Despite struggles this season, Justin Masterson was still one of the top pitchers on the market ahead of the MLB trade deadline. Now, the former Cleveland Indians starter has been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, the team announced:
#stlcards have acquired 2013 American League All-Star pitcher Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians. Masterson will start Sat. vs. MIL— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 30, 2014
Peter Gammons initially reported the trade:
The Indians are trading Justin Masterson to the Cardinals— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 30, 2014
Joel Sherman of the New York Post provided more details:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Derrick Goold notes which number Masterson will wear:
Masterson will wear No. 59 for #Cardinals— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) July 30, 2014
Masterson is finally healthy again after suffering a knee injury earlier this season, but he hasn't experienced much success on the mound. An All-Star in 2013, Masterson's ERA has consistently hovered around 5.00 since mid-May, and he hasn't won more than two games in any month.
That's a rough year by any measure, much less following an All-Star campaign.
Following the announcement earlier in July that Masterson would be going on the disabled list, Buster Olney of ESPN offered his thoughts on Masterson's season:
The Indians placed Justin Masterson on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation. Tough year for him, leading up to free agency.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 8, 2014
Former manager Terry Francona had planned on starting Masterson on Friday, but he will have to axe those plans now. Francona shared a conversation with Masterson, per Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com:
He was pretty strong in his opinion that he was ready and that another [minor league start] wouldn't help him. ...
... He said he feels much better about attacking the strike zone. He said there were times he probably threw some pitches he probably wouldn't in a major league game, which is understandable. We just want to make sure he's ready to go, because when he comes back, he's back.
Masterson will indeed be back, just for another franchise. The good part for the Cardinals is that he now has confidence heading into a new situation.
The 29-year-old right-hander has a chance to turn his season around and will get the opportunity to do so for a playoff contender. Cleveland still has a shot to make the postseason, while St. Louis currently sits just outside of a wild-card spot.
Prior to the trade taking place, Jeff Passan of Yahoo explained what the Indians preferred in return:
Sources: Indians very willing to move Justin Masterson. FA to be due back Friday from DL. Looking for young, controllable starting pitching.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2014
Though not a pitcher, James Ramsey is a good return here, as he ranked as the No. 6 Cardinals prospect, per MLB.com. While there was a chance the Indians might have played in October if Masterson returned to form, they added more talent for the future with this move.
With emerging stars such as Francisco Lindor and Clint Frazier in the minors, they already have offensive pieces, while MLB.com highlights Ramsey's defensive skills in the outfield. Though it's risky to trade current talent—struggling or not—for upside, this deal should improve their chances to remain competitive in the future.
With the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals still the powers of the AL Central, this might be a trade that propels the Indians back to the postseason, even if not immediately. As for Masterson, he has a chance to win right away and make a huge impact this season.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.