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And I think it's going to be a long, long time—

Brian Barton was a rare combination—part fun-to-watch, quirky hustler, part talented, useful bench cog. It's one that evokes the maximum allowable amount of trade regret, and considering the underwhelming take-home there's one thing you can say about John Mozeliak here: he didn't pull the trigger intending to become more popular, or appease the fanbase.

But now that Barton is gone to better things—he won't dislodge Garret Anderson, but he probably should, and that at least guarantees that he'll see more play on Talking Chop than he did here—we've got Blaine Boyer to worry about.

As a corollary to that old saw about never trading for Braves pitching prospects we can add "why are the Braves trading you this relief pitcher?" One of my roommates is a Braves fan, and when we're in the living room, watching the Cardinals, it seems that every night begins with "This Braves team is gonna be tough!" and ends with a disgusted glance at the box score on his iPhone. It was an occasion when each member of the pen finally recorded an out, thereby assigning himself an ERA other than undefined.

So of course it's a little worrisome when an ostensibly in-contention team trades from a position of serious weakness—I can see, in an alternate universe, John Mozeliak trading Josh Kinney and then letting out a sinister cackle, fingers tented.

Here are some good things about Blaine Boyer:

  • He throws hard. He's got a mid-90s fastball, and he's not afraid to use it. He's a "stuff" reliever, not a deception guy, so presumably his Major League struggles are not the result of Tyler Clippard syndrome.
  • He had a bad second half. A regular Kyle McClellan, he is. Splits time:
First Half 52.2 47 23 18 45 3 3.93
Second Half 19.1 26 24 7 22 7 11.17

Even that first half is less than sterling, but his homer-happiness in 2008 takes on a different look when it all happens at once. Which is good or bad, depending on how convinced you are of his health at this very moment, considering he's got an ERA of 40.50 in 2009. Anyway, that homer happiness is a fine segue—

  • He was extremely homer-stingy in the minors. Since I just finished cursing Gary Daley I don't want to be too optimistic about this—I barely want to say it—but for what it's worth, Blaine Boyer was extraordinarily difficult to take deep in the minor leagues. He allowed just 14 in 565 innings in the minors, mostly as a starting pitcher. The weird thing is that he had a different problem; he walked four batters per nine innings. He cut that walk rate in the majors, but his home run rate exploded; maybe there's some happy medium.
  • Dave Duncan. Here's the crux of the argument, I think, for this trade. The Cardinals have a guy who could make a legitimate claim to the title of best pitching coach ever.
But trading a valuable asset for a guy you think you could fix—I think that's where the line is. This isn't Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, in which Rick Peterson famously claimed he could fix Victor Zambrano in five minutes; Barton was of a uniquely low value to the Cardinals, who had and have a lot of outfield depth on either side of him, and he was expendable in trade. It's important to my understanding of this trade to assume that the Cardinals didn't value Brian Barton enough to really fret over this trade.

But Boyer's a weird, seemingly low-upside, high-risk choice for a team that's looking for ready-made bullpen help right now. The Cardinals have plenty of relievers who should pitch fine in the bigs; if they wanted a new one, they could have called him up. After Wellemeyer's nifty season last year, I'm happy to give Duncan some leeway on another big, hard-throwing salvage case. But when you're trading real value for these guys—well, I hope he's really confident about it.