The Trade History of John Mozeliak, 2007-2008

There are many aspects to a general manager’s job.  There is supervising the minor league system.  There is negotiating with free agents.  There’s dealing with the league, interacting with the coaching staff, and a myriad of other things, many of which the public never really sees.  One of the biggest aspects of the job, though, is dealing with other general managers in the trade market.

John Mozeliak officially became the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals on October 31, 2007.  As this blog had been going for a few months at that time, I can’t deny that I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the move at the time.  Over time, though, Mozeliak has seemed to move into the upper echelon of GMs around the league.  He’s got a track record of success and there’s no doubt the team has done well under his leadership.

Before Dexter Fowler, though, the joke (based in a lot of truth) was that the Cardinals kept finishing second on every free agent they went after.  Mo has never seemed to be overly great at the free agent signing, perhaps in part because the general conservatism of him and the ownership limits the big risks, but free agency is a tough thing to judge.  I mean, David Price could have easily been a Cardinal last year, because they offered him a huge contract that it took a major market’s determination to keep him out of the red.  Do you give credit to the front office for that attempt?  The thought is that Boston would top anything St. Louis threw at Price.  How do you judge what they do there? (Though I will commend Colin Garner’s recent post on Mo at The Redbird Daily to your reading.)

Trades, however, feel like a little more of a tangible way to judge a GM.  There’s less player input (save for the exercising of the 10 and 5 rights) which would seem to put more of the onus, good or bad, on the trading skills of the general manager.

I’ve often felt that, while Mo wasn’t a huge free agent guy, he was pretty darn good at the trading thing.  I mean, who can forget Matt Holliday or the big deal in 2011?  So I put it out on Twitter to get everyone else’s point of view.

The extremes seemed to cancel each other out, so more people had a positive feeling about Mo’s dealing than a meh one.  About half of those that participated (and thanks to all that chimed in) thought he was a pretty good wheeler and dealer.  Would those impressions stand up, though, if we went one by one through the trades?

Using Baseball-Reference (and a hat tip to Easton Leonard, also of The Redbird Daily, for pointing me in the right direction), I went through and recorded each one of Mozeliak’s deals.  While I did include the one-sided deals (where the club either gave or received a PTBNL, cash, or “future considerations”) I didn’t count the outright sale of Mitchell Boggs.  Nor did I factor in how much money either side paid in the deal to cover contracts.  That obviously plays a role in the decision making, though most of the time the deal isn’t close enough that the financial side would make a difference.  I wound up with 35 such trades to examine.

I then went and found the bWAR that the players involved, both with either the Cardinals or the team they were traded to as well as the total bWAR for that player after the trade, no matter what team they were on.  While WAR doesn’t tell the whole story, especially when it comes to the surrounding circumstances, it’s a pretty handy gauge to know what kind of value was given up or received.

I’m also going to rate the trades as a win, a loss, or a tossup.  A win does not mean that the Cards necessarily “won” the trade, as trades could be won by both sides.  Similarly, a loss may be just from a certain point of view.  I tried to give a W or L to as many as possible, but some trades were either too new (a la Jaime Garcia) or too frankly insignificant to really get worked up about.

Also, being that my blogging career has spanned all of Mo’s moves, I’ve hunted up a post on as many of these deals as I can showing what I thought of the deal at the time.  This is not to show how smart I am, because probably a full 75% of the time I’m on the wrong side of history.  However, it will give you a feeling of what we were thinking at the time, even if it wasn’t really accurate.

Since there are so many deals to go through, let’s break them down in chunks.  I don’t know if we’ll do them in two-year periods every time, but that’s what we’ll start with.  Let’s begin.

Trade 1: Jim Edmonds to San Diego for David Freese

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/14/07 Jim Edmonds -1.0 2.0 David Freese 5.7 11.3

Reaction Post: So Long, Mr. Edmonds

If there’s anything to be said about Mozeliak’s tenure, especially the early portion, was that he wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a big deal.  His very first deal started the breakup of the MV3, dealing fan favorite Edmonds to the West Coast for a A ball player that made his home in St. Louis and eventually made his name there as well.

