13) Cincinnati Reds – 3.31
17. (17) New York Mets – 3.22
18. (18) Boston Red Sox – 3.17
19. (19) Kansas City Royals – 3.15
20. (20) New York Yankees – 3.13
T21. (21) Miami Marlins – 3.07
-- (22) Chicago White Sox – 3.07
23. (23) San Diego Padres – 2.96
24. (24) Chicago Cubs – 2.89
25. (26) Colorado Rockies – 2.88
26. (25) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.76
27. (27) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.67
28. (28) Minnesota Twins – 2.54
29. (29) Houston Astros – 2.44
30. (30) Texas Rangers – 2.13
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