July 27, 2011.
Days before the trade deadline.
The Blue Jays had a record of 51 – 52, were 11 games back of the Wild Card, and were once again going nowhere in the American League. Alex Anthopoulos, in an attempt to improve the team for 2012 and beyond pulled off a massive trade with the St. Louis Cardinals . Gone were Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson, Marc Rzepczynski, and Edwin Jackson (acquired earlier from the White Sox). In were P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet, Trever Miller, and Colby Rasmus.
There was no doubt who the biggest fish was in the deal. Miller, Tallet, and Walters were all gone by the end of that season, and were never going to be a part of the team moving forward.
He was a player who was ranked three times on Baseball America’s top-100 prospects, including #3 on the pre-2009 list. He was a player who hit 23 HR and put up a .859 OPS in 2010, only his second year in the majors. He was a player with all the tools who didn’t get along with his manager in St. Louis and needed a change of scenery.
Jays fans rejoiced, thinking we finally had our CF of the future. But things didn’t get off to a great start. In 35 games with the Jays at the end of 2010 he hit only .173 with a .517 OPS, struck out 39 times, and looked bad in the field.
“That’s OK,” we said. “He’ll be fine in 2011.” Except he wasn’t – at least not really. Yes he put up 23 HR and 75 RBI (both career highs), but he also struck out 149 times, had only a .289 OBP, an 85 OPS+, and he faded so badly in the second half (.176 average , .515 OPS), that Anthony Gose started taking over in centre. In fact, there was a real possibility that Gose would supplant him in the outfield, and Rasmus would be gone.
Well, thank goodness that didn’t happen. Maybe he needed a year to get used to the city, maybe he needed time to get used to the American League, and to his teammates, because right now, Colby Rasmus is absolutely raking.
Anyway you slice and dice his numbers, they are great. As a whole, he is hitting .279, with a .835 OPS, 17 HR, 55 RBI, and 25 2B. His .342 OBP is the highest since his breakout 2010, and trails only Encarnacion, Bautista, and Lind on the team. He has hit well at home (.289 AVG, .870 OPS, 9 HR, 29 RBI) and he has hit well on the road (.270 AVG, .797 OPS, 8 HR, 26 BI). Though he struggled hitting for average early in the season, he still put up a .735+ OPS in April, May, and June, before exploding in July (.371 AVG, 1.001 OPS). He has even had success against lefties, with a .731 OPS.
He is also playing solid defense, with a 1.2 dWAR ranking him first on the team. Overall, his 3.8 WAR is the best on the Jays, ahead of All-Star participants Bautista and Encarnacion.
In terms of the rest of the league, Rasmus has developed into one of the best, a guy who should be mentioned in the same breath as Jones, Trout, and Ellsbury. His .835 OPS ranks 2nd in the AL, behind only Mike Trout, he is second in HR (17 – 5 behind Adam Jones), third in RBI, and third in WAR. There are other, maybe more famous CF in the AL, but aside from Trout and Ellsbury, Rasmus tops them all in terms of WAR, including Adam Jones, Brett Gardner, Austin Jackson, Desmond Jennings, Michael Bourn, and Coco Crisp.
In a year in which so much has gone wrong, it’s refreshing to be able to enjoy the success of a player that many had given up on. This was supposed to be a team led by Bautista, Encarnacion, Reyes, Johnson, Dickey, Lawrie, and Buehrle. I think we can all agree that Rasmus now belongs there.
It’s always hard to argue that a team lost a trade in the year they ended up winning the World Series, and Rzep, Jackson, and Dotel were key contributors in the Cardinals ’11 triumph.
But two years later, all of them have left St. Louis, while Colby is coming into his own in Toronto.
So I’ll say it. We won the Rasmus trade.