Justin Masterson Provides Quality Value for Cardinals' Playoff Run

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t capture headlines across Major League Baseball by acquiring Jon Lester or David Price Wednesday, but they did snag a quality arm for the postseason push in Justin Masterson.

The Cardinals traded minor league outfielder James Ramsey for the right-hander.

Masterson joins a Cardinals staff that is already eighth in the league in team ERA, ninth in team WHIP and seventh in batting average against. St. Louis sits two games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central and is battling with the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves for wild-card positioning.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Masterson’s 2014 numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, and he has battled knee problems throughout the season. He sports a 5.51 ERA, 4-6 record and .279 batting average against on the campaign and has lost some velocity on his fastball and control on his sinker.

However, there is certainly some value in place here for the Cardinals because we have seen what Masterson’s ceiling can ultimately be when he is at his best.

He was an All-Star in 2013 and finished the year with a 3.45 ERA and 14-10 record. He was even better in 2011 when he tallied a 3.21 ERA, and he has anchored Cleveland’s staff for years.

What’s more, Masterson pitched from the bullpen early in his career, so he is versatile enough to help St. Louis if it needs a right-handed arm in the late innings. Individual matchups become even more important as October approaches, and it’s not particularly difficult to envision Masterson coming through for the Cardinals in the clutch in the seventh or eighth inning of a game against a powerful right-handed hitter.

Matt York/Associated Press

Masterson’s value goes beyond his on-field results, though. He is a clubhouse leader and popular among teammates, and there is certainly something to be said for having a presence like that in the locker room as the stress of the postseason chase heats up.

It was apparent how popular Masterson was with the Indians in the game after they traded him, as MLB Fan Cave noted:

Masterson also had the opportunity to comment on the trade, via Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com: “I was surprised it took place, but I understand and see it. It’s bittersweet.”

We are basically looking at a high-ceiling acquisition for the Cardinals who is a former All-Star and can help fill the void left from the Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia injuries in the rotation. As mentioned, he can bolster the bullpen as well.

Matt York/Associated Press

There is not much risk here either from the Cardinals’ perspective because Ramsey was buried under a number of prospects in the St. Louis system and the pitching staff has other quality arms in place if Masterson doesn’t return to previous form. That means the club won’t be absolutely relying on his production, although it would definitely help its postseason chances.

Sometimes low-risk, high-reward is the way to go at the MLB trade deadline. The Cardinals certainly hope so in this case.


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