TORONTO -- Alex Anthopoulos maneuvered a gigantic Major League jigsaw puzzle on Wednesday, changing the addresses of 11 players in order to finally land his man -- center fielder Colby Rasmus.
The 34-year-old general manager pulled off two massive trades throughout the day -- one with the Chicago White Sox and one with the St. Louis Cardinals -- all in order to land Rasmus, whom he has coveted since he took over the Blue Jays two years ago.
First, Anthopoulos sent reliever Jason Frasor and Minor League pitching prospect Zach Stewart to the White Sox for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and third baseman Mark Teahen.
Then, two hours later, Anthopoulos flipped Jackson, along with outfielder Corey Patterson and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel, to the Cardinals for Rasmus and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters. The Blue Jays will also send three players to be named later or cash considerations to St. Louis.
Jackson, it turns out, was the key to completing the deal as the Cardinals wanted a starting pitcher along with bullpen help in exchange for Rasmus. Anthopoulos had plenty of starting pitching, but none that he felt comfortable trading.
"I've been after Colby for a while but I just didn't have the pieces," Anthopoulos said. "I had the bullpen but I didn't have the starter. That was really the missing piece. I was just on a starter hunt to try to get somebody that could facilitate a trade to the Cardinals, because I knew I had half the components but not all of them."
The cost of Jackson was one of Anthopoulos' best Minor League pitching prospects, Stewart, whom the White Sox have coveted since 2009. Anthopoulos was hesitant to give up Stewart -- who started three games for the Blue Jays this season -- but couldn't resist when faced with the prospect of landing Rasmus.
"He's someone that fit well for them and someone that they liked," Anthopoulos said. "You never want to give up young talent. You don't want to give up prospects. But we do have a lot of depth with our starters. That made it a lot easier to part with a starting prospect."
Anthopoulos had pestered Cardinals general manger John Mozeliak about Rasmus, 24, ever since he took over as Toronto's GM in 2009. But Tuesday night, as Anthopoulos continued to dog Mozeliak about trading his disgruntled center fielder, the two men had a breakthrough.
"We were able to get the thing going and it really accelerated," Anthopoulos said. "St. Louis was always no, no, no on Colby Rasmus the entire time. Then I said, 'I think I can get Jackson, and if I can get Jackson and add this and do this, do you think that would move the needle and get it done?' And that's pretty much the way it went."
Rasmus does join the Blue Jays with some baggage, after reports emerged from St. Louis this year that he fell out of favor with the Cardinals' coaching staff and was not responding well to their instruction and criticism of his struggling swing.
Rasmus is hitting .246 (61-for-338) this season with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs after a much more productive season in 2010 as a Major League sophomore.
The relationship between Rasmus and the Cardinals had clearly frayed, and rumors swirled around the team that it was looking to move their former top prospect.
"That relationship was probably not meant to be, and it's probably best for both parties that Colby gets a fresh start," Anthopoulos said. "He's pleased. He wants to be here and I know he's excited. I think we're going to get more out of him than we saw in St. Louis."
The Blue Jays took on a similar situation at this time last season when they traded for shortstop Yunel Escobar, who was reportedly not responding well to critiques from the Braves' coaching staff.
Blue Jays coaches have not had a bad word to say about Escobar, however, as he is in the midst of one of his best seasons yet and recently signed a two-year contract extension with the club.
Anthopoulos said he will be having "an elephant in the room conversation" with Rasmus as soon as he arrives in Toronto sometime Wednesday night. The two will discuss Rasmus' issues with the coaching staff in St. Louis.
Anthopoulos had similar conversations with Escobar and top prospect Brett Lawrie, who arrived in a trade with Milwaukee after reportedly developing poor relationships with several members of the organization.
"We talk about the past once, and once we've had that conversation it's over," Anthopoulos said. "We don't talk about it again. We're going to start fresh. We want to know what makes him happy and what we can do to help get the best out of him."
More than anything, Anthopoulos is drooling over Rasmus' raw power at the plate and ability to contribute with his speed, both on the field and on the basepaths. Rasmus also gives the Blue Jays another left-handed bat with the proven ability to get on-base -- a combination that is coveted in the hyper-competitive American League East.
Rasmus hit .251 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs during his rookie season in 2009, and he followed it up with a strong sophomore campaign last year, batting .276 with 23 home runs and 66 RBIs.
"It's that two-way dynamic that we look for," Anthopoulos said. "He can run, he can throw. He's a five-tool talent. He's not a finish product -- he definitely has things he can continue to improve on and get better at. But he's 24 and had a very good season last year. There's upside."
who's going where?
A look at which players went where in the three-team, 11-player trade between the Cardinals, Blue Jays and White Sox:
3 PTBNL or cash
What the Blue Jays lose in the short term is bullpen depth, and in the long term is possible Draft pick compensation for Frasor and Dotel, who were both projected to be Type B free agents this off season.
The move may signal a small shift in philosophy for the Blue Jays, who had, up until this point, focused on building through the Draft. Now, Anthopoulos says he will look to add more pieces at the Major League level instead of continuing to stock his already highly touted Minor League system.
"We're always going to value the Draft, Anthopoulos said. "It's always going to be important. But we need to try to shift it a little bit more to the big league club, and continue to try to augment and supplement with the Draft. But the focus will be more on the big league club."
The Blue Jays immediately replace some arms in their bullpen with the acquisitions of Miller, Walter and Tallet, who pitched for the Blue Jays for five seasons between 2006-10, both as a reliever and a starter.
Tallet is currently sidelined with a right intercostal strain and will likely be on the disabled list until sometime in August. Miller and Walters, meanwhile, will immediately join the Blue Jays' bullpen.
Teahen also joins the team immediately as a bench player who can play the corner infield positions and some outfield. He is a seven-year Major League veteran who has battled injuries over the past two seasons and hit .203 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 51 games this season for the White Sox. He represented Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The Blue Jays likely took Teahen in order to get the first deal done, as the White Sox had publicly stated their desire to trim payroll this year. The 29-year-old is under contract for $5.5 million next season.
"I think there was definitely appeal for them from a salary relief standpoint," Anthopoulos said. "We like the player, we always have. I know he hasn't played as well the last few years. But he had some good years with the Royals and has some tools. He's got a chance to be that utility guy who plays all over the place, and he still has some upside."
Anthopoulos said he was likely finished dealing, but he will almost certainly have to make one more move in the coming weeks as Lawrie arrives in the Major Leagues. The blue-chip prospect was on the verge of a callup in May when he broke his hand and has since returned from the injury and played well at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Lawrie's callup will likely push Jose Bautista back to the outfield and create a logjam with Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis and now Rasmus already out there. Anthopoulos said that as far as problems go, this is one he doesn't mind having.
"I've thought about it a lot and I don't know," Anthopoulos said frankly. "There's still enough time that we can cross that bridge when we come to it. But there's no question that that's a great problem for us to have."
Arden Zwelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.