Tony La Russa

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After viewing Tony LaRussa’s interview with Frank Cusumano yesterday, I tweeted, “TLR’s a control freak, Colby’s slightly hard-headed, and T-Raz is always sayin’ sh*t. This isn’t going to stop, is it?” Much to my dismay, it ended quicker than anticipated in a deal that seems unnecessarily expansive.

I worked today, so it’s hard to know which reporter was first to break the news, but Joe Strauss had the details at STL-Today:

The Cardinals have traded center fielder Colby Rasmus and relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller to the Toronto Blue Jays in a multi-player package including starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson.

There you have it. Fear realized. Your favorite team just traded a promising 24-year-old outfielder who was under team control through 2014 in a deal centered around Edwin Jackson, a talented pitcher who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

As I wrote Saturday, it’s not that I opposed trading Colby Rasmus. It’s just that I hoped Mozeliak would resist organizational pressure to pull the trigger on a deal unless he secured cost-controlled talent in return. It’s fair to wonder if whatever leverage Mo had in negotiations involving Rasmus was negated by LaRussa’s criticism of Colby last night. On the other hand, it’s likely that the parameters of the trade were already in place, and TLR’s knowledge of the impending trade influenced his decision to publicly air frustrations about Colby.

Either way, LaRussa’s organizational influence has become increasingly apparent in recent years. And we’re left with another transaction fueled by player personality and intangibles rather than raw talent. That’s how we ended up with Ryan Theriot booting balls all over the infield. Meanwhile, Brendan Ryan has outperformed Theriot offensively and defensively, and this decision has cost the Cardinals more than 2 WAR to date.

While it was learned that the Cardinals would also receive three players to be named later (or cash) from Toronto, as seen in this story by Matthew Leach, the details are pretty murky. Derrick Goold tweeted that the players sent to St. Louis would depend on how well the players already received perform for the Cardinals this season. If anyone has insight into how performance will be measured, please post a link in the comments.

Assuming the three players to be named later are not significant prospects, the loss of Colby hurts and hints towards extremely troubling organizational dynamics. Given the short-sightedness of the trade, can we find satisfaction in having an improved team here and now, in 2011? All numbers thanks to FanGraphs.

We’re getting Edwin Jackson at the right time. Still only 27-years-old, he’s pitching better than ever according to SIERA (3.65) and FIP/xFIP (3.42/3.21) thanks to a stable strikeout rate (7.18 K/9) and improved control (2.88 BB/9). I’m sure Dave Duncan appreciates Jackson’s improved ability to generate ground balls in recent seasons. His fastball and slider combine for 90% of total offerings; both pitches have been positive in terms of pitch type value, which measures the outcome of pitches but does not account for sequence. No question, Edwin Jackson will improve the rotation. Too bad it’s only for 2011. Meanwhile, Kyle McClellan’s return to the bullpen will help its depth and his numbers.

Octavio Dotel is now 37-years-old, but he still manages to strike out more than a batter per inning (9.20 K/9) and his control is better than it’s been since 2007, but to be fair, his control has never been great (career 4.07 BB/9). While his ERA (3.68) is acceptable, it benefits from an absurd BABIP (.205) and his FIP/xFIP (4.59/4.05) rank him as the worst right handed pitcher in the bullpen other than Kyle McClellan who’s sure to benefit from less exposure. There’s a $3.5 million option on Dotel’s contract but surely it’ll be declined.

I have nothing nice to say about Corey Patterson. Just hope Berkman’s ouchy isn’t serious.

The only player in the deal that the Cardinals will control long-term is Marc Rzepczynski, a starter-turned-reliever whose first year of arbitration eligibility will be 2013. As a starter in 2009 and 2010, Rzepczynski had a solid K/9 (8+) and more than 50% of balls in play against him were grounders. He, like Jackson, relies mostly on fastballs and sliders (combine for 92.4% of total offerings). He’s controlled lefties in his short career and has been particularly effective in 2011.

