After the St. Louis Cardinals traded Colby Rasmus this week, the deal was sliced and diced, hashed and re-hashed by everyone with an interest in baseball—both local and national—and some means of communication with others. The overwhelming sentiment seems to be that while the Cards look better for this season than they did before the trade, they did not get enough from the Blue Jays in return.
But that may not be the only problem with this trade.
Every team has its reasons for dealing the players they do. It became quite obvious that Rasmus simply was not going to realize his much-hyped potential while playing for the Cardinals and Manager Tony LaRussa. The who, how, when, and why of this deal can be volleyed back and forth all day long. The fact remains that the Cards dealt a piece of the offense to shore up their pitching staff for the stretch run. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Last year, the big trade the Cardinals pulled off was a three-team affair that sent outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres and brought starter Jake Westbrook to the Redbirds from the Cleveland Indians. At the time, the Cards were struggling to score runs—a point not lost on opponents of the deal. But the thinking at the time was that David Freese would be returning to the team in a matter of a week or two, and he would help shore up the offense. That seemed reasonable. There was no question Westbrook’s presence would help, but many didn’t want to see Ludwick and his RBI-happy bat go. Unfortunately, Freese never returned to the Cardinals after sustaining an injury while rehabbing. An over-the-hill Pedro Feliz was added to fill the hole, but it was nowhere near enough. The offense tanked and the Cardinals relinquished the NL Central title to the Cincinnati Reds.
This year, the circumstances surrounding the deal in question are hugely different. But the Cards’ main need is the same, if not bigger: more pitching. Three pitchers, to be exact. And after sending PJ Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trever Miller the other way and relegating Kyle McClellan back to a reliever role, they practically have a brand new bullpen plus a good starter after one deal. But the problem is that the Cardinals lost their centerfielder. Again, debate all you want whether Rasmus or Jon Jay should be manning center every day. The reality is the Cards are down one big name. And with Allen Craig still on the mend from a knee injury and Lance Berkman experiencing shoulder issues, all is far from well in the outfield.
Those issues are likely part of the reason Corey Patterson was included in the Cardinals’ haul from Toronto. Patterson is an able defender but does little with the bat. He represents a decent fourth outfielder, but not as good of a fourth outfielder as Rasmus or Jay. And with Craig and Berkman still ailing, Patterson has started the last couple of games. That may be fine for now, but what if it happens for an extended period of time?
It appears, once again, the Cards are betting on players getting healthy for the stretch run. It is not necessarily a foolish bet, but it is a gamble. Patterson is no Rasmus, and he certainly is no Berkman this year. Hopefully the Cardinals don’t have to rely on him being close to either.