Reading time, 3 minutes:
* It's always interesting when the chatter on the internet and on talk radio gains a little momentum, and develops into full-blown squawking. In recent days I could have sworn that I've read and heard people advocating the trade of Cardinals' CF Colby Rasmus ... though I could have been imagining this, given that I was sick for about 36 hours, gripped by a 101 degree fever that made me quite loopy. But I know this: even when drifting in a sleepless, restless haze, I don't think I came up with anything half as mad as pushing for the trading of Rasmus. And I say that as someone who is often frustrated by Rasmus. Not because he isn't good; no, he's very good. But because I expect so much from him. I agree that virtually any player can be traded for the right package, and Rasmus is no different. But the sudden push to trade Rasmus (without specifics) by frustrated fans and media? People, I love you but please calm down.
* Rasmus is, even with flaws, arguably one of the top five center fielders in major-league baseball. Even after a recent slump Rasmus ranks 5th among MLB center fielders with a combined onbase-slugging of .817. He's tied for 6th among MLB CFs in runs created. He leads them in most walks, and is third in OBP. (And in case you didn't notice, OBP is the lifeblood of this Cardinals' offense.) Rasmus is 5th among all CFs in runs scored, 10th in RBIs, and 8th in extra-base hits. His wOBA of .356 is down only slightly from last season, and it ranks 23rd in the NL among all players, all positions. His WAR (wins above replacement level) of 2.4 ties him with Matt Holliday for the best WAR on the Cardinals. And that 2.4 WAR is 6th among all MLB center fielders.
* Rasmus has also shown improvement in some areas. The Cardinals wanted him to strike out fewer times and his K rate has dropped. Last season Rasmus struck out once every 3.61 plate appearances; this season it's one K for every 5.23 PAs. His swing/miss rate is down. His contact rate is up slightly. As I've written before, I'd like to see Rasmus hit the ball with more authority, but even though his slugging pct. is down from last season, he still ranks 9th among all MLB CFs with a .446 SLG.
* And though Rasmus clearly needs to improve on fetching balls hit over his head, though he needs to be more focused and aggressive in going after deep flies, he's still a plus fielder overall according to The Fielding Bible data. The hesitant pursuit of balls to the gap certainly makes me wanna holler (and I have and will) but that doesn't mean I'd go as far as saying the Cardinals should trade the guy.
* Rasmus is 24 years old, and he makes $443,000 this season, and the Cardinals control his contract for three more years after this one. He won't become a free agent, ticketed for really big money, until the 2015 season. And that makes Rasmus even more valuable given the financial realities for a franchise that hopes to lock in Albert Pujols long-term, and to get a new deal with Adam Wainwright, and possibly reach a new deal with Chris Carpenter, and is already is paying Matt Holliday big money. The Raz salary will go up in his arbitration-eligible years, but he'll still represent outstanding value. This is an important reason for keeping him rather than do something rash.
* Much of this trade-Rasmus bluster is the result of Jon Jay's outstanding play in 2011. There's no question that Jay has been a big help to the Cardinals as the team has dealt with injuries to Holliday and Lance Berkman. Jay has tremendous value as the fourth OF, and he's a key component of the depth that's been a team strength. But that's the point, isn't it? Jay is thriving in the role. So why change the role? Let's not ignore recent history. The Cardinals jumped all-in with Jay late last July, trading Ryan Ludwick to San Diego on July 31. Before the trade, Jay, the fourth OF, had a batting line of .396 / .447 / .604 in 126 plate appearances. That performance made GM John Mozeliak feel better about the idea of moving Ludwick to acquire starting pitcher Jake Westbrook. But after the trade, Jay's hitting deteriorated. In 197 plate appearances after Jay was installed as a starter, he batted .239 with a .309 OBP and .307 SLG. I don't think I want to go down that road again. This just in: Jay is batting .216 over his last 10 games.
* Yes, I think Jay has improved and matured from last season. But I also see his .375 batting average on balls in play, and he won't be able to sustain that, especially considering his high (77 pct.) ground-ball rate. Given Berkman's age and injury history, the Cardinals would be smart to preserve their excellent OF depth.
C'mon, don't be silly.