Will Colby Rasmus continue to be dogged by off-field issues?
In two-plus years as the general manager of the Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has shown a penchant for buying low on other teams’ undervalued players. He did it with Yunel Escobar, who delivered a 3.7 WARP season last year. He did it with Brett Lawrie, who emerged as one of baseball’s top prospects, and then batted a remarkable .293/.373/.580 in 171 plate appearances in 2011. Most recently, he did it with Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson last summer, though the returns on those two investments are thus far unclear.
Once viewed as a potential star center fielder, the 25-year-old Rasmus has a much greater role to play in the Jays’ future than Johnson. Rasmus was a 2.3 WARP player—mostly thanks to a .276/.361/.498 triple-slash, because his fielding was 18.8 runs below average—in 2010, and he was expected to blossom into one of the National League’s best players.
Rasmus was a 22-year-old center fielder and the team’s top prospect in 2009 when he won a spot in the starting lineup for the second game of the season. In 143 games, Rasmus batted .251/.307/.407 with 16 home runs and 72 runs scored. That was only good enough for a .248 True Average, but his strong defense in center (4.3 FRAA) earned Rasmus 1.7 WARP for the season. There might have been some growing pains along the way—there was one game against the Royals where Rasmus moved slowly in the outfield, allowing the runner to stretch a single into a double, that drew some comments from management—but Rasmus looked like a future building block for St. Louis following his rookie campaign.
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B.J. Upton and Colby Rasmus had sky-high ceilings as prospects, but their up-and-down performances in the majors has led them to the trading block.
The July 31 trading deadline traditionally turns the spotlight on pending free agents that can shore up a contender's roster for the stretch run. Carlos Beltran and Hiroki Kuroda are the belles of the quick-fix ball this year, and if they don't sound tremendously enticing, it helps explain why so much talk is focused elsewhere, on younger and more affordable players still under club control. Ubaldo Jimenez and Hunter Pence fit that bill, even if their respective teams' willingness to trade them is something of a head-scratcher. More puzzling is how B.J. Upton and Colby Rasmus have arrived at this juncture, particularly given the big things projected for them just a few years ago. On the other hand, maybe that explains exactly why they're here.