The first order of business for Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos when newly acquired outfielder Colby Rasmus joins the Blue Jays is to have his "elephant in the room" conversation.
Rasmus, the centrepiece in a pair of blockbuster deals Anthopoulos made with the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis on Wednesday, comes to Toronto with rumblings of a feud with the Cardinals coaching staff that sped up his departure.
Anthopoulos has long had his eye on Rasmus, a 24-year-old first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2005 who was batting .246 this season with 14 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs and 40 runs batted in. He says he's isn't fazed by the reports of Rasmus butting heads with St. Louis manager Tony La Russa.
"I always like to have the 'elephant in the room conversation,"' the 34-year-old Toronto GM said in a press conference prior to the Jays (51-52) home game against Baltimore (41-58). "I had it with [third-base prospect] Brett [Lawrie], I had it with Yunel [Escobar], and I plan on having it with Colby.
"Let's talk about the past once. And once we have that conversation it's over, we don't talk about it again. We're going to start fresh and we want to know what makes him happy and how we can get the best out of him."
Toronto also acquired utility player Mark Teahen and three relievers in the pair of trades.
The Jays sent outfielder Corey Patterson, right-handed starter Edwin Jackson and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. The Cardinals will also receive three players to be named later or cash considerations.
In exchange, Toronto added Rasmus and relievers Brian Tallet, Trever Miller and P.J. Walters.
Jackson had been acquired earlier in the day as part of a four-player deal with the White Sox. He and Teahan came from Chicago for long-serving Toronto reliever Jason Frasor and pitching prospect Zach Stewart.
Anthopoulos recalled Escobar's arrival last season in a trade with Atlanta after the shortstop had reportedly fallen out of favour with the Braves organization. He's since flourished with the Jays as a regular starter and went into Wednesday's game batting .307 with 56 runs in 94 games.
"We've done a lot of homework on [Colby]," Anthopoulos said. "When we got Yunel from Atlanta we really unearthed a lot of things and we felt in a certain environment he was going to thrive. And with Colby we feel the same way. He's going to fit in great."
The team's bullpen has been shaken up dramatically, especially the departure of Frasor. The 33-year-old right-hander had been the longest serving member of the team and leaves as the franchise leader in games pitched.
"It's strange, I can't believe it actually happened," said a solemn Frasor in the Jays clubhouse. "Eight years, man, that's a long time. It's hard to leave this locker room, I made a lot of friends here."
As a native of the Chicago area, Frasor won't need directions to the White Sox stadium. He heads to Ozzie Guillen's team with an earned-run average of 2.98 in 44 games this season.
"Of all the places I could have gone, I can't believe it's Chicago," said Frasor, who grew up a Cubs fan. "It's going to be alright I think. I'm really excited about meaningful August-September baseball."
"He's one of the top quality relievers in baseball," said White Sox general manager Kenny Williams. "He will fit in."
Teahen was signed as a free agent before last season to be Chicago's starting third baseman. The 29-year-old was derailed by injuries and ended up as bench player for Guillen. He hit .203 in 51 games this season with three homers and 11 RBIs.
"Mixed emotions for sure," said Teahen, a naturalized Canadian who gained citizenship through his father. "Obviously, I'm disappointed in the way it all worked out here. I wanted it to go a lot different."
Stewart was a third-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. The 24-year-old started three games for the Blue Jays this season, going 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA. He was 5-5 with a 4.20 ERA for AA New Hampshire.
Ticketed for AAA
Stewart will be assigned to AAA Charlotte.
The 26-year-old Walters has spent the majority of the season with AAA Memphis.
Anthopoulos says he had been ringing the Cardinals about Rasmus since last season and the answer had always been no. Rasmus, who has a career .259 average with 50 homers and 158 RBIs in 385 games, adds a powerful centre-field bat to a Jays lineup that relies heavily on star slugger Jose Bautista for offence.
The Georgia native had been mired in prolonged slump this season, going 13 games in July with zero RBIs. It caused frustration with La Russa and hitting instructor Mark McGwire.
"I don't think he's listening to Cardinals coaches right now and that's why he gets in these funks, in my opinion," La Russa told St. Louis television station KDSK on Tuesday.
"I think it was well documented that relationship was not meant to be or not long-term," said Anthopoulos. "It's best for both parties that Colby get a fresh start. I think he's going to thrive here."
For St. Louis, the move addressed a pitching shortage for a team looking to make some noise in the playoffs.
"He's a power arm, a different look from what we roll out there," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said of Jackson, who threw a 149-pitch no-hitter last season for Arizona. "He has the capability of being a dominant pitcher."
Jackson has been dealt seven times since being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 17-year-old in 2001.
"I was born on the move, being a military brat," Jackson said. "My whole life is pick up and make new friends."
Chicago acquired the 27-year-old Jackson from the Diamondbacks on July 30 last season. The right-hander is 7-7 this season with a 3.92 ERA in 19 starts for Chicago, which had been carrying six starters on their roster.
The White Sox were in third place in the American League West, 4 1/2 games back, while the Cardinals led the National League Central headed into Wednesday's games, but Milwaukee was only a half-game back and Pittsburgh was one game behind in third.
Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline is Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.With files from The Canadian Press