The St. Louis Cardinals announced Wednesday afternoon the acquisition of right-handed starting pitcher Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Springfield (AA) outfielder James Ramsey. Masterson, who will join the Cardinals on Friday (Aug. 1) in St. Louis, is scheduled to start Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Masterson, 29, is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts for the Tribe this season, fanning 93 batters in his 98.0 innings pitched. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 8 (right knee inflammation) and made a pair of injury rehabilitation starts (July 20 & 25) for Columbus (AAA) prior to today’s trade.
The 6-6, 250-pound Masterson was an American League All-Star in 2013 as he compiled a 14-10 mark with a 3.45 ERA while ranking 8th in the league with 195 strikeouts and a league-best three shutouts. The Jamaican-born Masterson owns a career mark of 57-49 with a 4.16 ERA in 231 games (169 starts) for Boston (2008-09) and Cleveland (2009-14).
The Cardinals also announced that they have transferred pitcher Michael Wacha from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day D.L. The team will make a corresponding 25-man roster move prior to Friday’s game once Masterson reports to the team.
Brian Walton’s take: The Cardinals wanted another starting pitcher and apparently found the price of others available to be too high in terms of prospects. Hence they went for a middle-to-back of the rotation alternative in Masterson.
Though Masterson has struggled this season, he has been a good pitcher and is still just 29 years of age. He gets strong marks for leadership and features a devastating slider. However, amid his knee problems, his velocity has been down this season.
Masterson has every motivation to prove himself before reaching free agency this fall. His agent and the Indians reportedly discussed a contract extension earlier this year, but were unable to come to terms. Masterson is making $9.75 million this season. If the Cards are paying the remaining share, it would be about a third of the total.
Though Ramsey was a top 10 prospect in the Cardinals system and reached Triple-A last August, the left-handed hitter was blocked by others from returning to Memphis in 2014. In his second season with Springfield, the former first-round draft pick was a Texas League All-Star and played in the Futures Game, but has struggled with consistency and injury as well.
Cleveland has initially assigned Ramsey to Triple-A Columbus. The Cardinals have not yet announced a roster move for a replacement at Springfield.
Wacha is still eligible to return this season as 60-day DL moves can be retroactive. He was placed on the 15-day DL on June 23, so can return in late August – if his shoulder cooperates.
For those worried about why the Cardinals have not added offensive help to a club that is having major trouble scoring runs, recent remarks by general manager John Mozeliak indicated that pitching was his priority in the trade market. However, he did not say that it was his exclusive focus. All I can offer is an observation that the trading deadline has not yet passed. Whether or not the Cards are done remains to be seen.