Cardinals acquire Justin Masterson from Indians

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Cleveland turned down Justin Masterson’s attempted contract extension offer back in spring training–balking at what seemed to be reasonable terms at the time–and now the Indians are trading the impending free agent to the Cardinals, according to Peter Gammons of MLB.com.

Masterson has been a mess this season while trying to pitch through knee problems, posting a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts while walking 5.1 batters per nine innings. However, last season he threw 193 innings with a 3.45 ERA and 195 strikeouts, and from 2011-2013 he had a combined 3.86 ERA in 615 innings.

Masterson is currently on the disabled list, but he’s eligible to return Friday and if healthy is a solid mid-rotation starter with some upside beyond that. And given his struggles this season along with his being able to hit the open market as a free agent in two months the price was certainly right for the Cardinals. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post they’re giving up 24-year-old outfielder James Ramsey, a 2012 first-round draft pick playing well while repeating Double-A.

Ramsey is a solid prospect, but he lacks upside and isn’t close to cracking any top-100 lists. Ultimately the Cardinals decided they’d rather take their chances on Masterson than overpay for a fellow two-month rental like Jon Lester or really break the bank for David Price.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.