The stat guys will wonder how the Cardinals could ever trade Colby Rasmus, who is 24 years old and ranked just behind Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Ryan Braun in OPS+ last year.
I'm wondering if the Cardinals just made the move that puts them in position to win the National League Central.
I'm not convinced, but I do know that the Cardinals had to improve their bullpen if they were going to have any chance to top the Brewers, Reds and even the Pirates in the bunched-up NL Central race. They did that already, and as CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller reports, the Cardinals remain engaged with the Padres in an effort to acquire closer Heath Bell.
By acquiring Edwin Jackson (who the Blue Jays got from the White Sox Wednesday morning), the Cardinals could move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen, where he had so much success last year. They also acquired veteran right-hander Octavio Dotel and young lefty Marc Rzepczynski from the Blue Jays, adding significant depth to a bullpen that is tied for second in the majors in most blown saves.
"Dotel is pitching good," said one scout who watched him in the last week. "He's not what he once was, but his velocity is up, and his slider is sharper."
According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals tried to obtain James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson in exchange for Rasmus, but the Rays held tight to their decision not to move either one. Strauss reported that the Cardinals turned down a package of Jeff Niemann and J.P. Howell, before settling on the Jackson-plus-bullpen-help package from the Blue Jays.
For Toronto, the Rasmus trade is another example of buying low on a top talent, much as the Jays did last year when they sent Alex Gonzalez to the Braves for Yunel Escobar. Escobar was an out-of-favor talent, much as Rasmus is now.
Rasmus feuded each of the past two years with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, and the word around the Cards was that Albert Pujols wasn't fond of him, either. As talented as Rasmus is, it was starting to appear that things would never work out for him in St. Louis, much as it appeared things wouldn't work out for Escobar in Atlanta.
Jackson is headed for free agency at the end of the year, and Dotel is 37 years old, so it's not as if the Cardinals were dealing with the future in mind. But with a team that is built to win now, and with Pujols in the final year of his contract, the Cardinals are understandably focused much more on 2011 than on 2012 and the future.