The talks started last winter, but they didn’t seem serious. Why would the Cardinals consider trading Colby Rasmus? He’s young, he’s cost-controlled, and he’s a center fielder who has some pop. But he clashed with manager Tony LaRussa, and we’ve seen other players depart St. Louis after such spats. Those talks have heated up again in the past month, gaining momentum as the trade deadline approaches. Today it all came to a head. Early this morning word broke that the Blue Jays were set to acquire Edwin Jackson, whom they’d then flip to the Cardinals in a Rasmus deal. A few hours, everything came together as planned.
As a quick reference breakdown, here’s what each team ended up with:
The Blue Jays first benefited from the White Sox desire to shed salary. Dealing Jackson saves the Sox only $2.75 million, but adding in Teahen brings that figure to nearly $10 million in the next two years. Because the Blue Jays were willing to take on salary, they were able to acquire both players for the relatively cheap cost of Frasor and Stewart. Frasor is a useful reliever who should net Type B compensation this winter, but he’s expendable from the Blue Jays point of view. Stewart is also useful, but is pitching in AA at age-25. As Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein emphatically says, he’s probably a No. 4 starter or late-inning reliever in the long run. Our own Marc Hulet thinks he can be a bit better in the rotation.
The second trade is the meaty one for the Jays, as they bring back a player who will be part of their long-term plans. Rasmus is the gem of this trade, as he’s under team control through 2014. He’ll get a bit more expensive after this season, since he hits arbitration for the first time, but the Blue Jays are pretty well set in the payroll department. They have just $36 million committed in 2012, and have a few key players — Ricky Romero, Adam Lind, and Yunel Escobar — signed to $5 million deals. They can afford to take payroll high, too, if they feel they can contend; payroll was as high as $97 million in 2008. The low payroll was also instrumental in acquiring Teahen, who almost certainly will play a part-time role in 2012.
Even though they essentially ended the deal with just Rasmus, the price was a worthy one for the Blue Jays. They traded three relief pitchers and a prospect, plus a non-consideration in Patterson, in order to acquire him, a price that many other teams likely would have met. Yet it seems that GM Alex Anthopolous has knack for sniffing out opportunities such as this one. He took advantage of two teams’ issues: the White Sox payroll and the Cardinals’ discontent with Rasmus. If just one team had an issue, this deal doesn’t come close to getting done. But Anthopolous made the connection, and his team is all the better for it.
While the Jays won’t contend this year, they’re set up well for next year. In the outfield they’ll have Travis Snider, Rasmus, and Jose Bautista. The infield will consist of Brett Lawrie at third, Yunel Escobar at short, and Adam Lind at first, with J.P. Arencibia behind the plate. What’s better, there’s a chance that Travis D’Arnaud is ready at some point, potentially giving them an upgrade at catcher. The only real hole is at second base, where Aaron Hill has fallen out of favor in the last two years. But with the other pieces on offense, plus the makings of a good pitching staff, the Jays could be ready to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays in 2012.
While each team has its reasons for executing this deal, it’s easiest to see from the Blue Jays perspective. They got a player who will be with them as they try to contend from 2012 through 2014. All they gave up in exchange were three relievers and a questionable prospect. Credit Anthopolous for bringing everyone together here. There were two distinct opportunities, and he took advantage of both. He certainly has had a successful first couple of years at the helm in Toronto.