The St. Louis Cardinals have been busy this offseason, adding a variety of pitchers, shipping out some familiar faces, and reshaping both their coaching staff and their front office as well.
While there are a lot of mixed feelings amongst fans about the player acquisition side of things, there's been a lot of optimism surrounding the front office and coaching staff hires. Chaim Bloom, Yadier Molina, Daniel Descalso, and others they've added (or created new positions for) should help the Cardinals evolve as an organization both now and into the future.
But there was another front office hire that happened Wednesday that I think may go under the radar, but according to people around the game of baseball, is a guy who many have viewed as a "rising star" in the industry.
According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the Cardinals have hired Anuk Karunaratne from the Toronto Blue Jays to join their front office as the Senior Vice President of Business Operations. He served as the Executive Vice President of Business Operations in Toronto before this.
Karunaratne, a Ph.D. graduate from Washington University in St. Louis, was heralded during his time with the Blue Jays for helping them integrate analytics into all phases of their operations, not just the baseball side of things. He was a prominent figure in their dealings with the Canadian government during the COVID-19 restrictions. Karunaratne was honored as one of the Sports Business Journal's "Forty under 40" in 2023 as well.
According to a piece from David Singh over on Sportsnet, Karunaratne, who was a part of the Boston Consulting Group before joining the Blue Jays, was very interested during his interview process with the Blue Jays about how open they truly were to change. This quote from Karunaratne in Singh's piece was really intriguing to me.
"It’s easy to say, it’s very hard to do,” said Karunaratne. “And it takes alignment and buy-in from the very top of the organization down. It takes commitment to stay the course because those changes don’t happen overnight. And so, I was trying to understand, like, hey, it’s great that you say you want to do that, but do you understand what it’s going to take? And are you committed to actually doing it and seeing it through? Because if not, I’m coming into a role that’s not ultimately going to be effective."- Anuk Karunaratne
The Blue Jays team president and general manager received this feedback well, and ultimately Karunaratne jumped in with the Blue Jays front office knowing that he could make a real impact on helping their organization move into a more successful place long-term, with a strong emphasis on building a "learning culture" amongst their team.
While a business hire may make some fans roll their eyes or remain skeptical of the Cardinals' desire to win on the field, it's important to remember that the business side has an impact on the ability of the club to operate from a competitive side of things, whether we like it or not. We can all have our own opinions on how much that should matter, but any time you can bring in a leader like Karunaratne to your organization and allow him to shape and mold things, that's a big win.
The future of the Cardinals front office will be shaped here in the next 12-18 months, and adding strong leaders and voices to this group for life after John Mozeliak is critical for the club to take a strong step into the future. The willingness of the DeWitt family to spend and evolve as an ownership group will always be the most important domino in this equation, but the fact they have invited names like Bloom and Karunaratne to be a part of that future is an encouraging sign.