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In 2006 the Cardinals pressed toward the playoffs, forcing the issue with a mediocre club in hopes that a place in the final eight might turn into something more. For their effort they were rewarded with the franchise’s 10th World Series title.
Five years later St. Louis has revived that all-in approach, sensing that their middling team can win another weak division and perhaps pilfer another ring. The Red Birds picked up RHP Edwin Jackson to fortify a struggling starting rotation and added SS Rafael Furcal to an already potent line-up.
I wonder, though, if the cost was too high. The Cardinals dealt the troublesome yet talented Colby Rasmus in order to land Jackson, a move that could prove disastrous if Rasmus fulfills his potential. This trade reminds me of the deal Atlanta made last year sending Yunel Escobar to those same Blue Jays for Alex Gonzalez. In both cases the deals were driven more by personality than performance, made in deference to obstinate older managers who clearly did not want to deal with their petulant young starlets (first Bobby Cox and now Tony LaRussa).
As a result, St. Louis lost an outfielder who is one of just 13 players in the past five years to post an OPS over .850 while under age 23. The others? Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Joe Mauer, Grady Sizemore, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, BJ Upton, Prince Fielder, Evan Longoria, Billy Butler, Justin Upton, and Pablo Sandoval.
If he continues to grow Rasmus could become one of the games premier centerfielders at a position that lacks talent, posting OPS numbers north of .900.
Or to put it another way, the Cardinals better hope 2011 pans out.
Grade: C -