The July trading frenzy continues to ramp up this week, and the latest move sent outfielder Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays in an 8-player deal. Among others, St. Louis acquires starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who was dealt from Chicago to Toronto just a few hours prior.
Joining Jackson in St. Louis will be two of the more productive members of Toronto's bullpen- righthander Octavio Dotel and lefthander Marc Rzepczynski. Additionally, the Cardinals will add to their outfield depth with 31-year old Corey Patterson.
The centerpiece of the deal is Rasmus, a 24-year outfielder tabbed by Baseball America as the top overall prospect in the St. Louis system prior to the 2009 season. Regarded by scouts as a tremendous talent with emerging power and above-average speed, Rasmus appeared to be a ticketed for a lengthy career in the Busch Stadium outfield. However, internal disputes with St. Louis management put Rasmus on the chopping block. Ever the opportunist, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous jumped at the chance to acquire the mercurial outfielder, who will supplant Rajai Davis in the Blue Jays' starting lineup. Rasmus, who is in the midst of a down year, has posted a .246/.332/.420 triple-slash line with 11 home runs and 40 RBI. He will add additional power to a potent Blue Jay lineup that ranks fourth in major league baseball in home runs. Ramus also represents a long-term solution in center field and will be arbitration eligible for the first time at the end this season.
Due to today's dealings, the Toronto bullpen will have a vastly different makeup, beginning tonight against Baltimore. Joining the Blue Jays from St. Louis is 38-year old lefthanded specialist Trever Miller, who has posted a 4.02 ERA and 9/10 strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio in 15.2 innings this season. Miller has been hampered by injuries, but has held left-handed hitters to a miserly .222 batting average over his lengthy big league career. Toronto also acquired fellow veteran lefthander Brian Tallet, who has struggled through injury to post an 8.31 ERA in 13.0 innings pitched. He spent the previous five seasons in the Blue Jays' organization before signing with St. Louis in the offseason. Neither pitcher is likely to make a significant contribution to the Toronto bullpen, but their inclusion in the deal likely paved the way for Rasmus' arrival at Rogers Centre.
Walters, 26, was selected by the Cardinals in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of South Alabama. He moved quickly upon being drafted, reaching Triple-A Memphis midway through the 2008 season. His career has stalled since then, however, and, prior to today's trade, was pitching in Memphis' rotation for the 4th straight season. This year, he posted a 7-4 record with a 4.27 ERA and 87/42 K/BB ratio in 103.1 innings pitched. In January, Baseball America listed Walters as having the best changeup in the St. Louis system, so the potential to become a bottom-of-the-rotation starter or long reliever in the big leagues still exists.
The other major piece of deal is 27-year old righthander Edwin Jackson, dealt from Chicago to Toronto this morning before being rerouted to St. Louis. Last summer, Jackson tossed a no-hitter as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, not long before he was traded to Chicago on July 30 in exchange for Daniel Hudson. This season, Jackson has provided the White Sox with a valuable innings eater in the middle of the rotation, posting a 7-7 record and 3.92 ERA in 121.2 innings pitched. His 7.2 K/9 ratio will provide an immediate upgrade to the Cardinals rotation, where reliever-turned-starter Kyle McClellan has struggled to build on his early season success. St. Louis plans on moving McClellan back to the bullpen on a full-time basis. Jackson currently projects as a Type B free agent, but at just 27 years old, St. Louis is likely to attempt to sign him to a long-term deal.
Joining Jackson in St. Louis is a pair of capable relivers whose presence could solidify a leaky Cardinal bullpen. Lefthander Marc Rzepczynski, 25, has had a stellar season in the Toronto bullpen, logging 39.2 innings and compiling a 2.97 ERA. He has been particularly devastating against left-handed hitters, posting a miserly .159 batting average. He appears to be a fixture in the St. Louis bullpen for several years and is under team control through the 2015 season. The Cardinals also brought in 38-year old righthander Octavio Dotel, who has experience as both a setup man and closer. He has also pitched in pennant races, playoff series', and the World Series, and will add a veteran presence to a relatively young Cardinal bullpen.
The final player in the trade is 31 year-old outfielder Corey Patterson, who will be joining his eighth team in 11 major league seasons. Patterson will be a key member of the Cardinals' bench, providing the team with a speedy left-handed hitter and capable outfielder. With Jon Jay now assuming a full-time role, St. Louis needed to restock its bench, and Patterson has a lengthy track record of adequate play in the bigs. In a part-time role in Toronto, Patterson accrued a .252/.287/.359 line with six home runs and 33 RBI. He also swiped 13 bases, giving the slow-footed Cardinals a much-needed speed threat.