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Trade Deadline Recap: Toronto Acquires Rasmus

August 2, 2011

Within a matter of a few hours on Wednesday July 27th the Toronto Blue Jays completed a pair of trades that involved a total of 14 players – in terms of participants, this is easily the largest blockbuster we’d see at this year’s trade deadline. In the end, the deals make the Blue Jays stronger both in the short and long term primarily because the centerpiece acquisition was center fielder Colby Rasmus.

While the two trades were separate deals, rather than formally considering this a three-team trade, let’s look at them collectively. We’ll start by summing up who went where:

from St. Louis: Rasmus; relief pitchers Trevor Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters
from Chicago: third baseman Mark Teahen
St. Louis
from Toronto: relief pitchers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepcyznski; outfielder Corey Patterson; three PTBNL
from Chicago via Toronto: starting pitcher Edwin Jackson
from Toronto: relief pitcher Jason Frasor; starting pitcher Zach Stewart

Since their part in this deal is ultimately small (in comparison) let’s start with Chicago before we move on to how the Cardinals and Blue Jays are effected.

The key, at least immediately, for the White Sox is the acquisition of Frasor. The team has had an up-and-down season out of the bullpen – starting out with numerous questions regarding the closer-by-committee bullpen and then finally settling in with the third best team bullpen ERA in the American League to date. Yet, in recent weeks there has been speculation that the team was looking to add a veteran right hander to the bullpen and Frasor fits that mold well. He’s spent his whole career with Toronto prior to the trade, setting the organization’s all time appearances mark, and had pitched to a 2.98 ERA in 42.1 innings this season.

In Stewart, the White Sox are receiving one of the top prospects in Toronto’s minor league system as he was ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 prior to the start of the 2011 season. He’s spent the bulk of this season in Double-A where he’s posted a 5-5 record, 4.20 ERA, with 7.1 K/9 over 94.1 innings of work. He did briefly work out of Toronto’s bullpen early on this season, starting three games in which he allowed 26 hits and 9 runs in 16.2 innings of work. Chicago has assigned him to their Triple-A affiliate and it’s completely possible he could make a few starts for the team in September.

Chicago had to give up Jackson and Teahen in order to obtain the two pitchers from Toronto but look to have made out pretty well overall. Toronto is going to be responsible for all of Teahen’s remaining contract which totals roughly $7.1 Million through 2012, meaning the White Sox are no longer obligated to pay a player who no longer factored into their plans. He’s batted a mere .203/.277/.305 in 118 at bats on the season. It’s your classic example of a team taking on a bad contract to help get a deal done.

Jackson, however, was the key loss for the White Sox as they lose some of the starting pitching depth they’ve relied upon this season. However, with their other five key starters seemingly healthy there had been a good amount of speculation that at least one of their pitchers – most assumed Jackson – would be available in trade. Considering he was deemed expendable, obtaining Frasor, Stewart, and the relief from Teahen’s salary was a price worth paying to give up Jackson. It was also widely believed that Toronto had every intention of flipping the right hander after the deal was first announced.

With St. Louis, Jackson will help fill a void in the Cardinals rotation that has been a question mark all season. Kyle McClellan filled in admirably through the season’s first two months for the injured Adam Wainwright, but he too got hurt and subsequently missed some time and since his return he’s looked better suited for the bullpen than the starting rotation. The others who have been used to fill out the rotation have also not fared well, leaving the Cardinals in the thick of the NL Central race with multiple question marks in their rotation.

On the season the now six-time traded pitcher holds a 7-7 record with a 3.92 ERA in 121.2 innings over 19 starts. He’ll help solidify a rotation that ranks in the middle of the National League in ERA. Part of his value to the Cardinals, however, is the fact that it allows them to move McClellan back into the bullpen – where they needed help the most.

In addition, the Cardinals also received Dotel and Rzepcyznski which will further help strengthen their bullpen for the stretch run. Dotel, like Jackson, will be a free agent after the season and has been a participant in numerous trades throughout his career. This season he’s pitched just 29.1 innings but holds a 2-1 record, 3.68 ERA and 9.2 K/9. He’s been dominant against righties.

Rzepcyznski is a converted starter who has seen some success in his first full season working out of the bullpen. He’s struggled against righties but overpowered lefties, complimenting Dotel nicely, while pitching to a 2.97 ERA and 1.093 WHIP in 39.1 innings. The left hander won’t reach free agency until after the 2016 season so he provides some long term value to the Cardinals.

The final piece going to St. Louis is Patterson, a journeyman outfielder who will be playing for his 8th team. He’s been serviceable for Toronto this season, batting .252/.287/.379 with 6 HR and 33 RBI in 317 at bats while seeing time all across the outfield. The Cardinals will likely use him more as a 4th outfielder with Jon Jay receiving the bulk of the playing time in place of Rasmus.

The Cardinals will also receive three PTBNL from the Blue Jays. The three players – who’s identities we probably won’t know until closer to the end of the season – likely won’t be significant prospects but in the long term could prove to make the deal look a little better from the Cardinals’ perspective. It seems, at least initially, that they could have gotten more back in trade for Rasmus.

The question of just how available he was on the trade market was never actually made clear so it’s tough to say how actively interested some teams were. But, there were reports of multiple teams who had inquired on his services. Common sense also would tell us that the teams seeking an outfielder at some point leading up to the deadline – including the Giants, Braves, Reds, Indians, Phillies, and others – could also have expressed an interest had Rasmus been more publicly been made available.

One would think that one of those teams may have come up with a more impressive package than what the Cardinals received in this deal. Yes, Jackson fills a need in their rotation just as Dotel, Rzepcyznski, and McClellan improve the bullpen. But Rasmus, who’s just 24, will only go through arbitration for the first time this offseason and the Cardinals did not receive any long term talent in return for the potential All Star.

For Toronto, however, they’ve seemingly stolen Rasmus from a Cardinal organization that seemed too eager to move him. During his time in St. Louis there had been a number of public disagreements between Rasmus and the organization. He reportedly had expressed a request to be traded on multiple occasions and the team often believed he would taking hitting advice from his father instead of the team’s coaches. Manager Tony LaRussa had even publicly criticized his center fielder while the team was discussing a new contract with him.

As I mentioned previously, Rasmus is the centerpiece to this trade and the single piece that makes these trades a win for the Blue Jays. He is under team control for at least the next three seasons and gives the team a solid defender in center field who still shows a lot of potential at the plate. Toronto has already worked him into the top of their lineup, allowing them to balance the bats out a little more while installing another player who can get on base in front of slugger Jose Bautista.

Lost in most discussions of the deal is the fact that Toronto did also receive three pitchers from the Cardinals – essentially replacing, at least in number, the pitchers surrendered to acquire Rasmus.

Both Miller and Tallet are left handed relievers who have been used sparingly this season. Miller has only pitched 15.2 innings while Tallet has only thrown 13.0. Neither has pitched particularly well either but both will be free agents at the end of the season and do not have a significant amount of money remaining on their contracts.

Walters is the only one of the three pitchers who will be under team control beyond this season. He’s pitched a mere 50.0 innings in his big league career, spread out over 20 appearances (4 starts) since 2009. He’s seen mixed results – posting a 7.24 ERA and 3.9 BB/9 with a 7.1 K/9. In 17 Triple-A starts this season he is 7-4 with a 4.27 ERA and a 2:1 strikeout to walk rate.

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