The St. Louis Cardinals were busy at the MLB trade deadline in 2014, making two trades for two starting pitchers. The Cardinals received Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians for outfield prospect and 2012 first round draft pick, James Ramsey. The following day the Cardinals traded with the Boston Red Sox for John Lackey in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. St. Louis gained two starters that should improve their rotation, but to what extent and for how long? These guys are capable of being good or even great at times, but they are not true aces by any means. They are not anywhere near Cole Hammels, Jon Lester, or the top trade deadline prize, David Price. Shortly after acquiring John Lackey, David Price was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Detroit Tigers. After seeing what Detroit gave up, why didn’t the Cardinals make the move instead?
Price was the biggest prize and most talented player that was on the trade block this season. Detroit gave up two players in a three team deal that landed them the former Cy Young award winner. The Tigers had to give up their starting center fielder, Austin Jackson, and number five starter in their rotation, Drew Smyly. Meanwhile, the Cardinals gave up Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for a 35 year old, number two starting pitcher at best in John Lackey. Lackey was Boston’s number two, but he would be slotted behind Wacha or possibly Lynn with Wacha out.
Looking at the statistics of Jackson and Smyly who were traded for Price compared to Craig’s and Kelly’s, the Cardinals easily could have made a deal for perennial All-Star, David Price.
Austin Jackson- 101 games, .271 avg, 52 runs, 4 home runs, 33 RBI
Allen Craig- 98 games, .237 avg, 34 runs, 7 home runs, 44 RBI
Now the numbers since 2012 for all four players, since this was the year Kelly and Smyly made it to the big leagues. But let’s not throw names out there yet. Just Player A & B and Pitcher A & B.
Player A- .290 avg, 181 runs, 42 home runs, 233 RBI, 103 walks & 267 strikeouts
Player B- .282 avg, 254 runs, 32 home runs, 148 RBI, 155 walks & 350 strikeouts
Pitcher A- 107 games, 36 games started, 42% quality starts, 16-12 record, 3.53 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 280.2 innings pitched
Pitcher B- 68 games, 38 games started, 53% quality starts, 17-14 record, 3.25 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 266 innings pitched
Both players seem pretty even after the comparison, don’t they? Player A has the higher totals in average, home runs, RBI and a substantial less amount of strikeouts over the past three years. While player B isn’t too far behind in batting average and has more runs scored as well as more walks. Player A is Allen Craig and Player B is Austin Jackson. After one bad half of a season, the Cardinals were quick to ship out Craig to make way for the talented Oscar Taveras. Another surprising aspect to these players is that Jackson’s contract is up after this season and Craig was signed to a team friendly extension. Craig has to be the more desired bat with his postseason success, even after a down 2014 season.
Moving on to the pitchers, both have had success during their short time in the major leagues. Pitcher A was used in a lot more games so he has more experience and also has a better WHIP tha Pitcher B. In all other statistics though, Pitcher B had the better totals. Both of these pitchers are viewed as back-end-of-the-rotation guys, but Pitcher B has thrown quality starts ( at least six innings pitched and three earned runs or less allowed) 11% higher than pitcher A. And if both are number five starters, that extra 11% of quality starts will go a long way. Pitcher A is 25 year old Drew Smyly and Pitcher B is 26 year old Joe Kelly and they are equal youngsters who can succeed in the majors.
Yes Tampa Bay did not receive Austin Jackson, but the Cardinals could’ve been in the Tigers’ shoes of receiving David Price. The Detroit Tigers gave up their starting center fielder, Jackson and their number five starter Drew Smyly. The Cardinals gave up Craig and Kelly to get John Lackey and also gave up prospect James Ramsey for Justin Masterson. With these comparisons and differences in contracts, how did the Cardinals not make the move for Price?
The Cardinals could’ve sent Craig, Kelly, Ramsey and even another pitcher like Tyler Lyons to Tampa Bay to get a deal done. Instead of acquiring a shaky Masterson and an aging John Lackey, the Redbirds could’ve dealt for a deadly Adam Wainwright-David Price combo for this season, next season and possibly more if Price would have resigned. After thinking a top prospect would have to be apart of the deal and then seeing what Detroit had to part with, St. Louis could have easily made the move for Price. The St. Louis Cardinals made a mistake by not pulling the trigger on such a prolific pitcher and this may come back to bite them.
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