St. Louis Cardinals: Acquiring Goldschmidt proves Mozeliak’s relentlessness
By Rob Chagdes
St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak might occasionally whiff on attempts to improve his team’s roster, but adding star Paul Goldschmidt affirms that he and GM Mike Girsch will never stop being proactive in making their team better.
Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford famously spoke of failure saying, “it is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” John Mozeliak and his St. Louis Cardinals crew have proven they live by this phrase, taking every opportunity to begin again with and increased shrewdness seen in every transaction.
December of 2015 was a rough month for Mozeliak, who at that time was entering his eighth year as the Cardinals General Manager. He woke up on the morning of December 1 expecting to sign free agent pitcher David Price to the longest contract in team history. By the end of the day, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski had swooped in with a bigger offer and convinced the former Cy Young award winner to sign with Boston.
Less than two weeks later, the St. Louis Cardinals had their own free agent in Jason Heyward would spurn the team that traded for him only a year ago and sign with the rival Cubs for an eight-year $184 million deal. Cardinals former manager Mike Matheny was less than pleased with Heyward’s reason for choosing not to return to St. Louis, citing the advantages of the young core players on the Cubs.
Hindsight allows fans to breathe a sigh of relief as they realize the on-field results paired with those contracts would have been a huge problem for the Cardinals. At the time they were seen as significant misses for a team that was in need of a jolt to counter the ascending Cubs.
Mozeliak pressed on after missing the playoffs in 2016 and signed coveted lefty reliever Brett Cecil to a four-year $30.5 million contract. After two big misses, Mozeliak got his guy.
Despite finally hitting his target, Cecil has a 4.86 ERA with the Cards and a horrific -0.5 WAR. Another swing an a miss for Mo.
The Redbirds missed the playoffs again in 2017, which prompted the determined Mozeliak to acquire Marlins star Marcell Ozuna for a package headlined by pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara. Ozuna did not perform as expected, slashing .280/.433/.758 with 23 home runs and 88 RBI’s. His ailing shoulder was an issue leading Mozeliak to call him out after the season ended.
Much of Mozeliak’s recent successes have comes from the talent within the farm system, which has seen a dramatic turnaround over the past several years. Their minor league depth is what allowed the Cardinals to trade a promising young prospect like Alcantara. The team possesses a surplus of pitching prospects, including Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon, Austin Gomber, and John Gant.
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This same depth allowed Mozeliak and Girsch to acquire Paul Goldschmidt, snagging the six-time All-Star for catcher Carson Kelly, right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver and minor league infielder Andrew Young. The St. Louis Cardinals have repeatedly resisted the temptation to rebuild, and keep pushing to give fans a winning team year in and year out.
Historically the Cardinals have seen success in acquiring a player with a year left on their contract. Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds and Matt Holliday all fell in love with St. Louis and re-signed beyond their one year. When Jason Heyward bolted for Chicago, fans wondered if something had changed with the Cardinal culture or the perception of it. (Mike Matheny perhaps?)
Mozeliak is rolling the dice with Goldy, believing he will be the perfect fit in St. Louis that Big Mac, Jimmy Ballgame, and the Stillwater Stinger were. Whether or not Paul Goldschmidt ends up signing an extension or not, Mozeliak has proven something to Cardinals fans. He proved that he is resolved to end their three year playoff drought, and all signs point towards Mozeliak and Girsch making additional moves to improve on a team that won 88 games in 2018.
In a baseball culture of tanking and rebuilding, the St. Louis faithful can enter the 2019 season with the hope of reestablishing themselves as a force in the National League. Fans can ding Mo for his failed moves, but perhaps there is a place to admire the tenacious way his Cardinal leadership continues to take bold steps to put a winner on the field.