Cleveland acquires Kaminsky, ranked 10th among LHP prospects
By Jenifer Langosch
ST. LOUIS -- On the heels of consecutive shutouts that underscored the club's need for an offensive jolt, general manager John Mozeliak swung a player swap with Cleveland early Thursday morning to bring Brandon Moss and his power potential to St. Louis.
The cost for Moss was heavy, as the Cardinals parted with 20-year-old Rob Kaminsky, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 10th-best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball. The lefty starter and 28th overall selection in the MLB Draft had a 2.15 ERA through his first 43 professional appearances. This year, Kaminsky posted a 2.09 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings for Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
"I certainly understand where people might say we overpaid on this deal, but I would also position it as we had a need," Mozeliak explained. "It's funny because when we don't make deals, we get killed. And when we do, we're [said to be] overpaying. It's hard to just please everybody. But ultimately, when you make decisions and you're overseeing a club, the thing you have to do is what you feel is best for your team. And overall, I felt this was going to help us."
Moss, whose late-arriving flight kept him out of Thursday's lineup, made his Cardinals debut as a sixth-inning pinch-hitter. A spectacular catch by Nolan Arenado kept him from delivering a go-ahead RBI in that spot.
"To be able to come over into this situation with this group of guys in this organization, you can't ask for anything better," Moss said after the team's 9-8 win. "I think it goes without saying. Everyone knows about the organization. Everyone knows it's first class. It's probably the premier organization in baseball. Everyone knows about the fans. Everyone knows about coming and playing here. Even as visiting players, you come here and respect and you appreciate it for how great it is. Like I said, I couldn't have been blessed with a better opportunity."
Moss comes to the Cardinals a year after an All-Star season. But his production hasn't been as prolific in 2015. Moss, who can play in the outfield or first base, hit .217/.288/.407 through 94 games with Cleveland.
Yet even amid with the struggles, Moss showcased the sort of power that drew the Cardinals' interest. To date, Moss has hit more home runs (15) and driven in more runs (50) than any of his new teammates.
"He's a big production guy in a time in baseball where production is low," manager Mike Matheny said. "The guy obviously has power and the ability to drive in runs. Both of those we're not afraid to add."
The Cardinals' own analysis of Moss' season also convinced Mozeliak that an uptick in production is a reasonable expectation. Among the factors considered were his dramatic home/road splits. In almost the same number of at-bats, Moss hit .190/.276/.294 with two home runs and 18 RBIs at Cleveland's Progressive Field. His other 13 homers and 32 RBIs came on the road, where Moss hit .241/.300/.511.
"As you can imagine, we make trades and we make acquisitions that a lot of people question because it might not be baseball-card stat driven," Mozeliak said. "I do think you can make an argument that left-handed hitters do struggle in Cleveland. … We're hoping that getting [him] here at Busch [Stadium] and also in the National League Central, that he can benefit from that."
Moss acknowledged the disparity in his home/road production, but couldn't exactly pinpoint why.
"On the road, I was the same player I've always been," Moss said. "But for some reason at home, I would just go and struggle. … It's just one of those things where I kept finding myself be late. And I would start trying to speed up, start trying to get ready earlier. Then offspeed [pitches] would just tear me apart. Then for some reason, we'd go on the road and I'd see the ball a little bit better. But it wasn't so much seeing it. It was feeling like I had time. At home, I felt rushed. I felt late a lot."
Moss becomes more than just a half-season rental for the Cards. He's making $6.5 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible again in 2016.
The Cardinals and Indians began trade discussions well before Matt Holliday's injury changed the state of the Cardinals' offense. Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti acknowledged that the clubs discussed various players and proposals ahead of finalizing the deal they did. Mozeliak insisted that Holliday's status was not a driving factor in ultimately agreeing to the deal he did.
Yet, Moss' ability to play the outfield and first base will give the Cardinals more options during Holliday's absence. The organization does not view Moss as a platoon player, meaning he'll start regularly and then leave Stephen Piscotty and Mark Reynolds to take turns covering the other vacant position. Piscotty is unlikely to be used much at first base moving forward.
Oddly, this marked the third straight year that the Indians and Cardinals have made a player swap on July 30. Last year, the Cards sent Minor League outfielder James Ramsey to Cleveland for starting pitcher Justin Masterson. In 2013, Marc Rzepczynski was dealt to Cleveland for Minor League infielder, Juan Herrera. Since 2002, the teams have pulled off 11 midseason deals.
With time still remaining before today's 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline, Mozeliak said he would continue to "talk to clubs and weigh what we could possibly do to improve." But with the Cardinals having already addressed their need for bullpen help (Steve Cishek) and a power bat (Moss), Mozeliak added that he doesn't envision "having a more impact-type deal."