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The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #8: The Rasmus trade or the title trade?

Colby Rasmus headed into his third season with the St. Louis Cardinals holding down a full-time job in centerfield but also still carrying the expectations that came with being a former first-round draft pick and a three-time organizational Minor League Player of the Year. He also had supposedly put past skirmishes with manager Tony La Russa behind him.

As 2011 unfolded, Rasmus’ highs seemed higher but his lows also appeared to be lower and more prolonged. For example, in the early going, the then-24-year-old endured a 116 at-bat streak without a long ball. The left-handed hitter batted .253 in May, fell to .213 in June and was .147 (5-for-34) in July when La Russa unloaded on the 10th.

The frustrated manager made it clear in an interview on KMOX Radio that his hitting coaches should not be held responsible for Rasmus’ troubles at the plate, suggesting the player’s outside assistance should be accountable. One of the final shots had been fired in a stormy relationship that began with Rasmus being taken 28th overall in the 2005 draft.

Rasmus’ inconsistency also led to highs. He often flashed evidence of his talent, almost up until the end of his time with St. Louis. For example, Rasmus drove in six runs with a grand slam and a triple against the Giants on July 2. It tied for the third-best RBI game in the entire National League in 2011.

Over the previous three weeks, the centerfielder had a five-walk contest and another outing in which he had four hits, including a pair of triples. Yet in a perfect illustration of the overall slide, during the same time, Rasmus went hitless in 12 of 16 games as his batting average dropped more than 30 points.

He also seemed to have problems defensively, appearing tentative when running down or judging balls that were near the wall. His throwing was inconsistent at best, leading to calls from some for more playing time for Jon Jay.

On July 27, the Cardinals made a bold move, sending Rasmus to Toronto in an eight-player trade in which St. Louis was widely criticized by baseball observers. Many felt the Blue Jays scored a major coup, landing a blue-chip talent for spare parts.

The deal brought the Cardinals three pitchers, starter Edwin Jackson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, plus outfielder Corey Patterson along with cash. Along with Rasmus, relievers Brian Tallet and Trever Miller plus pitcher P.J. Walters headed north.

Most of those ‘parts’ seemed to be just what the Cardinals engine needed. The move helped shore up the Cardinals’ rotation and bullpen with the additional benefit of moving out a player who could apparently not coexist with La Russa. Some might argue as to which were the primary and secondary motivations of the trade.

The deal certainly proved to be a good move for St. Louis in the short term, as all three acquired pitchers contributed to St. Louis’ final-month playoff push and eventual World Championship.

Jackson moved into the rotation and pitched well in place of struggling Kyle McClellan, who had gone winless for more than two months. Rzepczynski took over as the primary bullpen lefty, a role he is expected to reprise in 2012. Dotel became a valuable set up man. Though Patterson was a bust, rookie Adron Chambers proved ready to step into the void.

Rasmus did not immediately improve his hitting after the trade. None of the three pitchers received by the Jays were still employed by their new organization by the end of the year, leaving the outfielder as Toronto’s remaining take from the deal.

On the other side, of the four then-new Cardinals, only Rzepczynski is still with St. Louis, the others becoming free agents. La Russa retired after the World Series. There are future considerations from the trade, as well. The Cards will receive a compensatory draft pick once Jackson signs elsewhere for 2012. They also picked up a draft choice for the loss of Dotel, who will pitch for Detroit next season.

Most importantly, flags fly forever. Many believe this trade was a key turning point in the eventual World Champions’ march to the top.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

How do you view the Rasmus trade now?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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13 Responses to “The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #8: The Rasmus trade or the title trade?”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Ughn. I knew this story was coming.

  2. Kansasbirdman says:

    Mixed emotions. If we hadn’t won I would only have one emotion, utter disappointment.

  3. T8Ball says:

    “It will prove to be a bad move long term.”

    I don’t get that, no matter how you cut it, I don’t get it. I guess I’m spoiled because the Cards put a contender year in and year out (barring injuries or exodus of starting pitching for FA following a WS, ie: 2007). We aren’t a perennial bottom feeding team that can host a slew of pet projects. It’s “produce or get traded/cut”. Even if we didn’t win it all last season the parts we got back from the Rasmus trade produced immediately, save CP. It was the guys already on the team that weren’t producing.

    Also, you can’t use “long term” on the deal ever b/c it was made for the short term and only the short term. Plus, can you guarantee that Colby or any other player with a problem with TLR would immediately start producing once TLR is gone.

    We went all in, and won, and even if we didn’t win it all, our team this coming season sits in a nice spot for contending yet again.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      I like your attitude T8…………….. you are starting to get at some of the issues……… you really can’t evaluate this issue without understanding the many variables that comprise it ……….

  4. blingboy says:

    Taking your chances on the future is a fair price to pay for winning the WS now.

    I’d be kinda surprised if Colby turns into a premium player. Those kind of guys handle their environment, it doesn’t handle them. I wish him well though.

    Going forward, the two supplemental round picks are a big plus.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Its important to have guys on your team who want to be here. Lance Berkman asked NOT to be traded during 2011 and re-signed for 2012. In contrast, Rasmus did not want to play AAA, then he asked to be traded during 2010. He did not have enough fun. Anyone who does not find it fun or a privilege playing for the Cards can seek fun in another uniform. DeWitt has to pay these guys millions. DeWitt probably does not like paying them oodles to be whiny or unhappy.

  5. blingboy says:

    Here is a link to the “Term Sheet”, describing in legalese what any new Mets investors get for their investment. It is kind of interesting how the whole new investor thing is structured.

  6. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    The Dodgers sought bankruptcy protection in June after baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a new TV deal with Fox that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was counting on to keep the franchise solvent. The Dodgers ultimately reached an agreement with the league that calls for a sale of both the team and the media rights. The team must be sold by April 30.

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