Be Careful What You Wish For
It really is a simple formula.
1 – Fans clamor for their team to make a move to improve their chances towards a post-season appearance
2 – The team identifies the player(s) that it can use as bait for a solid trade
3 – The team makes the trade that they feel will give them the best chance to win
4 – Finally the fans get the chance to scream that it was the wrong deal
Last season, the Cardinals identified the opportunity to fill the void in the starting rotation by trading one of their offensive weapons, and a fan favorite, Ryan Ludwick. Jake Westbrook was introduced to the Cardinal faithful and was embraced by many fans, though many screamed that the price was far too high. Since then, Westbrook’s success has been fair while Ryan Ludwick has struggled in San Diego.
Since the trade was completed last season, Jake Westbrook is 13-8 with a 4.33 Earned Run Average. He has struck out 118 batters while walking 66. Meanwhile, Ryan Ludwick has posted a .227 batting average, 17 home runs, and 88 runs batted in over 158 games played.
Surprisingly, it was last year that everyone expected to see Colby Rasmus find his way into another uniform and clubhouse. Colby’s stay in St. Louis seemed to be coming to an end as the manager took his complaints straight to the media and everyone became aware that Rasmus himself had requested a trade. It has been well documented the problems between Rasmus, Tony LaRussa, the coaching staff and the organization.
It would take a full season for the Cardinals and Rasmus to find a reason to part ways. The team would find a trade partner and receive a package that they feel will best benefit them in the future. The months ahead will see the players involved in this deal take drastically different paths with varying degrees of success. Ultimately, the Cardinals decision was based as much on the future as it was 2011.
That is right, in a deal that sent an outfielder that is under team control for another three years to another franchise, the Cardinals management has shown a pure focus on both winning in 2011 and building for the future. You see, the details of this deal go far beyond the players that were involved and remain in the potential at the end of the season.
One swift move is what it took for John Mozeliak to strengthen his bullpen, rotation, and bench while subtracting a sub-par player from the lineup, despite his potential upside down the road. The Cardinals added a strong fifth starter, a veteran swing man reliever, a young reliver with a lot of promise, and moved a strong relief pitcher back to the bullpen from the rotation. It was that single trade that has provided a positive impact on three spots in the bullpen, one spot in the rotation, one spot on the field, and one spot on the bench.
Here is a look at each move and the immediate impact on the team.
Edwin Jackson takes McClellan’s spot in the rotation
Kyle McClellan takes bullpen spot
Octavio Dotel takes P.J. Walter’s spot as inning eater
Marc Rzepczynski takes Trever Miller’s spot
Jon Jay takes Colby Rasmus’ spot
Corey Patterson takes Jon Jay’s spot
That takes care of 2011, but what about the future? That answer is a little more entailed, but equally important. Here is a look at what the Cardinals have ensured for the future.
Corey Patterson is a veteran fourth outfielder that is signed rather cheaply through the remainder of 2011. Should he perform well this season and show that he still has something left in the tank (he turns 32 years old later this season) he may be playing himself into a contract down the road.
Jon Jay is under team control and has his second chance in as many years to prove that he can be a productive, cost controlled part of this team for a long time to come. Should he establish himself as the player that he has been from the bench, the loss of Colby Rasmus is not as impactful as feared.
Marc “Scrabble” Rzepczynski is under team control through 2016 and projects as a possible impact in the bullpen, as a starter, or possibly even as a closer. The young arm should not be overlooked, this young man was the long term focus of this deal.
Dotel has an option on his contract. Should that option be declined and arbitration be offered, he projects as a Type B free agent at the very least. This would yield the Cardinals a draft pick in the 2012 draft.
Jackson is an interesting deal as many people are considering him a “rental” player that will benefit the club for the next few months. He has, however, put together a solid season and many project him as a Type A free agent at the end of the season. The team would receive two draft picks in the event that he signs with another club and would still have the opportunity to keep him in St. Louis should they decide he belongs here.
All things considered, the Cardinals have landed a pitcher that they see being a part of the solution for a long time to come, 1-3 draft picks in 2012, an opportunity to pick up three minor leaguers as the “player to be named later” subscript, and some much needed help for the stretch run of the current season.
The biggest pratfall that the fans will need to be wary of is the buyer’s remorse tag that accompanies a deal of this nature. Deals and trades are made with the future in mind and some players, regardless of their ability, simply do not perform under the tuteladge of some managers. Colby Rasmus was showing signs of being the type of player that would never perform to the height of his ability while inside the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Fans should be prepared for the fact that Colby Rasmus could very well become a successful outfielder that plays at an All Star level in Toronto or elsewhere. The obvious example of this is Chris Perez in Cleveland. Fans should also remember that those players were not having any success here in St. Louis and simply continuing to play under the same management may have never yielded those same results. Should Rasmus go on to become a top-tier outfielder, fans have to ask the question “Could he really have done that here?” and realize the answer is a simple and impactful “no”.
Be careful what you wish for Cardinal nation, you just might get it. In the meantime, you might find out that your team, and the man pulling the strings, may very well be preparing for something beyond the names in the newspaper.
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