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Hard to See the Positives in Shipping Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox

August 1st, 2014 at 8:28 PM
By Christopher L Ballard

In the hours leading up to July 31st’s MLB trade deadline, it was uncertain if the Cardinals would make another move after acquiring Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians. Some thought bringing in a new hitter should be the move, while some thought the Cardinals should go after the big prizes like David Price, Jon Lester or Cole Hammels. The St. Louis Cardinals did neither. Instead, they went after 35 year old right-handed pitcher John Lackey of the Boston Red Sox. In exchange the Cardinals sent outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly to the BoSox.

Through this season, Lackey does have much better numbers than Masterson. Lackey brings a 3.60 ERA to St. Louis compared to Masterson’s horrible 5.51. Lackey also had a good season last year finishing with a 3.52 ERA after having two bad first seasons with the Red Sox. If you go back even further to his days with the Los Angeles Angles, he was solid, successful pitcher.

Lackey will not wow anyone with a high number of strikeouts like Masterson is capable of, but he is effective and doesn’t walk too many hitters. At least if you were to compare the two pitchers’ walks per nine innings ratio, Lackey’s 2.1 easily beats Masterson’s horrendous 5.1.

Another big difference between the two is the team that they were traded away from. Lackey pitched on two very successful and talented teams while Masterson has been with struggling the Indians organization for all but two of his major league seasons. Now both pitchers have been removed from their failing teams this season and are thrown into the thick of the NL Central playoff race.

Even with good numbers for this season, it is still hard to justify trading away Craig, who was signed to a financial-friendly contract and Joe Kelly who is only 26 years old. And then to only get a guy who is 35 years old and has an expiring contract. But there are two sides, negatives and positives of this trade.

The negatives first? Well for starters he is 35 years old to start and most likely won’t be resigned after 2014 or 2015 unless he takes a big pay cut. But the biggest negative is not what the Cardinals received, it’s what they had to give up. Yes Craig is struggling right now, but the Cardinals should make the playoffs and if they do, they need a bat like Craig’s in clutch situations. There might not be anyone else on the team who the Redbirds will want at the plate in tight game, 8th or 9th inning and the tying runner sitting at second base. Craig has been nothing but full of big, clutch hits during his post season experiences with the Cardinals. Then we make our way to Joe Kelly. If fans don’t remember, Kelly was the guy the Cardinals leaned on during the final stretch of last season. He performed admirably and was a big reason why the Redbirds made the postseason. Kelly is only 26 years old and should be the least of a general managers problems when it comes to money and contracts. Kelly is not an expensive arm to have on the roster. The St. Louis Cardinals lost two critical pieces of their ball team.

While two fan favorites were traded away, there are a couple positives to take from this trade. First off, Lackey is very cheap for the 2015 season at only $500,000 due to a special clause in his contract if the Cardinals choose to pick up the option. The biggest positive though is that Oscar Taveras will not have to worry about playing time. At 22 years old and being considered the best hitting prospect in the organization since Albert Pujols, there is some weight on his shoulders no matter what anyone says. Taveras will not have to worry anymore about going 0-4 at the plate and being benched the next day because of it. This now will give Taveras a chance to break out of his slump and help the Cardinals reach the postseason. Whether you like it or not, Taveras will out produce what Craig gave the Cardinals during the 2014 season.

Another positive comes from the fact that there was a log jam in the starting rotation when pitchers are healthy. Some don’t realize that Kevin Siegrist is actually a starting pitcher. With Jaime Garcia always hurt, Siegrist could thrive as the lefty in the starting rotation with Kelly gone. In the minors, Siegrist went 22-11 with a 2.74 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. The Cardinals have yet to use Seigrist in the rotation, but if Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez continue to struggle, he will get his chance eventually. Kevin Siegrist would be the perfect fit in an already good rotation.

There are definitely mixed emotions about this trade from fans, people within the organization and even the players. But the Cardinals made this trade to help a struggling back end of the rotation and to give the highly touted Oscar Taveras more playing time. If Lackey pitches as well as he has for Boston the past season and a half, it should be enough to help the Cardinals get to the postseason. Just getting to the playoffs might not be enough to satisfy Cardinal Nation after giving up two fan favorites and players that still have good years ahead of them. Only time will tell if the Cardinals regret this trade or if it propels them to and through the playoffs.

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Tags: Allen Craig, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, John Lackey, Kevin Siegrist, MLB, NL Central, Oscar Taveras, St. Louis, St. Louis Cardinals, trade deadline

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