At the trade deadline the Cardinals attempted to bolster their injury wrecked rotation with a pair of veterans by getting John Lackey from the Red Sox and Justin Masterson from the Indians.
Lackey has a 4.23 ERA through six starts, but Masterson has a 7.90 ERA in six starts and has now been demoted to the bullpen.
Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the Cardinals will likely replace Masterson in the rotation with rookie Tyler Lyons or rookie Marco Gonzales, so clearly manager Mike Matheny has lost all faith in Masterson.
And rightfully so, because before struggling for the Cardinals he also struggled for the Indians and overall this season the impending free agent has a 6.03 ERA in 25 starts while pitching through multiple injuries. Masterson does have relief experience, but he hasn’t been used regularly out of the bullpen since 2009 and it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals trusting him in anything resembling a prominent late-inning role.
The cost to get Masterson from Cleveland was mid-level prospect James Ramsey, a 24-year-old outfielder and 2012 first-round draft pick. He was assigned to Triple-A following the trade and hit .284 with three homers and an .833 OPS in 28 games there to finish with an .890 OPS overall this year.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will try to get Fernando Tatís Jr. locked up in a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 season.
It’d be a wise move from the team’s perspective, of course. Tatís showed in 2019 that he’s the future of the franchise, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases through 84 games while playing spectacular defense at short. He was a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award before going down to injury and still finished third despite playing just a tad over half a season.
That talent and promise means that, in all likelihood, Tatís stands to make massive money in arbitration and free agency once he gets there. If he gets there, that is. Because as we’ve seen so often in recent years, teams have been aggressive in their efforts to lock up young stars like Tatís, buying out their arbitration and at least a couple of their free agency years. These deals tend to be team-friendly, with multiple team options aimed at getting maximal value out of such players before they hit the open market. Of course, the players get much more up front money than they would in the three seasons in which teams can and do set their salaries unilaterally, usually at less than $1 million per year. It’s a standard now vs. later tradeoff, even if the value of the “now” is far less than the value of “later” and even if it pays these guys far less than they’re worth overall.
But that’s the system. And it’s one which will force Tatís to make a tough choice: either take a deal at a time when the team has most of the leverage or else turn down millions in hand now in order take a shot at many more millions later. In his case, he’ll have a rookie season with multiple injuries to think about too. Does that portend future injury issues? Could he, like some players who have been in his shoes before, end up damaged goods by the time he expected to get paid?
We’ll see how both he and the Padres calculate all of that between now and February, it seems.