Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals talented but frustrating center fielder, is slowly but surely playing his way out of the starting lineup. Team GM John Mozeliak has publicly insisted that Rasmus is not available for a trade, but rumors are starting to say otherwise. It might be best for everyone involved if Rasmus left the ‘Lou. Here are the most obvious reasons for a deadline trade.
1. The outfield is a position of strength.
The Cardinals have a ready replacement for Rasmus in Jon Jay. Jay is batting .311 this season and has played steady defense when called into action. He's already seen quite a bit of playing time this year as Matt Holliday (DL) and Lance Berkman (playing first for an injured Albert Pujols) have missed time in the outfield. Jay's production did taper off last year after he became a starter, and his average for the month has dropped down to .291 with his increased playing time, but Jay will have some relief when Allen Craig returns from the disabled list in August.
2. The team must upgrade its pitching to win the Central.
With four teams tightly bunched atop the NL Central, every win is crucial. Bringing in a starter (Edwin Jackson and James Shields are two of the most popular names thrown around) would most likely send Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen and add a stabilizing presence there. A proven closer, such as Heath Bell, would also be a great addition. Ryan Franklin, the opening day closer who is no longer with the team, blew the first save of the season on opening day, and the relievers have blown 17 more since then. Had the team converted even half of those saves, they would have a commanding eight game lead in the Central.
3. Colby’s offense. And defense.
Rasmus started off the season with an impressive April, posting an .867 OPS, but everything has gone downhill. He has managed just eight hits since the beginning of July, and has seen his batting average drop to .244. His defense has also been lackluster. While no one really expected Rasmus to be the second coming of Jim Edmonds, he sometimes looks completely lost in the outfield- misplaying balls that he should be able to read better at this point in his career.
4. The Cardinals need to win now.
Some people will argue that it would be foolish to trade a player who won’t see free agency until 2015 for a half-season rental. But they are forgetting a major thing—this might be an entirely different team next season. Albert Pujols has been very vocal over the years about his expectations for the club to always be in contention. This is his last guaranteed season in St. Louis, and there are no guarantees that Chris Carpenter or Lance Berkman will return, or that Adam Wainwright will be as dominant after Tommy John surgery.
5. The atmosphere in the clubhouse.
It's no secret that Rasmus requested a trade out of St. Louis last year. The trade request was enough to rile up Pujols, who typically keeps his opinions of his teammates to himself. It's always impossible to measure intangibles in a clubhouse, but if a player is deemed to be a cancer, then any wait will just delay an inevitable departure (See Ryan, Brendan). The team also has to be annoyed by Rasmus’s father, Tony, constantly making his presence felt—by tinkering with his son’s swing on the field, or by stirring up rumors on the fan message boards away from it.
The Cardinals must get outside help to return to the playoffs. My vote is to explore a Rasmus trade. It’s better than letting an intriguing player waste away on the bench.