Rob Rains Inside Baseball: Trading For Pitchers

Now that the trading deadline has come and gone, we know that Ubaldo Jimenez, and not Edwin Jackson, was the best starting pitcher who changed teams this week, going from the Colorado Rockies to the Cleveland Indians.


Would it have been nice if the Cardinals had been able to trade for Jimenez? Certainly. But the reason they didn’t shows why they are not the Cleveland Indians, and why that is a very good thing.

To get Jimenez, the Indians had to trade four prospects, including two pitchers who rank among the elite young pitchers in the game, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, their top picks in the 2009 and 2010 drafts. This would have been basically the same as the Cardinals giving up Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, plus two other minor-leaguers.

While the Cardinals had no interest in doing that, the Indians believed they had to make the move. Even though both teams went into Sunday’s games 1 ½ games out of first place in their respective divisions, the franchises are not equal.

The Indians have been to the playoffs only one time since 2001, winning the AL Central in 2007 and coming within one game of making it to the World Series. In eight of the other nine years since 2001, however, they have finished .500 or below.

As a result, the franchise that once set attendance records and sold out every game has been last or next-to-last in the AL in attendance the last two years. Going into Sunday, they ranked 12th this year, ahead of only Oakland and Tampa Bay. They drew only 1.3 million fans in 2010. They have to give their fans some reason to start coming back to the ballpark and get a buzz going in the city about the Indians and they are hopeful another division title will do that.

Unlike the Cardinals, where making the playoffs and selling 3 million tickets is almost expected every year, getting to the postseason in Cleveland is a big deal. And that was why taking the chance on dealing two future stars for a proven No. 1 starter was worth the risk. Jimenez is only 27 and, with an option, is under the control of the Indians through at least 2014.

The Al Central, just like the race in the NL Central, is imminently winnable for the Indians, especially if Jimenez pitches as he did for the Rockies a year ago.

The Cardinals, of course, were not the only team who refused to give up their top pitching prospects in deadline deals. Neither did the Yankees, Braves or Tigers. Other than Pomeranz and White, the best pitching prospects who were traded were Zack Wheeler, going from the Giants to the Mets for Carlos Beltran; Robbie Erlin of the Rangers, going to San Diego in the Mike Adams deal, and Jarred Cosart, sent to Houston by the Phillies as part of the package for Hunter Pence.

One young pitcher not traded was St. Louisian Jacob Turner of the Tigers. The 20-year-old graduate of Westminster High School was called up by the Tigers from Double A Erie to make his major-league debut on Saturday against the Angels.

Rob and BJ take their show on the road to The Sports Zone on Watson in Kenrick Plaza this Friday. $100 gift certificate will be given away. Hope to see you there.

Turner knew ahead of time that his stay in the majors – now – was only going to be for the one start, but he acquitted himself very well in his five-plus innings of work.

“Some of you guys will be gone,” manager Jim Leyland told reporters after the game. “And I’ll be gone, but he will still be pitching here for a long time. He’s that good.”

Turner became the youngest pitcher to start a game for the Tigers since 1979. He allowed just three hits in 5 1/3 innings of work and two runs and was charged with the loss. Six of the 16 outs he recorded came on strikeouts.

“It was a dream come true,” said Turner, the Tigers’ first-round pick n the 2009 draft. “I definitely had jitters in the first inning, but I think that’s to be expected … It was an awesome experience.”

The highlight of the day for Turner might have been as he was walking off the field, when he received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Comerica Park.

“Once they started cheering, I don’t really know how to describe it,” Turner told reporters. “My body felt like it went numb. That was just kind of the highlight of my day, to be honest.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia was among those impressed by Turner’s performance.

“He has poise and command,” Scioscia said. “You have to be excited about everything that kid did.”

That’s something the Cardinals hope opponents are saying about Miller and Martinez sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Was Buehrle a possibility?

When the Cardinals first began discussing trading for pitching help with the White Sox, it would be interesting to know if Mark Buehrle’s name came up before that of Edwin Jackson.

Landing Buehrle likely would have come at a steeper cost than just Colby Rasmus for the Cardinals, since the White Sox, like the Indians and Tigers, are definitely in the race in the AL Central. But there are a lot of reasons why it would have made sense.

The left-handed pitcher, now 32, has made no secret of the fact that he would like to pitch for the Cardinals at some point before he retires. The native of St. Charles, Mo., is eligible for free agency at the end of this season and is pitching as well as he has in a long time. He held the Red Sox to two runs in six innings on Sunday, lowering his ERA to 3.21.

As a player with 10 years in the majors and five years with the White Sox, Buehrle would have had to give his consent to any trade. His contract also includes a $15 million option for next year which kicks in only if he is traded.

The Cardinals might have been a little scared off by that fact, but it seems possible Buehrle would have worked with his hometown team to reduce the cost for next year in exchange for adding another year or two onto the deal.

The White Sox seem to think there is no way Buehrle will leave as a free agent after the season, as they have not approached him yet about trying to work out a new deal. Since the Cardinals did not pursue him now, it remains to be seen if they will be interested this winter.

What the Blue Jays see in Rasmus

There is a growing belief among some people in baseball that Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos is running a halfway house and not a major-league franchise. They cite his deals for shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Braves last year, Milwaukee prospect Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus, all of whom had problems getting along with their previous employers.

Anthopoulos goes along with the suggestion that the players should benefit from a change of scenery, but he told the Toronto Globe and Mail, “It’s not like we’ve brought in, I don’t know, Milton Bradley and Jose Guillen.”

If Rasmus can do what Escobar has done in Toronto, he will be very happy. Escobar leads all major-league shortstops in walks and on-base percentage and ranks second in batting average.

Escobar had a bad reputation with the Braves, but has been a key performer for the Blue Jays – exactly what they hope happens with Rasmus.

“What’s happened here, offensively, is that (manager) John Farrell has just let me play,” Escobar said through an interpreter. He added the difference in his game was “happiness.”

Said Anthopoulos, “I think we can get more out of him (meaning Rasmus) than we saw in St. Louis.”

Rasmus began his Toronto career 0-for-12 with five strikeouts before getting two hits and two RBIs in the win Sunday over Texas.

Trading deadline fallout

The general manager who had the worst trading deadline experience was Tampa Bay’s Andrew Friedman, who underwent an appendectomy Saturday night and worked the phones Sunday from his hospital room … The best moves at the deadline came from the Phillies (surprise), getting an impact player (Hunter Pence) for the third consecutive year, following deals for Cliff Lee in 2009 and Roy Oswalt last year; Texas, which got the bullpen help it wanted without giving up either of its best prospects; the Braves, who got the perfect player for their lineup in Michael Bourn of the Astros and held on to their top four pitching prospects; and the Pirates, who did not mortgage their promising future but still added major-league quality hitters in Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee … The biggest loser, at least in the short time, was the Astros. The deals for Pence and Bourn left them with only three position players in their starting lineup Sunday – Clint Barmes, Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels – who have more than 196 career games in the major leagues … The two most surprised players to finish Sunday still with their original teams were Heath Bell of the Padres and B.J. Upton of the Rays, whose names had been linked to numerous deals for more than a month but ended up going nowhere.

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