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Reflecting on the trade deadline deals of the St. Louis Cardinals

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It is time for some early reflection and discussion on the two deadline deals.

I think [we'll] go to Boston...
I think [we'll] go to Boston...
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Wow. As the trade deadline loomed, I had just about convinced myself that the signing of A.J. Pierzynski was going to be the only transaction made by John Mozeliak and the Cardinals. I was wrong in a very big way. As fans of the beautiful game of baseball, what we experienced over the last two days may never happen again in our lifetime. So, what you're saying is, the Cardinals went out and acquired Giancarlo StantonDavid Price? What about Cole Hamels? Nope. None of the above. Instead, the organization acquired two quality starting pitchers while trading away two key major-league contributors to the 2011 World Series title and their then sixth-rated prospect (per MLB.com).

For a team that has been showered with praise for its starting pitching depth, who could have predicted these moves prior to the season? Clearing a future outfield logjam by trading 24-year-old James Ramsey for a low-risk, high-reward Justin Masterson? Okay, that makes sense, but Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for yet another right-handed starting pitcher in John Lackey? Really? When reading Jon Heyman's tweet stating that the Cardinals were sending an "ML ready OF and pitcher" to Boston, this pair never even crossed my mind.

Yet, going into the deadline, the Cardinals had (at least) three glaring needs: starting pitching (due to injuries to Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, Yadier Molina and relative ineffectiveness from Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly), hitting, and right field. Filling three team needs sounds like an extremely tall task for Mozeliak to address at the deadline. Well, on paper, Mozeliak did his best to address the team's needs, and it did not require him breaking too far into the prospect bank. Sure, most complaints will be filed into the "he didn't acquire a bat" category, but given the market, who can really blame him?

Let's take a closer look at those involved...

What can we expect from Justin Masterson?

Aaron Finkel already did a tremendous job covering this topic.

What about John Lackey?

Year

G

GS

IP

LOB%

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

rWAR

2014

21

21

137.1

73.7

20.3

5.6

3.60

3.56

3.35

2.5

1.6

2013

29

29

189.1

76.9

20.7

5.1

3.52

3.86

3.49

3.1

2.8

Fourstick provided his initial thoughts yesterday, and I agree with him on Lackey's value. Given the current state of the rotation, he should be considered the Cardinals #2 starter. Yes, Lance Lynn has been great in 2014, but Lackey has somehow been better. The fact that he has already agreed to honor his league minimum salary for next season makes his acquisition even sweeter. I keep reading about his bad attitude, both on the mound and in the clubhouse, and to be honest, I am not entirely against that. For a team that has looked complacent for much of this season, Lackey (and AJP) can provide some much-needed flavor.

So, what's next for Allen Craig?

This topic will be discussed in full (likely by Ben) at a later date, but I will give some brief thoughts now as well. Over the last two seasons, Craig was absolutely huge for the Cardinals. Though his fWAR hovered in the mid-to-high two's (2012: 2.7, 2013: 2.5), one could argue that he provided even more value to the team than that. His propensity to drive the ball to all fields, but especially to right, quickly made him a fan favorite.

Yet, for whatever reason, his career path drastically changed this season when his bat became lifeless (.237/.291/.386 in 398 PAs). Can this drastic drop in performance be pinned on his foot injury that took place the night of September 4th, 2013, in Cincinnati, Ohio? Given the fact that he has to pass a physical before the trade can become official, I think it is safe to say that we can check this theory off the list.

The writing was on the wall for Craig in St. Louis. His replacement had arrived, and if he wasn't going to get the job done, it was time for him to go. He now has a fresh start in Boston, and I really do believe he will bounce back. Will it be this season? Probably not, but give him a full offseason of rest and rehabilitation, and he'll be back. Will he return to his 2012 and 2013 performance level, though? He's on the wrong side of 30, so this isn't likely, but he doesn't need to get all the way there in order to provide value.

Most people will remember him for this:

But I will always remember him for this:

Or this:

And Joe Kelly?

Losing Kelly stings and I am not talking about baseball value because I truly believe the rotation is much improved after adding Masterson and Lackey. Instead, I'm talking about Kelly as the person and as the teammate. The prankster/deadfish-handshaker/outfield-dancer that happened to be pretty good at pitching is no longer walking through that (clubhouse) door.

Considering he is not arbitration eligible until after next season, Kelly will provide quite the value to the Red Sox. If able to hone in on his command going forward, he will be a very solid back-end of the rotation guy for them. He could have been that for the Cardinals as well, but with the pitching staff brewing down on the farm, the outlook was cloudy on his future with the club. If he does indeed start on Tuesday at Busch Stadium, I can imagine that the Busch Stadium III attendance record will be broken.

In case you missed it, here's the Q&A I had with him prior to this season. Fox Sports Midwest produced a "Best of Joe Kelly" segment as well.

Effect on Oscar Taveras:

Though Mozeliak will not openly admit it (as noted in this wonderful column by Bernie), a big reason why the Lackey trade was so palatable was the opportunity to get Taveras in the lineup every single day, with zero obstructions whatsoever. There is no longer a need to find time for a rare Matt Holliday breather in order to get Oscar in the lineup. There is no longer a need to stretch Oscar's defensive ability by putting him in center over Peter Bourjos or Jon Jay. Instead, he can go to sleep every single night knowing that he will be in the starting lineup the next day. Though he, too, likely won't admit it, that has to provide some relief to the 22-year-old. I look forward to more #OscarBombs in the very near future:

What else?

It would be wise to not completely ignore the inclusion of Corey Littrell in this deal. The 6'3" left-hander will likely start in Palm Beach and after some mechanical refinement, he could be another quick riser through the system. His fastball is high-80's/low-90's, but he was able to touch mid-90's back in high school, so there is a chance that type of velocity is still there. If not, his changeup appears to be a plus (possibly plus-plus) pitch along with a cutter. Fourstick and the rest of the Future Redbirds staff will be keeping us updated on his development.

Some initial reactions from the players:

Concluding thought:

The Cardinals are better today than they were yesterday, and that is all we can ask for from the team's general manager. Will it be enough? We will soon find out.