That’s a (Trade Deadline) wrap
It was an active stay here in San Diego for general manager John Mozeliak, who retooled his rotation with the additions of Justin Masterson and John Lackey. The latter move created sizeable ripples in the Cardinals’ clubhouse this morning, not because of who the Cardinals got but because of who (Allen Craig, Joe Kelly) they had to give up to get him. This isn’t a team used to seeing core pieces dealt from the Major League club during a push for a division title. But in the Cardinals’ attempts to keep their prospects and get better, it was necessary. This is a business first, and to those who may have forgotten that part of it, today was a sharp reminder.
First, let me pass along links to all the Trade Deadline coverage, which will give you reaction, commentary and answers. Then I’ll tack on some final thoughts below regarding the Cardinals’ activity.
- The Cardinals landed a front-end starter in acquiring John Lackey from the Red Sox on Thursday. (story)
- Players, staff hit hard by the departures of Craig and Kelly, both popular teammates and drafted-and-developed Cardinals. (story)
- With Craig no longer in the picture, Oscar Taveras is in line to be the team’s everyday right fielder. (story)
- Lackey and Masterson are expected in St. Louis on Friday, at which time the Cardinals will finalize a rotation order. (story)
- And don’t forget about Masterson, whose acquisition a day earlier helped pave the way for Thursday’s deal. (story)
Some additional thoughts…
- It was a crazy day across baseball, with 12 trades made involving 18 teams and 37 players. That does not mean, though, that everything being reported along the way was accurate. The Cardinals were not seriously in on David Price and never in on Jon Lester. Lester was not seen as the right fit, while the price wasn’t right for the Rays ace.
- We won’t know for some time whether the Cardinals will “win” or “lose” this Lackey trade. In the immediate, Lackey represents a rotation upgrade over Kelly. Yes, Kelly would be under team control through 2018, but the Cardinals get Lackey for another year after this one and at the Minor League minimum (around $500,000). Lackey, though aging, has been a durable innings-eater for some time and is still performing as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Don’t discount his extensive postseason experience, too. If you take an isolated view, the rotation is clearly better with him in it for the next two seasons. And with a pipeline of young pitching, the Cardinals should be just fine once Lackey’s time in St. Louis is up.
- What may go on to define this deal is Craig. The Cardinals thought Craig would be a core piece of this organization for years, which is why they locked him down with a multi-year extension in March 2013. This season, though, has been perplexing for all involved. Craig has been lost at the plate for most of four months and the mechanics of his swing are clearly off. Perhaps he finds it in Boston, where he’ll work with a new set of coaches and under a different set of circumstances. If he does, he could leave the Cardinals with some buyers remorse down the road. I’m guessing, though, that the Cardinals were concerned Craig would never find his way back, and this was an opportunity to flip him for a valuable piece and part with the rest of his guaranteed contract.
- After 107 games, it has become clear that the Cardinals’ offense is going to present a day-to-day struggle. Mozeliak isn’t blind to that. What is he doing, though, is wagering the season on his starting pitchers. By deepening the rotation, the Cardinals hope to ride their pitching deep into October. And a Wainwright-Lackey-Lynn-Masterson-Miller sequence (with Michael Wacha potentially ready to push one of those five out in September) does look quite impressive on paper.
- It was impossible not to be struck by the mood in the clubhouse this morning. Players (including the two traded) found out about the deal while watching TV. It certainly wasn’t the ideal form of communication, but word leaked before the deal was official and so it played out that way. It’s not unusual for this to happen, either. Actually, it’s pretty commonplace these days with social media and 24-7 newscasts. The shock in the clubhouse, though, wasn’t so much about how the news was delivered but that it was at all. Neither Craig, nor Kelly, were at all prepared to be moved because they hadn’t heard their names in the rumor mill. The disbelief was evident in both, and it was clearly hard for everyone to say goodbye. Several players couldn’t get them without tears.
- Thursday wasn’t just about what the Cardinals did, but about what their NL Central competitors didn’t do. The Reds, waffling between buying and selling, did neither. The Pirates, reported to be pursuing several high-end starters, also didn’t make a deal. The Brewers acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra but no outfield help. The Cardinals should benefit from all that inactivity.
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