The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to acquire right-hander Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians, Peter Gammons reported Wednesday afternoon. Outfield prospect James Ramsey is headed to Cleveland, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Reports said the Indians were opening up to listen about Masterson a short time ago, but nobody expected that the deal would get done before Thursday's 4 pm trade deadline. Considering the large contract extension that Masterson wants (he is a free agent after this season), and the fact that he has endured some struggles as of late, many expected the Indians to hold on to the hurler through the deadline. That drastically changed on Wednesday.
Masterson is in the third and final year of his arbitration eligibility. He agreed to a one-year, $9.76 million contract with the Indians prior to this season. While he is a free agent at the end of the year, Masterson wanted to sign an extension with the Tribe, but the sides agreed to halt extension talks until the endif the 2014 season. At the time, Masterson was looking for a deal worth about $17 million annually.
This year, he has not pitched like a pitcher that is worth $17 million. To put it plainly, Masterson has struggled mightily. In 19 starts, Masterson has pitched to a 4-6 record with a 5.51 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and a 93 to 56 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 98 innings pitched. His 68 ERA+ is the lowest of his career. He will make his first start for the Cardinals on Saturday. He has been on the DL since July 8th with knee inflammation, but will be eligible to come off on Friday.
In return, the Indians will be getting Cardinals' prospect James Ramsey. St. Louis drafted the 24-year-old back in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. He is currently with Double-A Springfield. In 281 plate appearances, Ramsey is hitting .300/.389/.527 with 13 home runs and 36 runs batted in. He looks like an intriguing prospect. The Cardinals have had a lot of outfielders in their system, which may have hurt the growth of Ramsey. But now with Cleveland, the path to the big leagues should be a lot clearer for him.
The Cardinals do get their man in Justin Masterson to help out the rotation. They have been looking at other options, including the likes of Jake Peavy and David Price, to fill out their staff, but they found a buy-low guy in Justin Masterson that may be able to pay huge dividends for them down the stretch. Cleveland gets an intriguing prospect in return. But the Cardinals continue to make the tightly packed NL Central a more interesting one, as the plot continues to thicken. But for now, Justin Masterson is a St. Louis Cardinal. And that is all he has to worry about for the time being.