Red to Blue: Rasmus is Changing Birds

Today, the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Edwin Jackson. They then flipped him to St. Louis for Tony La Russa’s least favorite player, Colby Rasmus. I’ll be writing more about what the Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos’ moves for The Outside Corner, but for now, let’s just take a look at the impact of this move for Rasmus and new Cardinals’ starter, Edwin Jackson.

Ever wanted to chant, “Free Colby Rasmus!” in public? Well, no need for that anymore. In 2009, Baseball America ranked Rasmus as the third best prospect in baseball. Before this season, Kevin Goldstien of Baseball Prospectus listed Rasmus as the Cardinals best 25-and-under talent. Clearly, Rasmus is not lacking on talent or projectability.

Rasmus only turns 25 this August and last season posted 4.3 fWAR with a .366 wOBA. This season had been a bit of a struggle, but when you take into account the Rasmus/La Russa relationship, one can imagine that there are outside factors in play that might be affecting his overall performance. Tony La Russa has never been the best manager when it comes to trusting young players and Rasmus’s “confident” attitude certainly helped accelerate his journey to the doghouse. When the Blue Jays acquired Yunel Escobar last season from the Braves, Escobar was coming from a similar situation. We see how that’s working out for the Jays.

If we’re looking at the numbers, Rasmus has made a major improvement this season dropping in his strikeout rate from 28 percent in 2010 to about 20 percent currently. That improvement in strikeout rate pairs well with a steady walk rate that is well above league average. Even though Rasmus is not hitting home runs at the same pace he did a year ago, he’s still on pace to hit 20-plus doubles and has already set a career high with six triples. His power potential is still quite high.

The bottom line is that Rasmus is a player who still has time to improve, he may never hit .300 due to his fly-ball tendencies, but that fact may actually help his power game in Toronto. While there may be a bit of an adjustment period moving from the NL to AL, this trade just did wonders for Rasmus’s keeper value.

This move may spell the end for Rajai Davis, who holds a .238 AVG and even worse .267 OBP and clearly doesn’t fit into their future plans. Whether he stays or one of Thames/Snider go to triple-A is yet to be seen, but Rasmus should play everyday.

Heading to St. Louis is this deal is Edwin Jackson, who is only 40 percent owned in Yahoo leagues. Moving from the AL to the NL increases his value right away and his numbers suggest he was pitching better than his 3.92 ERA.

Jackson has posted about seven strikeouts per nine innings and just under three walks per nine this season, while limiting home run damage. His ground ball rate has increased over the last year-and-a-half and Cardinal’s pitching coach Dave Duncan may be able to take that a step further in the season’s final two months.

Given his good peripherals and move to the NL, I believe that Jackson can put up an ERA in the 3.65-3.75 range with the Cardinals, with upside for even better numbers than that.