Alex Anthopoulos is not a fan of three-way trades. They are messy, complicated and can collapse at a moment’s notice. But it took a three-team deal for the Toronto Blue Jays general manager to land a player he has long coveted — Colby Rasmus, a 24-year-old centre-fielder with blue-chip potential who had fallen from grace in St. Louis.
The deal would come together only if Anthopoulos found a starter for the Cardinals. And the GM was resolute: “I wasn’t going to trade any of our starters.”
He asked the Cardinals: What if I could get you Edwin Jackson via the Chicago White Sox? The Cardinals liked that idea.
So by the time he went to bed at 3 a.m. ET Wednesday, a weary and still-anxious Anthopoulos had the pieces in place for two separate trades involving a total of 11 players. The one that mattered most to the Jays was Rasmus, so much so that they parted with two of their most reliable relievers — Jason Frasor and Marc Rzepczynski — to get him.
“We’d asked about him a lot last off-season, during the season, and the answer was always no,” Anthopoulos said. “I’d say late afternoon, early evening (Tuesday) there was kind of a breakthrough.”
The deals came together within a couple of hours Wednesday morning. First, Anthopoulos acquired Jackson and utility man Mark Teahan from the White Sox for Frasor and starting prospect Zach Stewart, in whom Chicago had an abiding interest.
Then he sent Jackson to the Cardinals, along with Rzepczynski, veteran reliever Octavio Dotel and extra outfielder Corey Patterson. Coming to the Jays with Rasmus are veteran relievers Trever Miller and Brian Tallet (both back for second Toronto tours) and young pitcher P.J. Walters.
Rasmus had landed in manager Tony La Russa’s doghouse in St. Louis. La Russa told a St. Louis radio station Tuesday that Rasmus “doesn’t listen” to his coaches and “gets in these funks.”
That situation worked in the Jays’ favour. Anthopoulos likened this deal to the one he pulled off a year ago when he acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar from Atlanta, where he was in a prolonged slump and facing a barrage of criticism from the media as well as several anonymous teammates.
Escobar rebounded in Toronto and has become one of the Jays’ most productive players this season.
“It’s probably best for both parties that Colby gets a fresh start,” said Anthopoulos, who isn’t fazed by the reports of Rasmus butting heads with St. Louis manager Tony La Russa.
“I always like to have the ’elephant in the room conversation,” the 34-year-old Toronto GM said prior to the Jays’ 3-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
“I had it with Brett (Lawrie), I had it with Yunel (Escobar), and I plan on having it with Colby.
“Let’s talk about the past once. And once we have that conversation it’s over, we don’t talk about it again. We’re going to start fresh and we want to know what makes him happy and how we can get the best out of him.”
He described Rasmus as a “great kid, obviously tremendously talented,” who projects as “a five-tool talent. We think Colby’s going to fit in great.”
Rasmus, the Cards’ first-round draft pick in 2005, was batting .246 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs. Of his three big-league seasons, last year was his best: .276 average, 23 homers, 66 RBIs and a .361 on-base percentage.
Rasmus was also attractive to Toronto because he is under contract control for three more seasons. A year ago, Anthopoulos traded away prospect Brett Wallace to get Anthony Gose, the presumptive centre-fielder of the future. But while Gose has shown encouraging signs at double-A this season, he is only 20 and remains raw.
It was also a season in which bitter seeds were sewn, and before it ended, he asked to be traded.
Rasmus had been mired in prolonged slump, going 13 games in July with zero RBIs. It caused frustration with La Russa and hitting instructor Mark McGwire.
“I don’t think he’s listening to Cardinals coaches right now and that’s why he gets in these funks, in my opinion,” La Russa told St. Louis television station KDSK on Tuesday.
Despite his confidence that Rasmus “is a good kid” who will thrive in a new environment, Anthopoulos admitted the trade is risky because Rasmus is so young and has yet to fulfil the expectations surrounding him when he was a first-round draft pick.
Teahan was signed as a free agent before last season to be Chicago’s starting third baseman. The 29-year-old was derailed by injuries and ended up as bench player for Guillen. He hit .203 in 51 games this season with three homers and 11 RBIs.
“Mixed emotions for sure,” said Teahen, a naturalized Canadian who gained citizenship through his father. “Obviously, I’m disappointed in the way it all worked out here. I wanted it to go a lot different.”
Rzepczynski, a left-hander with a 2.97 ERA, was a key to the Rasmus deal.
“He was real tough to give up,” Anthopoulos said. “This deal wasn’t getting done without him.”
The GM also said he was sad to see Frasor go. The veteran right-hander was the longest-serving Jay and recently set a franchise record for appearances by a pitcher.
“We’ve been together for a while and he’s one of my favourites,” Anthopoulos said. “I told his wife, he’s probably one of the most real baseball players I’ve ever seen in terms of just a real, regular human being. And that’s as big a compliment as I can give him. He’s not arrogant, (he’s) down-to-earth, genuine, a great teammate and he loved being here.”
With files from the Canadian Press