Re-Evaluating the Rasmus Trade

When Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays acquired center fielder Colby Rasmus for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, and Marc Rzepczynski just before the Trade Deadline last summer, the blogosphere and Twitterverse were exploding with praise for Toronto.

Anthopoulos parted with relatively little to acquire a young center fielder who was worth 4.3 WAR in the previous season at only 24 years old. His .366 wOBA was the third best in baseball by a center fielder, which was only bested by Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez. Rasmus also had three-and-a-half years remaining under team control, which only augmented his value as a baseball asset.

The trade was an unequivocal win for our amiable neighbors north of the border. Toronto’s stat-friendly, new-age general manager hoodwinked his backward counterpart in St. Louis, and frankly, it wasn’t even close.

At least, that was what was supposed to happen.

Instead, Tim Tebow himself shone down on the St. Louis Cardinals and led them to an improbable World Series title. The players acquired in the Rasmus trade performed quite well for the Red Birds. Edwin Jackson threw 78 solid innings and even started four games for the Cardinals during the postseason. Octavio Dotel posted an impressive 1.57 FIP after joining St. Louis. Even the forgettable Marc Rzepczynski handcuffed lefties on his way to a 2.72 FIP.

Rasmus, on the other hand, defied expectations and struggled to a .173/.201/.316 triple-slash line after joining the Blue Jays. He ended the season with a .302 wOBA, which ranked second-worst in all of baseball — second to only Alex Rios — and was largely dragged down by his putrid, post-trade .225 wOBA.

Just over two months of performance does not define a trade, though. Rasmus potentially has at least three years remaining with the Blue Jays, and the Cardinals lost Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel to free agency, leaving them with only a situational lefty to show for their former top prospect.

In addition, Toronto should expect Rasmus to enjoy a bounceback season in 2012. Although he was certainly dreadful after being acquired in late July, the center fielder fell victim to a .217 BABIP in his 35 games with the Blue Jays. His 10.9% line-drive percentage and 20% infield fly-ball percentage should caution us from believing his BABIP should automatically normalize back to .300 in 2012, but logic suggests that he will return to his career .298 BABIP and career 18.5% line-drive percentage.

It is possible that a transition to the AL East really treated Rasmus poorly. Perhaps he will continue to swing-and-miss more often than he had earlier in his career, and perhaps he will continue to chase more pitches outside the strike zone. It is far more likely, however, that his first two months in Toronto were simply a blip on the radar screen and will normalize next season.

Blue Jays fans likely feel a bit cheated after digesting much of the post-trade hype surrounding Rasmus. They should feel some vindication, though, after he bounces back closer to the 2010 version of Colby Rasmus, rather than the 2011 version that wasn’t even worth a single win throughout the entire year.

We hoped you liked reading Re-Evaluating the Rasmus Trade by J.P. Breen!

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

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whonichol
Member
whonichol

The Blue Jays should sign him to a long term contract right this very minute. There probably won’t ever be a better time.

Pat
Guest
Pat

Alex Rios part 2, no thanks. He is far from a sure thing.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu

Alex Rios signed his extension coming off an .852 OPS season in 2007 and a .865 OPS in 2006. Vernon Wells signed his extension coming off an .899 OPS season in 2006, and a combined .837 OPS in 2003-2005. In both those cases, Toronto paid a lot of money to lock them up because they were coming off big seasons and had enough success that they were considered “sure things.”

Whonichol’s point is that Rasmus’ value is lower than its ever been. In other words, they should buy low. If he signed now, it would be for cheap and there wouldn’t be a ton of risk. The problem is that he’d be extremely unlikely to sign an extension right now.

siggian
Guest
siggian

No, I’d wait unless you get very favourable terms. The thing is that the Jays have his potential replacement in Anthony Gose, who may only be a season away. There’s a sportsnet.ca article that mentions that Gose was deliberately instructed to swing hard in two strike counts to ensure that his new batting stroke was set. For 2012, he will be allowed to make more defensive swings in these situations.

So, I’d wait until at least mid-season to see how Gose and Rasmus are doing. If both are doing well, Rasmus becomes a very valuable offering as part of a trade. If Gose struggles, Rasmus will continue with the Jays indefinitely. If Rasmus struggles continue, then he probably isn’t part of the solution anyway and you wouldn’t want to commit yourself to him with a long contract.

Brian
Guest
Brian

It would be best to sign Rasmus to a contract extension now, as opposed to later, when he has a bounce back season. Ideally, the contract would come cheap.

Not a bad idea.