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The Cardinals should trade Colby Rasmus this summer

Jul 15, 2011, 9:34 AM EDT

Colby Rasmus AP

… If they can get a No. 3 starter or better.

Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus was drafted in 2005 as a five-tool high school outfielder, the first marquee selection by highly regarded and so-far-successful farm director Jeff Luhnow, a high-IQ guy hired out of the business world in 2003.

Rasmus’ arm hasn’t developed as quickly as the organization had hoped and he’s played hesitant defense at times since arriving in St. Louis in 2009. The power has been there, but only in spurts, and he hasn’t been aggressive on the basepaths in his two-plus major league seasons, trying only 31 steals.

That doesn’t mean Rasmus won’t suddenly put it all together. He had a productive .859 OPS in 144 games last season at the age of 23 and he registered a .391 on-base percentage this April, tallying 10 extra-base hits in 26 games. Rasmus is a comet going from first-to-third. He takes great at-bats and draws walks in bunches when he’s playing with confidence. As a young, productive, cost-controlled center fielder with tools and upside, the 24-year-old is a rare and valuable commodity in modern Major League Baseball.

But Rasmus hasn’t been a major difference-maker this year in the Cardinals’ quest to recapture the National League Central crown and that doesn’t seem to likely to change. Trading him, if the return is right, could mean not only a better a shot at the division title, but also a better chance at making a late postseason run.

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In 2004 second-round pick Jon Jay, the Redbirds have a pre-packaged replacement. He doesn’t have nearly the upside of Rasmus, but the 26-year-old former Miami Hurricane has been a steady presence all over the St. Louis outfield this season with Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols each spending time on the disabled list. As an active fourth outfielder in 2010, Jay managed a cool .300/.359/.422 rookie batting line. This year, he’s hitting .304/.352/.438  with seven home runs and five stolen bases in 248 plate appearances.

Jay is quick, takes good jumps in the outfield, and plays more confidently near stadium walls than Rasmus. He never made a Baseball America Top 100 prospects list, but he had multiple productive seasons during his time in the Cards’ minor league system and his career on-base percentage in the big leagues (.356) is quite a bit higher than Rasmus’ (.333). Jay’s career OPS in the majors (.785) is also better than Rasmus’ (.775).

Though most would agree that it’s a fact bound to change, Jay is a better all-around major league outfielder than Rasmus here in mid-July, 2011. And that matters for a variety of reasons.

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Lance Berkman is on a one-year contract and Pujols is an impending free agent. If the Cardinals want right-hander Chris Carpenter back, it might have to mean picking up his $15 million club option for 2012. The team will be buoyed by other contributors and a big spending budget if all three depart in the offseason, but there should be a small element of urgency sweeping through the Busch Stadium front office this summer.

As it stands, the Cardinals don’t have the starting pitching to thrive in October. Adam Wainwright isn’t going to be cleared to return from Tommy John surgery until next season and Kyle McClellan‘s conversion to the rotation has hit a few recent roadbumps. Carpenter has shown remarkable determination in turning his season around, but his stuff simply isn’t what it used to be. Jake Westbrook has struggled to keep his sinker down. Jaime Garcia only seems to operate well at home. And Kyle Lohse is due for a regression.

If trading Rasmus means acquiring a starting pitcher who can finish strong in the regular season, factor into the postseason rotation, and remain under team control through 2013 or longer, the risk is worth it. McClellan could be moved back to his more familiar setup role, where he possesses a 3.22 career ERA.

With Pujols, Berkman, Holliday and David Freese all finally healthy, and Yadier Molina slugging .415, the Cardinals have ample offense. But they need a pitcher with the ability to go six or seven quality innings every five days in order to break away from the Brewers, Reds and Pirates in the second half. And they’ll need that reliable starter again when it comes time to face the Phillies, or Giants, or Braves in a playoff series.

The Cardinals no longer have a fruitless farm system. Jay and Craig are proof of that, as is utilityman Daniel Descalso, who looks ready defensively at the age of 24. Lance Lynn, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas appear to have bright futures in relief, and they’re all four homebred. Add to that the fact that three Cardinals pitching prospects made Keith Law’s midseason Top 50 list, released Thursday.

The Cardinals don’t have to fret about entering a period without cost-controlled talent. It’s now almost plentiful. And if one of those young arms needs to be moved to upgrade the outfield down the road, so be it.

St. Louis’ decision-makers should not feel beholden to the desire to make a bright-futured guy like Rasmus “work,” or “fit.” They’ve performed too well in recent drafts and on the international market to worry about taking risks with young talent, and they’ve certainly put up with babysitting for long enough. Colby has twice issued a request to be shipped out of town. If a high-impact starter can be had, and if that pitcher comes with a reasonable, multi-year contract, the Cardinals should grant the Rasmus family’s wish before the end of July.

