Big Moves

John Mozeliak is a pragmatist. For as pallid as pragmatism can be, it’s a highly coveted trait for a baseball executive. At least it should be. No team owner wants to wake up to find his GM made a franchise altering trade or signing based on a gut feeling or a moment of enlightenment found deep in the throes of an acid flashback. Rationale is always welcome.

Thankfully, Mozeliak sees the transactional side of the Major League Baseball sphere with Terminator-esque clarity, accounting for all variables and weighing all options, no matter how absurd on the surface, yet ultimately settling for moves that strike a nice balance between risk and reward. Or maybe he’s just hoarding his young pitching and desperately afraid to move a Faberge egg or two off the mantelpiece. I mean, at this point, the team is looking at a healthy competition for the 8th starter role, if such a thing existed.

Whether fear or shrewdness was the driving factor for throwing 52 million American dollars at Jhonny Peralta, in hindsight, it was an obvious move. It helps to think of Jhonny as a treasure chest. Mozeliak gathered up Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, and a first round draft pick and locked them inside a 31 year old shortstop who may or may not retain the mobility needed to see the position through for 4 years. He paid a $52 million retainer for the privilege and swallowed the key. And while the baseline for upgrading shortstop in St. Louis was incredibly low, there’s a decent chance Peralta ends up a top 5 player at the position in 2014. That’s a nice little bonus on top of keeping your young assets off the trade market, or it was the driving factor of the deal. You decide.

Then to prove even squares like to party, Mo shipped off folk hero David Freese and change for arguably the most exciting defensive center fielder on the planet and a legit, if flawed, prospect. When clubhouse chemistry and popular opinion are at stake, the Freese for Bourjos deal could be read as whimsical or down right rash decision making. In the absence of a legit fallback option at 3B or 2B, which could yet be rectified this off-season, it saddles Kolten Wong with the responsibility of being an everyday major leaguer in the absence of any proof he can be such a thing. Less frightening, it’s a bet that Matt Carpenter’s 7 win season was not a flash in the pan and a parlay on regression only sucking a win or three off his 2013 numbers, with offensive regression being slightly mitigated by a move to third.

Then again… Peter Bourjos. I mean, someone out there took time out of their lives to sync up Bourjos highlights to 3 Doors Down’s Kryptonite. That’s special.

It’s fair to say these deals hug that cozy center line that drives through risk and reward. In one interpretation, Mozeliak saddled himself to an aging PED user who scouts will tell you is not a shortstop, then traded a hometown hero and bounce back candidate for an oft-injured bird in the bush who might struggle to hit. The other interpretation is that it was two more calculated moves from a GM who continues to unearth low-risk/high-reward opportunities for the club while mother-ducking his youngsters from prospects to big league contributors. And while the flame of the hot stove flickers and seduces and pleads for a blow-up move, it feels like we’re getting another sensible off-season for Christmas.

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