The earth didn’t shatter today when The Cardinals traded Springfield prospect James Ramsey to the Cleveland Indians for righthanded pitcher Justin Masterson. However, when examined closely, the deal is one to appreciate and for several reasons. Let’s roll down five of those real quick.
John Mozeliak wasn’t going to leverage the farm for a rental pitcher and he wasn’t going to hand over the keys to his team for a guy like David Price or Cole Hamels. That’s not how Mo operates. Finding a guy like Justin Masterson is how he rolls. Masterson will cost the Cardinals 3 million for two months but he didn’t cost the Cardinals much in return. Ramsey was a good prospect and a great kid but where was he going to find solid playing time on this Cardinal team. 2017? The juice was worth the squeeze. Masterson has had a rough 2014 campaign and will be making his first start on Saturday against the Brewers since July 7th after spending time on the disabled list with right knee inflammation. He has a lot to prove and will be pitching for a contract. Mozeliak gave him a second life in St. Louis.
2. Masterson Eats Innings Like Matt Carpenter eats pitch counts
Here are the last three years for Masterson in the innings department. 216 in 2011. 206.1 in 2012. 193 in 2013. Masterson isn’t a top of the rotation guy and isn’t being brought here to save the world or the rotation. He is coming here to eat up the innings that younger arms like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez cannot. At least, at the moment they can not. It would be great if Martinez’s future worth could account for more innings now but it doesn’t work that way. A pitcher is only as good as what he can promise at the moment. Masterson’s season hasn’t been swell but Mozeliak wouldn’t have signed off on the deal if he wasn’t sure Masterson’s knee was ailing. Masterson will give the Cards back end of the rotation a fine bump until Michael Wacha returns. When that happens, here is your rotation.
3. Masterson Will Find Benefit in Busch Stadium
He doesn’t allow many home runs. He gets a ton of double play grounders and Masterson can also strike out batters in the double digits. All of that will improve with his move to an NL park and one that allows the 2nd fewest home runs in the Major Leagues in Busch.
4. Pitching For a Good Team Will Help
Players always find a bump in the right direction with a better team. The Indians have lost 7 of their last 10 and sit in third place in the American League Central. They are 6.5 games out of first place. The Cards are 1.5 games behind first place Milwaukee and Masterson gets an easy chance to change that stance on Saturday. Here, he will be pitching for a chance to win the World Series and will be a factor down the stretch. A lot better than sinking away in Cleveland. Masterson will find benefit in brighter surroundings.
5. The Cards Didn’t Give Up A Starting Pitcher In The Deal
It wouldn’t have helped the Cards to give up a starting pitcher in this deal because it would put a strain on the rotation heading into a stretch run. Guess what? They didn’t give up a starter at all and didn’t have to touch Memphis either. Ramsey may have reached Memphis in 2015 but had no clear path to the big leagues in St. Louis. Without giving up starting pitching, the Cards are now primed to make another move for a bat. The addition of Masterson just adds to the starting pitching depth while setting up future deals. This was a low risk move by Mozeliak. Appreciate the fact that he keeps finding ways to improve the organization without giving up much in return.
The rose isn’t without its thorns here. Masterson isn’t perfect. He walks too many. He has been hit hard in 2014. He wasn’t great in 2012 in a lot of areas. His WAR of 3.6 in 2011 and 3.4 in 2013 are nice but his WAR in 2012 was 0.0 and its -0.6 this season.
There is always risk in trades. You could be giving up something good for something potentially useless. That’s the product of doing business in baseball.
My quick take on Masterson is that he can provide the Cards innings and a stability in the back of the rotation that hasn’t been there the past two months.
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