Feldman: Craig’s future to be determining factor in Cardinals' blockbuster move

Feldman: Craig’s future to be determining factor in Cardinals' blockbuster move

Credit: Getty Images

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 26: Allen Craig #21 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after hitting a double in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Three of the 2013 World Series at Busch Stadium on October 26, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


by By Brian Feldman, Baseball STL


Posted on August 1, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 1 at 1:10 PM

Do you agree with trading Kelly and Craig for John Lackey?

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballSTL)  News that the GM John Mozeliak actually pulled the trigger on a deal to send Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey is still reverberating around Major League Baseball – and especially St. Louis.
To be honest, there are so many elements in this deal it’s impossible to go through every single one of them.  From Lackey’s $500,000 salary for next year (and whether or not he’ll actually honor his “good faith” agreement with Mozeliak) to Kelly’s potential to Craig’s demise to opening up a spot for Oscar Taveras in right field, there are a lot of factors in this move.
To simplify things, maybe too much actually, can we all agree the Cardinals and Red Sox have a pretty good idea as to what Lackey and Kelly will provide for them, respectively?  He’s a solid number four or five starter who’s going to get some big outs with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball.  But he’s also never going to consistently get past the 6th inning.  
Kelly’s a very nice, but not great, starting pitcher who some feel may actually better profile out of the bullpen where he can unleash his upper 90s heater more consistently.
John Lackey is a workhorse top-of-the-rotation starter who should provide big innings while keeping his ERA somewhere in the 3s.  
Allen Craig?  Now he’s the linchpin to this deal.  I don’t think anyone – not the Cardinals nor the Red Sox – have a clue what Craig’s future holds.  What he does for the next three or four years of his career will determine whether or not this was a better deal for St. Louis or for Boston.
From the day the Redbirds drafted the 30-year old out of Cal in the 8th round back in 2006, the former collegiate shortstop has done nothing but hit.  He hit in the minors.  He hit in the majors.  He’s hit no matter what position he’s been put at.

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“The RBI Machine” hit over .300 with a .800 plus OPS each of the last three seasons.  His power production has fluctuated from significant (11 in 2011 in just 200 at-bats and 22 in 2012) to less than significant (13 last year and seven this season thus far).  
But all of a sudden – and no one really knows why – Craig just hasn’t hit this season.  It started in April when no one else was hitting like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta.  All of a sudden, however, those other guys figured things out but Craig never did.
He remained all summer in a slump.  His April average of .229 briefly improved to .291 in May before dropping again in June to .255.  July’s been his worst yet at .122 (6-49).  You can see the frustration on his face.  You can see the lack of confidence in the way he approaches the plate.  This is a guy who’s lost at the dish.

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Now…in the grand scheme of things we’re talking about four months in a long career.  Has a guy who always hit all of a sudden gotten “old” at the age of 30?  Or is this just one really long slump?  
No one has that answer.  Craig could bust out of this at any time or he could be like his good buddy David Freese and truly be on the back end of his career.  
The Cardinals are taking a calculated risk on the latter.  The Red Sox are doing the same with the former.
Assuming nothing crazy happens with Lackey or Kelly, whoever is right could end up winning this trade long term.