The Cardinals made big news yesterday announcing they had acquired All-star pitcher Justin Masterson in a trade that sent James Ramsey to the Indians.
Today, they made another big move, trading away two well known names.
The Cardinals have traded OF Allen Craig and SP Joe Kelly to the Red Sox for another All-star pitcher, John Lackey.
In the deal, the Red Sox also sent cash considerations to the Cardinals, as well as Minor League lefty Corey Littrell, a fifth-round pick by Boston in last year’s First Player draft.
Lackey, 35, has been in the league since 2002. In the 1999 MLB draft, he was drafted in the second round (68th overall) by the Anaheim Angels. He has a career record of 146-113, with a 4.03 ERA. He also has 1,735 career strikeouts throughout his long career, and made the AL All-star team in 2007, the same year he had the lowest ERA in the AL.
The arrival to the Cardinals marks his first stint in the National League.
Lackey is also the only pitcher to win a World series’ clinching game with two different teams (Angels, Red Sox).
The trade has been met with mixed reactions: many aren’t so hot on the idea of Kelly and Craig leaving the Cardinals. But there are many reasons why it was a trade that has strong payoff for the Cardinals. Here are three main reasons:
First, Lackey will only be making $500,000 next year. For a veteran pitcher of his caliber, if he stays healthy, that is a steal.
Second, despite Craig being beloved throughout Cardinal Nation, and despite showing in the past how good of a player he is, it’s no secret he’s been struggling ever since the World Series last year.
Craig, 30, had three straight strong seasons for the Cardinals, going a combined .312 with an .863 OPS in 328 games from 2011-2013. He played However, he’s had a rough season with an average at a mere .237 despite hitting seven home runs and 44 RBI’s, and a .638 OPS. He also has three years and $25 million left on his contract. With Oscar Taveras being groomed to become the next big star, and taking Craig’s place in right field, the time was right to let him go.
Third, while Kelly isn’t a bad pitcher, he has never pitched more than 100 innings in a season, something Lackey has done five times. Splitting the 2013 season between starting and relieving, Kelly played a part in the NL Pennant-winning Cardinals, going 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA in 37 games overall. In his 15 starts last season, Kelly was 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA. Despite that, he is not known for going deep into games, rarely making it to the seventh inning or longer. He, like Craig, has had his fair share of injury issues that has hurt his performance this season as well.
Dealing for Lackey works out well into the Cardinals favor, and their depth in their entire system (majors and minors) is their advantage. In the past two days, GM John Mozeliak has traded two outfielders and a pitcher for two All-star pitchers. The rotation is becoming more loaded with talent, and will be even stronger once young-star Michael Wacha returns from injury.
People will still question why the Cardinals haven’t added a bat, but with the young talent they have, it’s better to develop the stars than trade them all away. Matt Adams has been on an absolute roll since his return from injury, and veteran catcher A.J Pierzynski has performed quite well since his tenure with the Cardinals began as well.
One thing is for sure: the NL pennant race is looking more intense each passing day. With teams such as Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and San Francisco, and Los Angeles among others, it will be a fun ride till the end of the season.
Craig and Kelly had good tenures with St. Louis, and will still be remembered in Cardinal Nation in future years.
Once a Cardinal…always a Cardinal.
(Photo credit: Boston Herald)