MLB Trades: Answering Criticisms of the Colby Rasmus Trade for Blue Jays Fans
By and large, reaction to the acquisition of Colby Rasmus from the St. Louis Cardinals has been overwhelmingly positive from fans and media alike. However there are some fans, both Blue Jays and Cardinals, that have questioned aspects of the trade.
When there is a large amount of players changing hands, it is perhaps understandable that some fans will be sceptical. In the case of this trade, there are plenty of reasons for Blue Jays fans to be happy.
These are five criticisms of the Rasmus trade I've read in last couple of days and why Blue Jays fans should not be concerned.
1. Rasmus Is Overrated
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Criticism: Rasmus may be highly rated, but if you look at his numbers, he has yet to produce at the major league level. His career batting average is an unimpressive .259, his career high in home runs is 23 and last season he struck out 148 times.
Response: First off, Rasmus is just 24 years old and has been playing just two and a half years. He has a lot of time to develop his power numbers as he gains more experience. His numbers are actually quite good so far. His on-base percentage last year was an impressive .361, while his OPS of .859 and WAR of 4.3 show he had a very good 2010.
He has struggled this year, but his OPS is still a respectable .753. Factor in the off-field issues he’s had, and the numbers aren't really that bad.
The Blue Jays are taking a risk by trading for him but considering his potential—he is a five-tool player who was considered one of the best prospects in baseball when he first reached the majors—it is a risk worth taking, especially considering they gave up relatively little for him.
2. Rasmus Has an Attitude Problem
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Criticism: For all of Rasmus’ talent, he’s gotten nearly as much attention for run-ins with manager Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols. In an interview, La Russa claimed Rasmus "doesn’t listen" to hitting coaches and he may be listening to "someone else,"—probably his father, who is known for interfering.
Response: It is impossible to judge a player outside of his on-field performance, as we do not see what goes on behind the scenes. In other words, it is Rasmus’ word against La Russa’s.
It may be that La Russa is the problem. He’s known for getting into disputes with his players, most notably Scott Rolen, and all Rasmus may need is a different environment.
He’s not the first player with an attitude problem to come to Toronto recently. Yunel Escobar was supposed to be a problem player when he came from Atlanta, yet this year he’s put up fantastic numbers across the board, and Escobar has seemingly not repeated his reputation as clubhouse cancer.
A more relaxed management style may help Rasmus.
3. Toronto Has Replaced Good Relievers with Vastly Inferior Pitchers
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Criticism: Jason Frasor, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel were the best relievers in the Blue Jays bullpen. Replacing them with Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J Walters will make Toronto even weaker.
Response: Admittedly, the whole trade makes the Blue Jays bullpen weaker, but there are a couple of reasons that make this criticism irrelevant. Firstly, the reason St Louis made the trade was to strengthen their bullpen. Without adding those three pitchers, the deal does not get done.
Looking at the players individually, Frasor and Dotel were probably leaving at the end of year anyway. While Rzepczynski has pitched well, he's far from irreplaceable.
The fact that Toronto only had to trade middle relief is what makes this deal so good. Relief pitching is about the easiest component of a major league roster to replace. In the winter, the Blue Jays can conceivably sign a whole new relief corps for 2012. As for Tallet and Miller, they are throw-ins. The likelihood is that neither will be with Toronto after 2011.
Given the choice between a potential superstar and three solid relievers, I know which I’d choose!
4. Giving Up Zach Stewart Was a Big Mistake
Criticism: Stewart has been one of the best prospects in the Blue Jay farm system for a number of years. He has the potential to be a No. 2 starter and a big part of the future. Giving him up for an outfielder, where Toronto has depth, is a mistake.
Response: Stewart is undoubtedly a talented pitcher, but he is still just a prospect. To get Edwin Jackson and then Rasmus, the Blue Jays had to give up at least one trade chip. It turned out to be Stewart.
Toronto has a number of starting pitching prospects in their farm system at the moment. Some feel that Stewart, despite making three starts this year, has fallen behind the likes of Henderson Alvarez and Deck McGuire.
Stewart seems to have stagnated somewhat. Both his ERA and WHIP have gone up from last year while still pitching at Double-A New Hampshire. At the moment, he looks to be projecting more as a back end of the rotation starter or even a reliever.
Time will tell whether it was a good move or not, but the Blue Jays obviously feel Rasmus has more of an upside than Stewart.
5. Why Take on Mark Teahen’s Contract?
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Criticism: Mark Teahen is making $14 million over three years and has been terrible recently. Why is Toronto taking him and his horrible contract?
Response: You’ll get no argument that Teahen is not remotely worth the money he is earning. Other than a couple of good years at the start of his career in Kansas, his OPS+ is below average. This year, he is putting up an awful .203/.277/.305.
As with Miller and Tallet, the Teahen move is simply a salary dump. The White Sox want to cut payroll, and the Blue Jays have the money to take a year and a bit of Teahen’s deal. As with moving Stewart, this was a necessary move in getting Jackson to send to the Cardinals.
With Brett Lawrie due in the majors any day now, Teahen will be nothing more than a bench player who will be able to give the rookie a day off now and then by playing third.
Toronto do not expect much from Teahen so anything he does produce will be a bonus.