The offense-strapped St. Louis Cardinals acquired outfielder-first baseman Brandon Moss from the Cleveland Indians for minor-league pitcher Rob Kaminsky on Thursday, but General Manager John Mozeliak said the deal wasn’t connected to the latest injury to Matt Holliday.
St. Louis struck a deal with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday morning to add hitting, acquiring first baseman and outfielder Brandon Moss for minor-league left-hander Rob Kaminsky, the Cardinals’ No. 1 draft pick in 2013.
“It was not tied to (Holliday’s injury),” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said of the deal for Moss, who was batting .217 with 17 doubles, 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 94 games for the Indians. “When we were looking at what we could try to accomplish by the 31st, one of the things we felt we needed to do was find a bat, a power bat, somebody that could fit in our lineup and also give us some flexibility.
“There were a lot of names being bantered about on what we might be chasing or looking for, and the one thing that was so attractive to us with Moss was that he can play first base, play the outfield (and) we have him under control for next year. For us, we felt like it was the right person at the right time.”
Holliday, who reinjured his right quad running to first base Wednesday, was placed on the disabled list Thursday to make room for Moss on the 25-man and 40-man rosters. The Cardinals recalled infielder Greg Garcia from Class AAA Memphis, while first baseman Dan Johnson was designated for assignment.
Moss, an American League All-Star last season for Oakland when he hit 25 home runs, is a career .243 hitting with 106 home runs and 346 games. He had a career-high 30 homers and 87 RBIs with the A’s in 2013. He is earning $6.5 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible during the winter.
“He’s been a production guy in a time in baseball when production is low,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He has power and the ability to drive in runs. Both of those, we’re not afraid to add. He’s excited to be here, we’re excited to have him. We’ve been looking for some experience along with a guy who’s had some success. Put that in the mix with what we’ve got already and it’s going to help us be a better club.”
Kaminsky, 20, was 6-5 with a 2.09 ERA in 17 starts for high Class A Palm Beach this season. He was the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect, according to Baseball America.
“I certainly understand when people feel like we may have overpaid on this deal, but I would also position it as we had a need,” Mozeliak said. “We also felt like we were dealing from a strength. When you think about our left side with Marco (Gonzales), (Tyler) Lyons and (Tim) Cooney, we felt like we were protected over the next few years in that regard. We felt like where we were on this, we had to do it.”
It marked the third consecutive year in which the Cardinals and Cleveland have made a deal before the trade deadline, which arrives at 3 p.m. Friday. In 2013, the Cardinals traded left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Indians for minor-league infielder Juan Herrera. Last year, St. Louis dealt minor-league outfielder James Ramsey to the Indians for right-handed starter Justin Masterson.
Moss, 31, was not in the starting lineup Thursday against Colorado because of a late flight. But he was expected to be available as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement. Moss will wear No. 21.
Moss is a left-handed hitter with strange splits. He is batting .191 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs against right-handed pitching, .265 with four homers and 18 RBIs against lefties. Moss also struggled hitting at Progressive Field in Cleveland, managing a paltry .190 average with two homers and 18 RBIs in 48 games.
“We believe there is some upside with Mr. Moss,” Mozeliak said. “We feel that given that upside, he really does fit what we need. ... I see him more than a platoon guy. Obviously, we’re trying to address first base, and he likes to play there. But he can play the outfield. This gives our club more flexibility.”
Strikeouts have been a problem for Moss. He fanned a career-high 153 times in 500 at-bats last season with the Oakland A’s, and has whiffed 106 in 337 at-bats this year. The Cardinals already have big strikeout players in their lineup with Randal Grichuk and Mark Reynolds. Matt Carpenter also is on pace for more than 100 strikeouts.
“You obviously would like to see that percentage go down, for sure,” Mozeliak said. “But we also sort of know what we have. If you’re scoring runs and you’re still striking out, that’s OK. But the key is to try to create more runs, and that’s what we hopefully can do with this lineup.”
The Cardinals began Thursday having scored seven runs in their last five games, including none in back-to-back losses to Cincinnati on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Moss’ arrival, Mozeliak said, will enable rookie Stephen Piscotty to focus on playing the outfield, an indication that Moss will primarily be used at first base. Piscotty has been auditioned at first base since joining the Cardinals from Memphis on July 21.
“I think that’s important, too,” Mozeliak said of Piscotty playing a more natural position.
Mozeliak indicated the Cardinals probably wouldn’t make another significant trade before the deadline.
“I’ll continue to talk to clubs and weigh what we could possibly do to improve, but in terms of having a more impact type deal, I don’t envision it.”
Moss has played 718 games in the majors since 2007, with Boston (2007-08), Pittsburgh (2008-10), Philadelphia (2011), Oakland (2012-14) and Cleveland (2015).
Moss had two homers and seven RBIs on April 24 at Detroit and five RBIs on July 1 at Tampa Bay. He hit two homers for the A’s in a wild-card loss to Kansas City in October.
Moss has played 78 games in right field, 10 at first base and been the Indians’ designated hitter six times this year. He turns 32 on Sept. 16.