St. Louis Cardinals: Addition By Subtraction, The Mozeliak Era


The St. Louis Cardinals lost two players through the waiver wire on Friday.  Fans are questioning GM John Mozeliak’s thinking but is he again adding by subtracting?

The general manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, John Mozeliak, has now been at the helm for the Cardinals since 2007.  His tenure has been marked by good moves and questionable moves– nothing too dissimilar to any other GM in baseball.  To me, however, Mozeliak seems focused on adding by subtracting.  Let me explore…

Addition by subtraction is done by adding to the value of the team by clearing space through departures.  This addition is also earned by subtracting the right players at the right time.  Has this always worked in the Cardinals favor?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Let’s look back at Mozeliak’s career with the St. Louis Cardinals which began with a strong move sending fan-favorite Jim Edmonds to the Angels in exchange for future-fan-favorite David Freese.  At the time Edmonds was worth negative one WAR and Freese was worth 6.3 WAR.  In this case, Mozeliak added by subtraction and then added by adding.

Mozeliak sent fan-favorite Scott Rolen who was weakened by injury to Toronto for Troy Glaus.  This was a bust but on paper, at the time, seemed like addition through subtraction by sending away an injured player.

Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson, two promising pitchers, were moved at the end of the 2008 season to San Diego to fill the St. Louis Cardinal’s need at short stop.  Mozeliak traded these players away for Khalil Greene.  Another bust but at the time subtracted from a loaded pitching list to fill a need.  Again, addition by subtraction, yet- again- this didn’t pan out.

The 2009 season was a critical time for the St. Louis Cardinals as they saw an opportunity within the division to make a real run at the postseason.  Mozeliak added Mark DeRosa that season by sending away pitchers Chris Perez and Jess Todd.  The pitching list was full again in 2009 and the need at third was strong so Mozeliak added again by making space.

2009 was a busy year for Mozeliak.  He added Julio Lugo that season to shore-up short stop by sending weakened Chris Duncan to the Red Sox.  In this example, Mozeliak again noticed a need to send away a player whose upside was diminishing for an immediate need.

One of Mozeliak’s greatest trade moves of his career (at least to St. Louis Cardinal fans) came in 2009 when Matt Holliday joined the club through a trade sending Chris Mortensen, Brett Wallace, and Shane Peterson to Oakland.  Notice here too that Mozeliak sent an arm from the lengthly Cardinals list, a prospect who was landlocked, and a weakened outfielder thus adding by subtracting.

Attempting to find similar success as to what they had in 2009, Mozeliak added Jake Westbrook and Nick Greenwood to the squad through a three-team trade.  This move sent Ryan Ludwig, a player who again was fading under the Cardinals wings, to San Diego thus adding by subtracting.  Westbrook had a few good seasons for the Cardinals and Greenwood assisted the pen.

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At the conclusion of the 2010 season, Mozeliak added Ryan Theriot to assist the middle infield.  Theriot was gained by subtracting Blake Hawksworth.  At the trade deadline that season, Mozeliak subtracted team-illness Colby Rasmus, and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters.  These subtractions netted pitchers who were critical to the World Series title- Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, and Octavio Dotel– as well as outfielder Corey Patterson.

The 2010 World Series lead Mozeliak to remove outfield prospect Alex Castellanos who was blocked from reaching the majors with St. Louis for Rafael Furcal.  This subtraction from the swamped outfield netted a great infielder who solved the short stop debacle of the year.

Needing back end of the pen, Mozeliak acquired Edward Mujica at the trade deadline in 2012 by subtracting promising Zack Cox who simply was never going to break into the majors at third base for the Cardinals thanks to Freese.  This was another addition-by-subtraction move.

2013 was a year in which the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Championship in the postseason but lost the World Series.  In this season, Mozeliak subtracted Rzepczynski for a minor league short stop thus removing a fading pitcher for promise.  For the push to postseason, Mozeliak added John Axford by subtracting another weakened pitcher, Michael Blazek.

The St. Louis Cardinals have held powerful pitching lists full of names and after the 2013 season, Mozeliak sent weakened Fernando Salas along with injured David Freese to the Angels for outfield need.  These subtractions netted Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos.  Bourjos was the one with promise that never materialized and Grichuk was the added piece.

Outfielder James Ramsey– promising but seemingly locked in the minors in 2014 thanks to the Grichuk/Bourjos addition- was subtracted at the trade deadline for reclamation project Justin Masterson.  These weren’t Mozeliak’s only moves that season.

2014 also brought the subtraction of mentally-injured Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for John Lackey, and Corey Littrell.  Lackey would go on to help the Cardinals for a few seasons and Littrell is rising as we speak while Craig faded from view and Kelly experienced injuries that limited him dramatically, thus another example of addition-by-subtraction (and then some addition).

Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins were subtracted after the 2014 season for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden.  Miller had plateaued with the St. Louis Cardinals and Jenkins was promising but his value was greater to net MLB players of the ilk in this deal.  While Walden never materialized and is just now departing, Heyward helped for his short time with the Cardinals.

There are other moves that have been made but my favorites are when Mozeliak truly shows his prowess for addition by subtraction by letting players disappear through free agency or through the waiver wire at the right time.  Examples of this are the disappearance of Greene (mentioned above), Pete Kozma (probably the greatest addition by subtraction), and perhaps even these names now.

Mozeliak is always building on a plan as is shown in the examples here.  Much of the plan focuses on removing players at the right time when they still have value (to someone else) for players who can impact the St. Louis Cardinals.  Every GM hopes to add players who will help both today and in the future.

What do you think?  Are the moves happening this offseason- the loss of Jeremy Hazelbaker and Dean Kiekhefer combined with the extension to Mike Matheny, the selected option of Jaime Garcia, the purported departure of Matt Holliday and purported lack of qualifying offer to Brandon Moss– more of Mozeliak’s subtraction genus?

Next: Cards Lose Two On Waiver Claims

Let us hope that Mozeliak’s moves will play in the favor of the Cardinals.  I just don’t think that we in Cardinal Nation can stomach another frustrating season like 2016.  Also, I don’t believe that Mozeliak is anywhere near finished with moves this offseason.  Stay tuned for news as soon as it breaks!