The St. Louis Cardinals made a huge mistake Wednesday, trading center fielder Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays for two pieces of short-term pitching help--starter Edwin Jackson, lately of the White Sox, and reliever Octavio Dotel--and LOOGY Mark Rzepczynski. Jackson, 27 and a free agent after the season, will improve the Cardinals' rotation immediately, replacing overtaxed ex-reliever Kyle McClellan, while Dotel and Rzepczynski will provide significant relief to a bullpen that can't offer much of it. But by trading Rasmus the Cardinals have hamstrung themselves for 2012 and on in exchange for a better chance in a crowded division in 2011.
Rarely does a team looking to stay in contention trade a center fielder who finished last season with an OPS+ of 132, but Tony La Russa's drastic managerial failure with Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay's hot start as third-and-a-half outfielder left him vulnerable to trade rumors all season. With the Blue Jays, who never met a one-dimensional slugger they didn't like, Cardinals watchers will have a chance to see whether Rasmus's development really was impeded by an organizational desire to see him as a speedy line-drive hitter.
The rest of the trade is an odd mix of spare parts--the Blue Jays take struggling LOOGY Trever Miller and gimmick-changeup artist P.J. Walters, while the Cardinals get replacement-level ex-Cubs-prospect Corey Patterson to replace Rasmus on the roster.
The Cardinals may yet recoup some of their losses on the trade by looking at Rzepczynski in the rotation in 2012 or signing Jackson to an affordable extension, but for the moment this trade is mostly a monument to how poorly the Cardinals handled their onetime star of the future.