The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have acquired starting pitcher John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox along with prospect Corey Littrell and $1.75 million in cash in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. It was a big move that shocked most Cardinals fans and even some in the clubhouse as well. As Derrick Goold described it, everyone is stunned at the news of the trade.
John Lackey, 35, is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA this season in 21 starts for the Red Sox. After missing 2012 due to injury has had surged back, pitching as well as he has most of his career since returning in 2013. He’ll replace Kelly in the rotation. Kelly had been rushed back from his hamstring injury and hasn’t pitched as well as he has in the past since returning.
Littrell, 22, is 5-5 in 18 starts for High A Salem with a 3.60 ERA. He is a left hander who is described as crafty, not overpowering. His appearance in the majors some day seems like as certain as you can claim about a fifth round player playing A ball from what I’ve read.
As I read news of the trade that Craig was being dealt for Lackey, an idea I’d floated to myself after seeing what it cost the A’s for Lester, the scene from Moneyball where Brad Pitt walks into the manager’s office and tells Philip Seymour Hoffman that he can’t play Pena because he plays for the Tigers sticks in my mind. The moving of Craig solves the playing time question for Taveras in right field and hands him the job. Now it’s Taveras’ job to live up to the hype. If we thought the pressure of looking over your shoulder after every 0-for-4 in fear of losing your job was tough, this will be a whole new world of tough.
In a way the expectations on Taveras were already great, but they will get a step bigger with Allen Craig being dealt for him. Craig has only been baseball’s most productive hitter per at bat over the last two seasons. He was struggling this year, but has a track record of success.
While I like Joe Kelly, I understand why he was dealt. In a lot of ways it’s the same reason that James Ramsey was expendable in yesterday’s trade for Masterson. We have an excess of starting pitching and on the depth chart of talent, he’s right on the edge. He’s not going to beat out guys like Lynn, Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha.
The Cardinals still sit with just over an hour left until the trade deadline and the offense has yet to be improved. Many would like to see John Mozeliak come home with a bat to help, but there doesn’t seem to be such a bat available or that would even be a fit for the Cardinals. The two most obvious points of improvement, second base and center field, are thin right now on the trade market. The rest of the positions are spoken for.
Like it or not, Taveras is the new bat for the offense. The weight of all John Mozeliak’s chips just landed on him. If he doesn’t start hitting soon, it’s going to get ugly.