The Indians haven’t been playing their best baseball the past few days, and currently find themselves at 52-54, 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central and 5 games behind the Blue Jays for the second wild card spot.
It’s way too early for the Indians to be giving up on this season, as some fans have suggested.
But with a number of impending free agents on the roster, it would make sense for the Indians to consider dealing one or more of them even if they’re buyers at the trade deadline.
As it turns out, one of them has already been sent out of Cleveland.
Peter Gammons is reporting that the Tribe have traded starter Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Indians are trading Justin Masterson to the Cardinals
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 30, 2014
Joel Sherman of the New York Post has more, including the return for the Indians.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 30, 2014
Yes, James Ramsey is the newest member of the Cleveland organization. The trade is simply Masterson for Ramsey, but this is still a strong return for the Tribe.
A former Florida State Seminole, Ramsey was orginally drafted in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft by the Twins before going to college and becoming a first round pick of the Cardinals in 2012.
The 24-year old has spent this season with Double-A Springfield for the Cardinals, hitting .300/.389/.527 in 281 plate appearances. He’s added 13 home runs and 36 runs batted in. MLB.com ranked him as the Cardinals’ 6th-best prospect in their recent midseason prospect rankings, which is impressive considering how deep of a farm system St. Louis has.
The Indians will add Ramsey to an already crowded minor league outfield mix that includes Clint Frazier, Tyler Naquin and recent top draft picks Bradley Zimmer and Mike Papi, in addition to a handful of other talented but not as highly-regarded options. The Indians reportedly considered playing Papi at first base, which could be his position moving forward in an effort to clear room for the others (but that’s just my own speculation). It’s also possible that one or more of these players could find himself traded, but I’m again speculating.
The Indians also have All-Star Michael Brantley, who the Indians hope to have in their outfield for a very long time. He won’t be going anywhere.
It might seem strange that the Indians would trade a starting pitcher when they’ve been looking for one themselves, but Masterson has done nothing to help the Tribe this year. After establishing himself as the Tribe’s ace last season, he’s pitched to an awful 5.51 ERA this season, while his peripherals have suffered as well. He’s also battled a knee injury, and had been pitching for Triple-A Columbus on an injury rehab assignment.
The Indians were said to be discussing an extension with Masterson prior to this season to keep him from reaching free agency, but they look smart in hindsight for not agreeing to a deal with Masterson, even though they were criticized at the time for it.
The Cardinals could still be on the hunt for another starter, but buying low on Masterson isn’t a bad idea for St. Louis given his upside and the fact that the Cardinals know exactly how to handle pitchers.
There’s also still plenty upside with the 29-year old Masterson, who’s posted an encouraging 4.08 FIP this season.
On behalf of Indians fans everywhere, I’d like to thank Masterson for what he’s done in Cleveland, and I wish him the best of luck in the future.