Andrew Perna. 28th July, 2011 - 7:20 pm
The St. Louis Cardinals have been dogged by two main rumors this season and while it took some time to formally address both, they killed two birds with a single stone by agreeing to an eight-player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Cardinals have been in need of pitching help since the spring and talented outfielder Colby Rasmus has been in the doghouse of manager Tony La Russa for even longer.
The Blue Jays took Rasmus from the Cardinals for a package headlined by right-hander Edwin Jackson.
Jackson was with Toronto for seemingly just a few minutes, having come over in a trade with the Chicago White Sox earlier Wednesday.
The White Sox sent Jackson and third baseman Mark Teahen to the Blue Jays in exchange for reliever Jason Frasor and pitching prospect Zach Stewart, allowing Toronto and St. Louis to then do business.
While Rasmus and Jackson were the crux of the Jays-Cards deal, St. Louis also acquired relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named later and/or cash.
Toronto received pitchers P.J. Walters, Trever Miller and Brian Tallet to complete the deal.
Jackson fills a hole for the Cardinals, who are in a four-team race for the National League Central and have been in need of another starter since Adam Wainwright went down with an elbow injury.
He pitched very well for the White Sox, going 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA and a 2.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Jackson should be better in the NL, especially since he has been much more effective since he endured some struggles in April.
The Diamondbacks, however, will tell you that he is no better suited for the senior circuit. Jackson made 21 starts for Arizona in the first half of the 2010 season and went 6-10 with a 5.16 ERA. That includes a June no-hitter against the Rays in which he walked eight batters and threw an astounding 150 pitches.
The acquisition of Jackson allows the Cardinals to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen. He had a 2.27 ERA in 68 appearances out of the pen last season, but in 17 starts this year the right-hander has posted a 7-6 record and a 4.15 ERA. McClellan had 60 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings as a reliever, but he has just 55 Ks in 110 2/3 innings in 2011.
The move not only allows St. Louis to upgrade their rotation, but also fortify their bullpen. There are essentially getting two pitchers by adding Jackson.
They also replenished their depth by getting Dotel and Rzepczynski for Walters, Miller and Tallet (disabled list). Patterson gives them a nice speedy option and someone that can play a solid center field without being a thorn in the side of La Russa. The Cardinals are tied with the Cubs for the fewest stolen bases in baseball.
The problem with this deal from the St. Louis perspective is that Jackson will be a free agent this winter, while Toronto now controls Rasmus for the foreseeable future. He is under contract for the next three seasons and Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos admitted following the trade that he had his eye on the center fielder for quite some time.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak will tell you that he will make up for that by selecting the proper unnamed players later this year and point to increased playoff probability if Jackson proves to be effective.
Grade for Cardinals: C
Toronto sees Rasmus as a potential five-tool player, despite off-field issues in St. Louis as the young hitter preferred to work with his father instead of hitting coach Mark McGwire.
La Russa had no problem drilling Rasmus through the media, though he made some face-saving comments following the trade announcement. The long-time manager insisted that his frayed relationship with the player had nothing to do with the decision. No one is naive enough to believe that.
Anthopoulos believes Rasmus will benefit from a fresh start.
He is hitting .246 with 11 home runs, 40 RBI and a .332 on-base percentage this season, but he has been hot as of late. The left-handed hitter goes to the Blue Jays having hit .400 with a pair of home runs in his last 10 at-bats.
Rasmus immediately replaces Rajai Davis in center. His OBP is much better (.332 to .270) and his OPS (.753 to .620) is vastly greater. Toronto can plug their new outfielder into any number of slots in their batting order with his power, but they had him hitting second in his debut on Thursday against Baltimore.
Quietly, the Blue Jays have built themselves a dangerous lineup that has the potential to be even better in the coming years. Jose Bautista will anchor the team for quite some time and catcher J.P. Arencibia has hit 16 home runs in 78 games as a rookie.
Adam Lind, who has 19 homers this season, is still just 28-years-old. It is not out of the realm of possibility that John Farrell will feature a lineup with four 25-plus home run hitters in the very near future with Rasmus and Arencibia joining established sluggers Bautista and Lind as a threat to hit one out of the park on any given night.
Including the Chicago deal, Toronto dealt three relievers, Patterson and a pitching prospect for Rasmus, utility man Mark Teahen, who will make $5.5 million next season, and another trio of bullpen arms.
In seven major-league seasons, 2011 is the first in which Teahen has hit poorly (.203). He hit .290/.357/.517 with 18 home runs for Kansas City back in 2006.
Grade for Blue Jays: A-
The potential pitfall for the Blue Jays is that the clubhouse issues Rasmus had in St. Louis come over in the trade. Assuming that does not happen, this type of trade is the perfect one for a .500 team that prefers to lean on hitting and depend on savvy moves.