clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Would the Cardinals entertain the thought of bringing back Colby Rasmus?

New, comments

Perhaps the better question is: Would Colby Rasmus would consider coming back to the Cardinals? I think both sides have good reasons to let bygones be bygones.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

It's hard to imagine: Colby Rasmus running out on the field wearing the Birds on the Bat once again on opening day of the 2015 season. The one time gleaming top prospect in a farm system full of chaff, Rasmus hasn't ever become the player that most of us thought he would be in the big leagues.

The Cardinals could use Rasmus' left handed punch in their lineup.

Colby Rasmus has a career .192 ISO and is coming off back-to-back seasons of .225 and .223 ISO, respectively.  Even playing his home games in the launching pad that is the Jays home ball park, that's some impressive power in this run scoring environment.  In roughly 800 PA's over the last two seasons Colby Rasmus hit 40 home runs in that span.  Would that number drop in St. Louis?  Probably, given that Busch III had a 96 park factor for left handed home runs the last three seasons while the Rogers Centre sits at a lofty 106 over the same span.

Steamer projects Rasmus as a .185 ISO player in 2014, which is higher than the projected ISO of any Cardinal player heading into next season.

Among players with 700 or more PA's in the last two seasons, Rasmus ranks 16th in ISO in all of baseball, and the players listed above him on that list are not exactly the type of guys that one could just pluck from the free agent market on a one year deal. Speaking of which:

Colby Rasmus doesn't appear to have many suitors on the free agent market.

The two teams rumored to have the most interest in Rasmus are the Orioles and the Rays -- both of whom would seem to have more room to accommodate regular playing time for Rasmus should he sign with either. The Orioles currently have some significant questions regarding their corner outfield situation given that they look to be giving 600-900 PA's to either David Lough or Alejandro De Aza, with Steve Pearce filling the opposite corner.  That's....not good. Despite this, other than having Buck Showalter meet with Rasmus, the Orioles haven't made much of any progress in signing him.

Hot take: If there's one manager in baseball I can see Colby Rasmus having a personality conflict with, it's probably Buck Showalter (well, now that Lou Piniella and Tony LaRussa are retired from managing that is).  The Orioles have also floated Ichiro Suzuki as a possibility for rounding out their corner outfield. He would seem to fit Showalter's clubhouse better than Rasmus would, but looks to be nearly washed up as a ballplayer given his 2014.

The Rays case is more interesting to me: After the weekend deal that shipped Ben Zobrist to Oakland, the Rays have a OF/DH rotation of David DeJesus, Steven Souza (who likely is the DH most of the time), Desmond Jennings, and Kevin Kiermeier.  Of that quartet, Jennings is probably the only one who should be caught standing near center field, so adding Rasmus to that rotation makes a lot of sense both defensively and offensively, due to his aforementioned power from the left side, which Tampa currently lacks even more than the Cardinals do.

So what's the cost?  Jon Morosi has predicted Rasmus' market in the $5M - $8M dollar range for a single season.  I gather that what might be holding up the market for Rasmus is that he's looking for a multi-year deal and leveraging the two interested teams against each other to try and obtain one.

I don't see either of those teams budging on their offers, given their track records with one year deals for risky veteran free agents.  Which might make him somewhat of a bargain if Rasmus can be an average player defensively...

Rasmus' defense is likely underrated due to how he was positioned last year.

Mike Petriello put together this excellent piece on Rasmus' fall from grace defensively in 2014, concluding that a big reason for Colby's fall off defensively was due to a lack of out-of-zone plays and that it's entirely possible that the reason for that was due to the Blue Jays employing more defensive shifts in 2014 than they did in 2013, which may have hurt Colby's preferred method of playing a shallow CF (5th shallowest in baseball in 2013) when Rasmus' defensive metrics looked much better:

We now know Rasmus has had an issue with playing too shallow more than once, but the next obvious question is, "Did he do that more than he did in 2013?" I’ve been unable to find a solid answer. Complicating the issue is the Jays’ defensive strategy changed considerably over the past two years. In 2013, according to Jeff Zimmerman at The Hardball Times, the Jays ranked 15th in number of shifts. In 2014, they were second, shifting hundreds of times more than they had just one year before, which was clearly a team priority, as indicated in this June article by John Lott at the National Post. There are many reasons why Rasmus may have looked so poor in the outfield, and not all of them may have had to do with him. (His Speed score, for what it’s worth, was much better in 2014.)

Regress his defense to league average, and he's a 2 fWAR player.  That's solid for $8M bucks, and if he somehow repeats 2013 offensively, you've got a player that you can safely give a qualifying offer to at the end of 2015.  The comp pick alone is worth $8M or so, and you'd be getting a 400-500 PA's of 4 fWAR play as part of the deal if everything goes right.

Why 400-500 PA's?  Well, because you probably still have Randal Grichuk in this situation, with one or both of Bourjos and Jay getting moved to solidify the rotation with either David Price or Cole Hamels.  Turns out that when you look at splits, Rasmus is the perfect platoon partner for Randal Grichuk.

  • In 464 minor league PA's against left handed pitchers, Randal Grichuk has hit .314/.356/.598 with a .284 ISO. Last year in Memphis?  .325/.376/.724 in 133 PA's with a .799 ISO.  So...Randal Grichuk can hit left handed pitching, folks.
  • In 2238 PA's in MLB, Rasmus has a career .257/.323/.465 line against right handed pitchers with a .208 ISO.  93 of his 116 career homers have come against righties.
So what would a Grichuk/Rasmus platoon look like manning the Cardinal CF?

Steamer projects Rasmus for 474 PA's in 2015, which is a good approximation of a player with a full time platoon against right handed pitching.  Steamer projects .233/.300/.417 with a .185 ISO and 18 home runs in those PA's. Grichuk is projected to get 258 PA's in 2015 and hit .233/.274/.394 with a .161 ISO and 8 homers.

Combined, that's a .243/.291/.424 batting line with 26 homers and a .311 wOBA (by the quick and dirty method of (1.75 * OBP + SLG) / 3).  Assuming average defense, that's a 2.5 fWAR player in CF, which is around what a Jay/Bourjos platoon would expect to put up over as similar number of PA's in 2015.

The difference, of course, is that a Rasmus/Grichuk platoon has the 5-6 fWAR upside that the Jay/Bourjos platoon likely doesn't have.  Assuming that the latter two can be traded to improve the club around the fringes or for a 4+ fWAR starting pitcher like Price, it's easy to see how a high risk, high reward Rasmus signing makes sense.