On Wednesday night noted philosopher Ricky Horton was talking about the Colby Rasmus trade* during the post game on Fox Sports Midwest. In almost a throwaway moment he mentioned that he wasn’t sure Edwin Jackson was an upgrade on Kyle McCellan. Ignoring for a moment that this is a fairly ridiculous statement the mere fact that Ricky Horton was able to share it on air without cries of derision tells you all you need to know about how foolish this deal is for the St. Louis Cardinals.
*Anytime there is a deal that instantly can be described as “insert player’s name here” trade you tend not to want to be a fan of the team that is trading that guy.
My intention is not to analyze the deal for the Chicago White Sox or Toronto Blue Jays, so I’ll just say I love what the latter gave up to take a chance on Colby and I’m a bit confused as to what the former did when they’re still very much in contention in the AL Central. Kenny Williams and his deadline deals are an annual reminder that he needs attention just as much as Ozzie does. Then again perhaps Williams thought Trevor Miller was all they needed to get over the hump. As for the Cardinals…
The Cardinals are improved in the short term by the talent brought over in the deal. After an early mirage of goodness Kyle McCellan has been largely awful for two months now, and no matter what Ricky Horton says it is quite likely Jackson will be a significant improvement on whatever St. Louis could have expected out of their fifth starter spot the next two months. Jackson is a talented guy but I suspect the word used most often in game stories on him is “enigmatic” and nobody likes to root for those guys. Hell, that’s part of the reason Colby got traded. The team will be improved with McCellan moving back to the bullpen where he belongs, and he’ll be joined there by Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, who both should be upgrades on the departed Brian Tallet and Trevor Miller. Of course reliever performance is so freaking unpredictable who the hell knows. ”Scrabble,” as Rzepczynski is known, is the only guy coming over the Cardinals will control after this year, so some are hanging their hats on him becoming a good starter down the road. Keith Law doesn’t believe he’s a longterm starter because of the delivery. Rosensquirrel justifies the deal by arguing that the Cardinals are in win now mode, which is sort of a self fulfilling prophecy when you trade your young, under control talent for a two month rental on a number 3 starter (maybe) and some bullpen help (Corey Patterson and the players to be named (aka cash) don’t count).
And for what, exactly? The Cardinals were likely to win the NL Central before making these moves. While they’re slightly better set up for the postseason (I could see any of Lohse, Jackson, or Westbrook being used as the number 3 starter if/when October rolls around) we all know that the MLB postseason is a crapshoot and I really don’t feel any better about their chances with the move, particularly since Jon Jay has become the freaking backup QB everybody calls for all year who is going to inevitably disappoint now that he has the job. You could argue that the the strain between Colby and La Russa was hurting the team, but I seriously doubt it was hurting anybody but Colby. It is clear from his teammates responses following Wednesday’s game that most guys wish him well and genuinely liked Rasmus. David Freese looked like he was going to cry while talking about how Colby helped him. Rasmus was not a club house cancer that had to be excised immediately. He may well never have succeeded here (especially if this move means Tony is really never going to leave) and there is a time to cut the cord with young guys with unrealized potential. But you don’t do that for two months of Edwin Jackson. Not for the guy who was supposed to be your organization’s future. Not for a guy who was incredibly valuable as recently as last year. Not for a guy who doesn’t turn 25 until August.
Colby Rasmus was drafted 28th overall in the 2005 and quickly became the great white hope of St. Louis Cardinals fans. During the offseason prior to 2008 Jim Edmonds was dumped on San Diego for what seemed like nothing at the time (and has since become David Freese). In addition all time great So Taguchi was released. These events left me so convinced Colby was going to come out of Spring Training in 2008 with a job that I bought my lifelong Cardinal fan father a signed Rasmus ball for Christmas that year. Colby was fifth on both Keith Law and Baseball America’s prospect lists that offseason. It was the best of times.
Colby didn’t end up making the team out of spring training, a controversial move at the time that some (this guy) bemoaned as akin to the Cardinals very nearly leaving Albert Pujols off the opening day roster in 2001. As it turned out Colby had an injury plagued year in AAA, so I don’t know why your reading any of this since I clearly know nothing. That offseason was the first time local talk radio had people seriously arguing for trading Rasmus. The following year Colby fell all the way to 12th on Law’s list while Baseball America moved him up to third. This time he made the club out of spring training and turned in a useful if not spectacular season, earning 2.8 WAR according to fangraphs. Remember, he turned 23 on August 11th. He also showed a propensity for slumps and a seemingly aloof attitude (sometimes he caught fly balls with one hand which drove Cards color guy Al Hrabosky into raging fits) and my father, my own barometer for how the average Cardinal fan is thinking, began to dislike the guy.
Then 2010 happened. Colby had a .859 OPS that year, earning 4.3 WAR despite UZR suddenly turning on him (Colby was heralded as a good defensive center fielder but those numbers flipped last year and have only gotten worse this season). He was a valuable, cost controlled player, and though the things that bugged people still manifested he seemed to be on the right track for all the things we as fans were told to expect. Then it was leaked that he’d requested a trade due to playing time issues (despite his season La Russa refused to just leave the guy in the lineup) and general unhappiness with how La Russa treated him. Then he lied to the media about doing that, which was not a wise decision. Albert made some derisive comments regarding Colby following this but ultimately nothing came of it. Yet in retrospect Colby’s time in St. Louis was done on September 5th, 2010, it just took another ten months to make it official.
Colby had an .867 OPS in April this year but after that he fell off a cliff, offering a .753 the rest of the season. People were now overwhelmingly calling for his trade and La Russa started to once again take swipes at Colby in the media. Much was made of a dispute involving how much/if Rasmus’ father Tony Rasmus (hereafter Papa Rasmus) was attempting to coach his son, and how this was interfering with the ability of Cardinal coaches to get to their young prodigy. Papa Rasmus really likes calling people out on the internet, so that made things worse. Then last week rumors that the Cardinals were shopping Rasmus started coming out, rumors the organization strongly denied. On Monday news of a possible Edwin Jackson swap ran and I said to myself “I know Tony hates Colby but they can’t be that fucking dumb.” On Wednesday I learned they very much could. Colby and Tony each took one last swipe at each other, the local media made nice sounds towards Colby, and Corey Patterson was running around the Cardinal dugout in a uniform like a real member of the team. It was sort of disgusting.
Colby made his Blue Jays debut last night. He went 0-5 with two strikeouts.