  1. largebill - Jul 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    They can have Fausto Carmona for him. That actually could work for both teams. Carmona could benefit from a fresh approach and Duncan has helped pitchers before who had good arms but problems above the neck.

  2. bleedgreen - Jul 15, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    Joe Blanton for Colby Rasmus?

    • Utley's Hair - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      Blanton—as well as his contract—is too bloated for that. I say KK and a prospect (’cause the Phightins have so many of them lyin’ around anymore, right?) for Rasmus and…? Any ideas anybody?

      • paperlions - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:40 AM

        Yeah, but the Cardinals have quite a few prospects lying around as well….so anyone would need to be better than what they have or fill an obvious need….that pretty much excludes pitching prospects (where the Cardinals have 2 potential aces that should be up by 2013 and some other solid arms behind them or IF prospects as the Cardinals have solid prospects that should be ready within the next couple years at 1B, 2B, and 3B.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        Phillies actually have the 5th rated minor league organization…whatever that means.

  3. tomemos - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Sounds like he’s going to the Giants, then; they’ve got more starters than they know what to do with.

    • ryanherrington - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:39 AM

      The Braves are more loaded than the Giants in my opinion.

      Braves have: Jurjens, Hanson, Hudson, Beachy, Minor, and Lowe.

      Next year or late this year Kris Medlen will be back.

      Knocking on the door to come up is Julio Tehran and Double A’s Randall Delgado did really well in his first ML appearance, especially considering it was the Phils.

      Beachy, Minor, or Delgado and maybe Schafer or someone else for Rasmus should do the job I think . . . or maybe I just hope as a Braves fan . . .

    • skerney - Jul 15, 2011 at 5:05 PM

      Can Dave Duncan work his magic on Jonathan Sanchez? I’d like to find out.

      • bigdicktater - Jul 17, 2011 at 5:52 PM

        No, no…….Rick Zito, Rick Zito!! What were you thinkin’??

  4. hermitfool - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Jon Jay has one glaring weakness, his extremely weak throwing arm, which will always weigh against his defensive value, particularly in right or center field. Juan Pierre has a cannon compared to this guy.

    • spudchukar - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      You couldn’t be more wrong. Jay has an above average arm, good accuracy, and both a quick release and great mechanics. I do not know when you have seen him throw, but having watched over 90% of his games the past two years, I assure you that his arm is more than adequate.

  5. Charles Gates - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Guthrie?

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      Does flyball pitcher + groundball pitching coach + line drives?

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:12 PM

      Does flyball pitcher + groundball pitching coach = line drives?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:12 PM

        sorry for the double (now triple) post!!

  6. trevorb06 - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    You guys are a lot nicer than I would be. If I ran the Cards right now I’d send Colby down to AAA (if he has any options available still) and remind him that this is his job. This is what we pay him to do. If he isn’t going to do his job and be petty about it and not listen to his bosses (the coaches) and instead go run to daddy then he can have fun sculpting his legacy in AAA. I would then remind him that he has true potential to be one of the best players to grace an MLB field and tell him once he is ready to be that guy that he shouldn’t tell us, rather he should prove it to us on an AAA platform.

    • trevorb06 - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:19 AM

      So essentially I’m saying don’t trade him while his stock is low and teams know they can low ball the Cards because Colby wants out.

      • paperlions - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        I agree that you don’t trade him just to get rid of him….but do you really think that sending him to AAA would accomplish anything positive? Given his apparent mental fragility, that move could just as likely have severe negative consequences as it could have positive ones…and that is assuming he still has options left, I’m not sure that he does.

      • jimbo1949 - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:49 AM

        Given his parent mental fragility
        .
        .
        Fixed it fer ya

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM

        Any deal for Rasmus should include a daddy gag order.

  7. dodger88 - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    I’d give up Kuroda for Rasmus but doubt he would be good enough from the Cards perspective.

    • bkertz - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      So the Cards are going to accept a pitcher in his late 30s for a 24 year old, cost-controlled CF? I am sure the Dodgers would fall all over themselves if that were to happen.

      • kiwicricket - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

        Done it before!

    • losburrosinblue - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      Hey yeah, then they could move him to left field. He can be the, like, 50th left fielder that they used this season.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      I think the Dodgers already have a passable CF

  8. ryanherrington - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    If I’m the Braves, I send Mike Minor and Jordan Schafer and another prospect for Rasmus and maybe Boggs or other bullpen help.

    Rasmus grew up a Braves fan. His family lives in AL. A change of scenery will do the kid great.

    Schafer could probably use a change of scenery as well. He was once thought to be the CF Savior for the Braves but has proved to be anything but that.

    • trevorb06 - Jul 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      It would be smarter of the Braves to try to trade a veteran such as Hudson and a package of 2 prospects (one top, one middle) or even 3 prospects (one top, 2 middle). This’ll put their rotation as a lot younger and it’ll give TLR that vet presence he so loves to have in his rotation. I could see the Bravos sending Hudson, Minor and two other middling guys for Colby and a bullpen arm.

