On the tenth anniversary of a huge trade in team history, the St. Louis Cardinals are again looking to tweak the roster for a magical late summer push.
The St. Louis Cardinals have only two games remaining before the 2021 trade deadline. Sitting at 50-50 on the year, the Cards are right on the cusp of the buyer/seller line. While we will learn a lot about the team over the next few days, today marks an important anniversary that is even more significant given the context of the 2021 season.
On this date ten years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals traded starting center fielder Colby Rasmus– along with relievers Trevor Miller, Brian Tallet, and PJ Walters– to the Toronto Blue Jays. In exchange, they received relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, outfielder Corey Patterson, and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. At the time of the trade, the Cardinals were 55-49, half a game back of the Brewers for the division lead, and five and a half back of the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card race.
Of course, we all remember what happened next. Despite falling 10 and a half games behind the Braves for the Wild Card on August 24th, the Cardinals stormed back to clinch a playoff spot and go on one of the most magical World Series runs in baseball history. Along with deadline acquisition Rafael Furcal, the Rasmus trade has gone down in St. Louis baseball lore as a key difference-maker– shaking things up and giving new players the opportunity to succeed so that everything fell together just right.
Now, on the ten-year anniversary of what might have been John Mozeliak’s greatest mid-season deal, the Cardinals need to find that spark once again. Is there a blueprint from 2011 that this edition of the St. Louis Cardinals can look at for improvement?
Like the 2011 Cardinals, the 2021 team has dealt with injuries to their best players. In 2011, Albert Pujols was out for a large section of the season. Adam Wainwright also missed the entire year. This season, the injury to Jack Flaherty has coincided with the team’s struggles.
In 2011, the Cardinals struggled mightily in June, at one point going 3-12. In a season where they won 86 games, this was clearly the worst baseball they played. Similarly, the 2021 Cardinals went 10-17 in June. The only month that either team was under .500 (excluding an 0-1 record in March) was that key one right before the all-star break.
A very talented team on paper, the 2011 squad wasn’t looking for much more than a bullpen shake-up and to get their stars healthy. Sounds familiar, right? The similarities probably end here, but they are significant enough that the Rasmus trade still carries weight. Maybe there is a 2021 version of this landmark deal in Cardinal history.
The closest that the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals get to Colby Rasmus is Paul DeJong, and that feels pretty unfair to write. As the only regular starter who has struggled this season, DeJong would be the best candidate to trade while straddling the buy/sell line.
However, DeJong has provided some timely pop and is on a team-friendly deal. He doesn’t carry the baggage that Rasmus did as a young player in 2011, either. A trade would also make Edmundo Sosa the 2021 version of the Jon Jay role as he becomes the new starter every day. I love his game, but the bench would be quite sparse without him.
Of course, there were other big moves in 2011 that could be recreated this season. There probably isn’t a need to recreate the Furcal trade, so we’ll take that out. But I’m curious to see what the newest pickup from the Blue Jays, former first-round pick TJ Zeuch, will provide going forward as a ground ball specialist that should benefit from the strong defense that the Cardinals have played this season. Maybe he is the lefty addition to the 2021 Cardinals that veteran Arthur Rhodes was in 2011.
So, can we take anything from this fateful day in Cardinal history? Well, unless a surprising suitor emerges for Paul DeJong, the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals shouldn’t, and probably can’t, make a trade like the 2011 Colby Rasmus deal. However, ten years after his greatest deal, a bullpen tweak and an infusion of positive energy is once again what John Mozeliak is in the hunt for at the trade deadline.
A few last fun facts about the trade– Edwin Jackson, who holds the record for most major league teams played on (14), passed former record holder Octavio Dotel, who was also acquired in this deal. And while Rasmus provided the highest WAR of any player the Cardinals acquired (12.4 to a combined -0.8), he won only one playoff series before he retired in 2018.