For those of us who were dumbfounded, at the time, by the Colby Rasmus trade, Marc Rzepczynski was basically the only consolation on offer. He’d struck out a batter an inning (in the DH league!) as a starter, and while the St. Louis Cardinals seemed to have no interest in returning him to the rotation after a half-season as the Blue Jays’ lefty reliever, the very possibility of it was the only long-term benefit the Cardinals stood to gain from the deal.
Turns out, maybe, that we were too optimistic about Rzepczynski and not optimistic enough about Octavio Dotel. Rzepczynski’s struggled to succeed even in relief ever since, and on Tuesday the best the Cardinals could do in trade for their erstwhile Rasmus ballast was Juan Herrera, a 20-year-old shortstop who should make his full-season debut next year.
Let’s Go Tribe, at a glance, doesn’t seem too worried by it, but if he's a real shortstop Herrera is a perfectly fine return for a malfunctioning reliever—good plate discipline, non-zero power, a smooth transition out of the Dominican Summer League. (Here's Future Redbirds' quick take on it.) That said, he’s a more impressive season—and some kind of calling card—removed from appearing on the average Top 20 list. (The Cardinals have a high-contact, low-power, 20-year-old middle infielder of their own, Breyvic Valera, currently manning second in Peoria.)
This is just the nature of relievers—and what makes a career like Randy Choate’s so unusual. If Rzepczynski had been a starter all this time his decline would have played out in the open, in Lance-Lynn-sized rotation-controversy bursts. Instead it was hidden inside increasingly brief, increasingly rare appearances, and perfunctory demotions to Memphis. He could well have something left, but the Cardinals were never going to be in a position to figure that out.