The bullpen will benefit from the addition of Rzepcqzynski (that name makes me feel like I’m in high school typing class all over again), but I hope that Dotel doesn’t steal higher leverage innings from the other righties who have already performed well this season in terms of FIP/xFIP: Lynn (2.93/2.19), Motte (2.51/3.36), Boggs (2.86/3.24), Fernando Salas (3.13/3.31), or Eduardo Sanchez (3.13/4.06), if he gets healthy. While I’m assuming that McClellan improves by jumping back into the bullpen, there’s also the possibility that fatigue will set in given he’s already surpassed career high in pitches thrown by almost 400.

Bottom line: Do the Cardinals have a better chance of winning the NL Central in 2011? Probably. Have they sacrificed their ability to do so in 2012 and beyond? Perhaps considerably.

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Andy Beard

Proud STL resident. Baseball enthusiast. Music lover. Theology thinker/reader. MA in Clinical Psych. Never met a pizza I didn't like.

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11 Responses to “Winning Now, Probably Not Later”

  1. Andy, you nailed this post. Great read.

  2. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the more I ponder this, the more I’m convinced there is at least one prospect on that PTBNL list that Mo really wants. That’s about the only reason you’d go with Toronto instead of getting Neimann/Howell from Tampa Bay. Mo’s done a pretty decent job with getting prospects like that (Freese mainly, though Cueto still has some potential) so maybe that will help salvage this.

    Other than that, though, I completely agree with all you’ve got here!

  3. As a Jays fan Dotel could be great for the Cards. He’s completely shut down against righties, but should never face a lefty. Not even a little league lefty.

  4. In Mo’s defense, he did secure cost-controlled talent. I think we all thought he was referring to more than a cost-controlled LOOGY, however.

    While there are many parallels between Rasmus / Ryan and their tumultuous relationship with Tony, player quotes after the Ryan trade indicated that the players wanted Ryan to be traded, not just the manager (credit to Bernie, who discussed this on his radio show today). While Colby clearly wasn’t a team leader, I wonder if there was player sentiment for him to be moved such as there appeared to be for Ryan.

    Nonetheless, we traded Colby to appease TLR’s desired personnel for a playoff run, and got about 50 cents on the dollar, as a result. Anthopoulos is really making a name for himself between this and convincing the Angels to take on Vernon Wells.

    • To be fair, some do believe that Rzepcqzynski has future value as a starting pitcher. I was just hopeful that the cost-controlled value in return would have a little more upside.

      As far as the players go, they had some pretty positive things to say about Colby in D-Goold’s story this morning at STL-Today. Pujols made some especially flattering remarks about the career he expects Colby to have… and David Freese talked about how Colby helped him make the transition into the big leagues.

      • I noticed those comments, Andy. I thought they conveyed Colby as someone that was hard to understand, but not hard to like. Moreover, Skip stated explicitly that Colby was not a clubhouse problem. Absolutely no one came to the defense of Boog after he was traded, certainly a different reaction.

        For me, that makes the trade even more problematic. I would prefer that we still have Boog; however, if the clubhouse voiced clear dislike of his attitude/actions and it was made apparent he was a problem, then I can see justification for a move. I just fail to understand why Colby “had” to go, other than Tony wanted Jackson and bullpen help (specifically a LOOGY R-whatever & McCllellan’s ability to tame lefty’s) to manage late-game situations as he prefers to do.

        Mo has defended the move stating that he feared Colby’s value would erode over the remainder of the year. However, national pundits have cited numerous reports from unnamed executives who stated how surprised they are in the return the Cards received and expressed the belief the Cards could have received more. I think Ken Rosenthal’s quote sums it up nicely, “Well, I’ve finally identified the most difficult-to-find commodity in baseball. Not a catcher. Not a shortstop. Not a third baseman. Someone who likes the Cardinals’ return for outfielder Colby Rasmus”.

        I fear Mo has shown an inability to shrewdly negotiate trades and is forced to acquiesce to the demands of the Manager, whom for the past few years has worked on a year-to-year basis. Although I had come to belief that Colby would probably need to traded, instead of ensuring maximum return on our value, we ensured moving him as quickly as possible, once management panicked under a false mandate that Colby had to be traded.

        Finally, this trade could reek of last year’s Ludwick move if Berkman and Jay don’t maintain current levels of performance throughout the season. If either were to drop off, not only could the team be worse in the future, it could possibly be worse this season.

        Yuck.

  5. Enjoyed reading a post I mostly understood. Also, nice use of “ouchy”. Ha.

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