Looking at this White Sox-Blue Jays-Cardinals deal as a single, three-team sway, I love what Toronto did, don't understand what the White Sox did, and like St. Louis' short-term gain but not the cost or the signal about their internal priorities.
The Blue Jays give up four arms, at least three of whom are just relievers, plus a fringy big leaguer in Corey Patterson, and receive centerfielder Colby Rasmus plus about $7 million of dead weight in the shape of Mark Teahen, who has hit .259/.319/.397 since the start of 2008 and probably belongs in the Atlantic League. Rasmus is a potential star, a classic buy-low opportunity on a talented player who had fallen out of favor with his current organization but still has impact-player ceiling. Rasmus has star-level tools: He's a plus runner with good range in center who needs to work on his reads, shows good bat speed, has average to above-average power and a very good approach at the plate. However, he has not played well with the Cardinals' coaching staff, and that relationship has devolved over the last year into public sniping from both the coaches and from Rasmus' father, who remains a major influence on Colby's hitting, especially on his swing.
As an outsider, I can't tell you how much blame lies on either side, but La Russa does not suffer young players gladly, and getting Rasmus out of St. Louis to see if he can succeed in a completely different environment makes plenty of sense, especially since the cost for Toronto is one good prospect and a bunch of relievers. Rasmus was worth over 4 wins last year per Fangraphs' wins above replacement despite being misused much of the year and showing up as a below-average defender in center, which I don't expect him to be long-term. He'll slide Travis Snider back to a corner, and should no longer have to worry about where he's hitting in the lineup or whether he's in it at all. The acquisition has some risk, as it's possible Rasmus has peaked or just doesn't have the makeup to get along with any coaching staff, but I doubt either of those things is true. And over the long haul you always want to bet on high-upside talent when you can. (The Blue Jays also acquired Brian Tallet and Trever Miller, who will probably be trade bait in the next few days, and P.J. Walters, a nice organizational arm.)
The White Sox get salary relief while adding a useful bullpen arm in righty Jason Frasor, who has added a splitter over the last few years to make him more effective against left-handed hitters, as well as right-handed pitching prospect Zach Stewart. Stewart is a classic sinker-slider starter with great movement on a low-90s sinker that will touch the mid-90s; his control took a step forward this year but he wasn't getting as many groundballs, which is more a question of his pitching plan than a lack of life on the fastball. His slider is his best offspeed pitch, tight at 83-87 with good tilt, and he commands the pitch well, throwing it to both sides of the plate. He's got a solid-average or better changeup and showed no platoon split this year. With a show-me curveball and good control, he should be given every opportunity to start for Chicago, and I like pitching coach Don Cooper's chances to turn Stewart into at least a mid-rotation starter if not more.
What I don't understand here is why the White Sox are essentially selling, unless they were just clearing payroll to add something else. They're three games out of first place in the loss column, and after bottoming out at 11-22, have gone 39-30 since then, and have a very realistic chance to win their division, especially since they can add Dayan Viciedo and perhaps Addison Reed from their own farm system for the stretch run. They had some depth in the rotation, assuming they believe the Phil Humber Show can go on all year, but they are clearly worse off at the major league level today than they were last night -- and if they can't convert Stewart's stuff into results, they're going to be left with very little return for trading Daniel Hudson last year.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have made a terrible organizational move by allowing their aging manager to run off the best hitting prospect the team has produced since drafting Albert Pujols. Whether La Russa was mostly responsible or only shares responsibility with Rasmus and his father, it is clear that La Russa's my-way-or-the-highway mentality has hurt the organization for this year and several years to come with the Rasmus fiasco, and unfortunately the front office's decision to retain La Russa for 2011 has come back to haunt them. Rasmus has the potential to be a 5- to 6-win player at his peak, and there's no manager in baseball who can produce that kind of value.
Jackson is actually in the midst of his best season in the majors, another feather in Cooper's cap, perhaps boosted by the fact that this is Jackson's contract year. Jackson has always thrown hard, and can hold mid- to upper-90s late into the game, but the fastball is true and he tries to pitch up in the zone with it too often. This year, he's throwing fewer fastballs and more hard sliders, up to 89, some short and cutter-like but others with more downward break, and the result has been more line-drive hits but fewer big flies because he's working lower in the zone. The shift to the National League should help him, and he is going to work with another pitching coach with a long track record of success with veteran arms. The Cardinals also get a right-handed specialist in Octavio Dotel -- who has been traded for more value in the past 12 months than he has produced in his entire career -- and left-hander Mark Rzepczynski, another sinker-slider guy with a terrible arm action who profiles as a reliever because he probably won't have the command or health to start.
As a stretch-run bolster for the Cardinals' rotation, Jackson is an excellent fit, and by pushing someone -- most likely Kyle McClellan, who has allowed 50 runs in his last 14 starts over 85 innings -- back to the pen, he's worth an extra two wins to this club over the rest of the year. They also get the more effective left-handed reliever they've needed all year in Rzepcynski. The price was just too high, and tells us that their internal emphasis is on their manager over their players -- which is backwards.