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Breaking News: Cardinals deal Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Boston for John Lackey

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So much for being done on the trade market, and so much for Joe Kelly learning how to be Justin Masterson in August and September.

I'm putting this here just to screw with a certain someone in the community.  I won't say who.
I'm putting this here just to screw with a certain someone in the community. I won't say who.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

***UPDATE***

Cardinals also receive minor league left hander Corey Littrell and $1.7M in cash in the Lackey deal. Littrell is a 22 year old college lefty drafted in the 5th round by Boston in 2013 out of Kentucky.  You can find full scouting reports here and here.  Seems like a lefty with some polish and pitchability, with four averagish pitches and a low-90's fastball.  Very Tim Cooney-esque I would say.

The cash zeroes out the difference between Allen Craig and John Lackey for the rest of 2014 and also is enough to cover the salaries of both Daniel Descalso and A.J. Pierzynski for the whole of 2014.

I really hope Mo put in a dig at Cherington about paying for A.J. twice in the same season.

Also, lifted from a comment from Aaron Finkel:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Source: Lackey has told <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/STLCards?src=hash">#STLCards</a> he plans to honor his club option. No extension at this time.</p>&mdash; Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) <a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/statuses/494904965761355776">July 31, 2014</a></blockquote>

<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That's really good news: A 3+ fWAR starter for $500,000 in 2015?  Yes please.

**********

So Peter Gammons is having quite a resurgence the last couple of days after Red Baron gave him a shoutout in his VEB Daily post Wednesday morning.  First on the scene again today, breaking the news that John Lackey was headed to St. Louis:

When I saw the tweet, I had much the same reaction as this:

I, too, was certain that he meant Carson Kelly, the 20 year old in A ball who moved behind the plate last offseason.  "Seems like fair value", I think to myself, "and Mozeliak is finally forcing Matheny's hand by trading Pena so he has to play Hatteberg at first base Craig so that Taveras becomes the everyday right fielder."

Then I see this, right below it:

What the hell? We gave up TWO major league players for John Lackey?  That seems a little bit steep, even considering that Lackey is owed just $500,000 to pitch next year.

So what did we get for those two guys?

A very good pitcher, for one thing, and a guy who's got a ton of big game experience in the postseason.

Currently sporting a 3.56 FIP for the 2014 season, Lackey's been worth right around 2.5 fWAR in 21 starts, pitching 137 innings while striking out just over 20% of the batters he's faced to just 5.6% getting a free pass.  His rate stats in both 2013 and 2014, post-Tommy John surgery, are nearly identical to his prime years with the Angels, when he was the ace of a perennial contender that won the World Series in 2002, Lackey's rookie season.

He'll fit into a Cardinals rotation that, in two days, went from one of the youngest in baseball to one featuring a significant amount of experience and "veteran-ness".  My projected rotation looks something like this:

  1. Adam Wainwright
  2. John Lackey
  3. Lance Lynn
  4. Justin Masterson
  5. Shelby Miller

I guess if the point was to force the Dodgers into making some sort of terrible trade for Cole Hamels this might actually do the trick. The fact that Miller still inhabits the rotation is a concern, even if he's minimized a bit by skipping him when a 5th man isn't needed, but the rest of the rotation is made up of an ace and a trio of pitchers with #2 starter or even ace level production at certain points of their careers.  Hard to argue that this hasn't made the current team better.

Thing is, the club might need these guys to pitch shutouts every time out since they are 14th out of 15 teams in the NL in runs scored and have let the Padres creep a lot closer over the last couple of games.

The offense is still a concern even without having to complain about how bad Allen Craig has been this season, and there were basically zero impact bats even discussed on the trade market the last few days -- it's been all pitching, all the time.

This move will force Mike Matheny to play Oscar Taveras every day for the rest of the year most likely (although the possibility of a Holliday - Bourjos - Jay outfield is still disturbingly in the cupboard and ready for the table at a moment's notice) and hopefully that's enough to get his bat going in the right direction. Sometimes your hand needs to be forced, and Mozeliak has certainly done that.

Contractually, this works out pretty well for the Cardinals.  Lackey is owed just that measly $500,000 option next year, but speculation exists that he stands to either hold out for more money or retire, so he could well end up on the books for more than that. With the savings from Craig's contract, this actually has the possibility of saving money for the Cardinals, depending on what Lackey's 2015 salary ends up being.  Either way, the Cardinals are in a pretty good negotiating position with the 35 year old heading into the offseason.

The price seems steep.  Especially if you weren't yet ready to quit on Allen Craig (I've lost a bit of faith here) or you're bullish on Joe Kelly (I'm in this camp). But the fact is that we just got two potential top-of-the-rotation starters in the last two days and didn't give up any of the top 8 to 10 prospects (depending on who you ask) in the organization.

I'd call that a win.  What say you?