After a busy trading deadline in which the Cards acquired two starting pitchers, now is a good time, with a start under their belts, to analyze the two deals the Cards made.
Ramsey for Masterson: On Wednesday, the Cards dealt AA outfielder James Ramsey, who batted .300 and hit 13 homers for Springfield, to the Indians for Justin Masterson, who posted a whopping 5.51 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 19 starts for Cleveland.
Let’s start with Masterson. He is due to be a free agent after this season, so this trade can certainly be seen as a rental. GM John Mozeliak made this trade in order to bolster the starting rotation and add some depth, but I’m not so sure Masterson is the right guy to do that. Sure, he was an All-Star last year, as he had 14 wins and a 3.45 ERA, but history shows that more often than not he’s an end of the rotation guy at best. Masterson’s ERA was 4.93 in 2012, and, in his career, he has given up 4.18 runs per nine innings. Obviously, those numbers are not good enough to give the Cards a chance to win games as long as their offense continues to struggle, so the Cards are banking on Masterson to pitch like he did last year. While he did nab a victory against the Brewers on Saturday, his start was forgettable as he lasted six innings, but he gave up five earned runs on seven hits and three walks.
As for Ramsey, the Cards had to unload someone from its overcrowded outfield that is full of promising prospects. Oscar Taveras and Matt Holliday are sure to have a stronghold on two outfield positions for awhile, and Randal Grichuk is a more MLB-ready prospect, so it makes sense to get rid of Ramsey. But for an underperforming starter like Masterson? That’s where the debate begins.
The Verdict: I strongly disagree with this trade. The Cards gave up a top-ten prospect in the organization for a short-term rental on a pitcher that has a soaring 5.51 ERA.
Craig and Kelly for Lackey: After I heard about this deal initially, I was extremely angry, but after learning that John Lackey would be under contract next season for a mere $500,000 because of an injury clause in his contract, I saw that this deal made much more sense. To be frank, I am not thrilled about parting with Allen Craig or Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox of all teams. Before this season, Craig had three consecutive .300 seasons at the plate with at least 11 homers, and he was well known for hitting with runners in scoring position. Nonetheless, Craig has had a down year at the plate (.237 BA with seven homers) and has shown no signs of improving this season. Additionally, Craig just turned 30 years old so he isn’t a young prospect by any means, and Mozeliak had to make room for Taveras to play everyday.
With regards to Kelly, the starter had a sizzling season last year with a 2.69 ERA, but he has not been the same this year since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for nearly three months. In four starts, Kelly has allowed 16 earned runs in just 19.2 innings pitched. With that being said, Kelly was a key postseason pitcher for the Cards last season, so losing him is tough to swallow.
Now, let’s talk about Lackey. He notched 12 wins and a 3.60 ERA with Boston this year, and those stats figure to be better in the pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium than in Fenway Park. He’s a veteran starter with a lot of postseason success, as he has three World Series rings and a 3.03 ERA in six postseasons. Finally, Lackey showed his toughness and experience in earning a victory against the Brewers yesterday by allowing just two runs in seven innings.
The Verdict: I like this trade more and more by the day. This is a much better deal than trading the whole farm for David Price, and the trade gives Taveras a chance to play everyday, which paid off this past week as he hit a homer and drove in five runs. If the Cards make the postseason, Lackey will be a quality No. 2 starter behind Adam Wainwright.