      • ryanherrington - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM

        I just don’t see Hudson heading anywhere. He’s still productive and the Braves’ way has typically always been to keep “the old gray mare” around to help the young guys.

        Lowe won’t be there after this year and that’s pretty much guaranteed. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them send him off somewhere as well.

        I think Hudson and Minor is probably overpay for Rasmus at least right now. There isn’t a complete guarantee that he’ll turn around.

      • trevorb06 - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:05 AM

        And you could be right. I just don’t see the Cards buckling at their knees to Colby’s trade demands and I think it would take one generous offer to get him. See my post above of what I’d do if I ran the Cards. :-)

      • ryanherrington - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:46 AM

        I agree with what you’d do. The problem is that the player becomes a distraction though. It ain’t right, but it tends to happen. I’m not sure how much of a distraction he is right now, but I’m sure the Cards are sick of having to talk about his situation for over a year now.

  9. Rooster Amaro - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Bear in mind that I make no claims to be a proper assessor of minor and major league talent, so if I’m pulling a Madden trade off here, let me know, since that’s honestly what I’m looking for by posting in the first place.

    That being said, the Phils are dying for some corner outfielder bat production and I know most of us would love to see Rasmus in red pinstripes. Vance Worley has performed at a high level so far this season, but a lot of people would knock that for him being a rookie and hitters not having enough cracks at the bat against his pitching, so I may be overinflating his value.

    But would a Vance Worley + prospect(s) trade for Rasmus be reasonable? Would said prospects have to be some of the Phillies blue chippers or a couple of mid-tier guys? Ideally we ship Ibanez to St. Louis or somewhere else as well if that’s possible.

    Your thoughts are appreciated.

    • trevorb06 - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      For starters… Madden is football. Wrong blog.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:33 PM

      Phillies will not deal Vance Worley this year. Right now they need him. They do not have another healthy starter lying around. The options outside of the current starting rotation are scary. Furthermore, Ibanez isn’t going anywhere especially not in a trade for a 24 year old guy with huge potential. Lastly, I doubt the Phillies have interest in another left handed outfielder. Their minor league system is stocked to the brim with left handed outfielders and I doubt they would be in a hurry to take on a guy who has had clubhouse issues and parental interference.

  10. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    his career on-base percentage in the big leagues (.356) is quite a bit higher than Rasmus’ (.333)

    Isn’t this a bit disingenuous because Jay has a much higher BA than Rasmus does. Rasmus walks far more often (9.8% vs 6.7%) and has better power (.183 ISO vs .127).

    • Mark - Jul 15, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      Yeah, I was very surprised that he neglected to point out that Colby’s walk rate & ISO was much better. He’s 24, he’s not even in his prime yet. Meanwhile this is the best you’re going to see out of Jay, especially since he’s shielded from full time play.

    • Alex K - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      I agree. Jay also went to college, and is 2 years older.

  11. stoutfiles - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Rasmus is an overrated, whiny brat. The Cards should trade him and his dad for anything they can get at this point.

  12. spudchukar - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    First off, Colby Rasmus is not a discipline problem or a clubhouse disruption. As PL noted he has a fragile psyche, is confounded, and as a result plays with temerity. The question is simply will he ever be able to put it all together above the shoulders? I believe he has more raw talent than Jason Heyward. They have one thing in common, both are TOO patient at the plate. Yeah, Rasmus draws a lot of walks, but he also gets called out far too often in crucial situations; again questionable decision making.

    It is true the Cards could use upgrades in the starting rotation, bullpen and middle infield. But they also have home made answers. What Braves fans and others who are measuring Rasmus’ value should remind themselves of is who would they believe they would demand for Heyward or even Posey.

    Of the names mentioned above only Hudson might pique the interest of St. Louis. Ventors is probably the equivalent player, and he would be tough for the Braves to let go.

    • spudchukar - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      That should read “without temerity”

  13. larryhockett - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    No way is Rasmus getting traded anytime soon. A trade like this is professional suicide for a GM. If the “change of scenery” theory is correct and Rasmus blossoms elsewhere, Mozeliak’s legacy will forever be “the guy who traded Colby Rasmus.” Very few GMs have the stones to make a trade like that. I imagine the only thing driving this discussion is the tension with Colby’s father. But that relationship would have to be overwhelmingly horrible for the Cardinals to take a chance trading a young player with Rasmus’ talent. I just can’t see it.

  14. okwhitefalcon - Jul 15, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Colby’s father Tony appeared on St Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz’s radio show this afternoon, here’s a great blow by blow from PD’s Cards forum:

    http://interact.stltoday.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=809121&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=24

  15. duckandabluesailor - Jul 18, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Oh god, blue jays blue jays blue jays…him, snider and Thames would look good in that outfield for years. Brett Cecil?

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