For as much as they seem to enjoy each other’s company now, it felt like Edmonds and Tony La Russa had basically come to the end of their rope and they needed a break from each other.  The 2007 season, what with the loss of Chris Carpenter on Opening Day, never really gelled and the post-Series glow died pretty quickly.  Shipping Edmonds off made sense, especially with another rough season on the horizon.

As for David Freese, the Cards immediately announced he’d start in Memphis and it wasn’t long before he made it all the way up to the big leagues.  While he’s of course most famous for his 2011 heroics–which would have made this trade a great one in and of themselves–but his 2012 season was the best one in Cardinal red.  We’ll talk about his exit in another post, but Freese, like Edmonds, will always have a place in the hearts of the Cardinal faithful.

Rating: Win, by a landslide.

Trade 2: Scott Rolen to Toronto for Troy Glaus

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
1/14/08 Scott Rolen 7.4 15.0 Troy Glaus 4.2 4.4

Reaction Post: You Can’t Go Home Again

Just a month later, the second Mo deal left Albert Pujols as the only member of that legendary triumvirate still under the Arch.  Mo told the bloggers a couple of years ago that Rolen had basically wanted to be dealt anywhere, that he had to get out of St. Louis and away from TLR.  (However, there was a noticeable pause in the phone conversation when he found out anywhere was Toronto.)  For the fact that it was an open secret that Rolen and Tony were at odds, Mozeliak did pretty well to get some sort of value for him.

The fact that he got value for him doesn’t mean it was a win for the Cardinals, though.  It looked that way in 2008, when Troy Glaus hit 27 homers and Rolen put up middling numbers in Toronto.  However (and this is something for those already crowing about the Jason Heyward deal to keep in mind), quick judgement doesn’t mean accurate judgement.  Glaus got hurt in 2009, then went to Atlanta for his final season while Rolen found his feet first in Toronto, then thriving in Cincinnati after a mid-season deal.

I said at the time that, when you are choosing between a player in his prime (or at least one with a number of good years left in him) and a manager, even a Hall of Famer, you should probably go with the player.  Some, having watched Mike Matheny over the last half-decade, might choose to disagree with that statement.  I really hate that Rolen’s time in St. Louis ended so acrimoniously.  I feel like he would have been a guy that people would have loved to see around the ballpark, back for special occasions, etc.  (I am glad that he came back for the 2006 World Series reunion, so maybe he still has some positive memories of St. Louis.)

I was glad that Rolen wound up back in the NL Central so we could see him more regularly, even if it was a reminder of what could have been.  Is there some alternate universe where a different choice was made and Rolen retired a Cardinal, perhaps?

Rating: Loss, though the team that won (Cincinnati) wasn’t even in the deal.

Trade 3: Mike McCoy to Baltimore for future considerations.

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
3/22/08 Mike McCoy  0 0.6

So, um, anyone actually remember Mike McCoy?  I’d have sworn he was a pitcher but apparently he was an outfielder turned utility guy.  This was a spring training deal that probably had more to do with Baltimore needing a body than anything else.  McCoy never made it to the bigs with Baltimore, making his major league debut after signing with the Rockies.  He appeared in parts of four seasons, three with the Blue Jays.

The future considerations never seemed to make it into the paper.  Most likely the Cards never really worried about collecting.  Perhaps if they’d had a deal with Baltimore later on (well, one of any size) they could have used a little goodwill but really, there was nothing much to this one.

Rating: Tossup, because it’s hard to see the Cards were any better or worse for McCoy moving on.

Trade 4: Anthony Reyes to Cleveland for Luis Perdomo

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/26/08 Anthony Reyes 1.0 1.0 Luis Perdomo 0 -0.2

Reaction Post: A Helpless Feeling

In the midst of another disappointing season, the Cardinals cut bait on a disappointing prospect.  There were a lot of fingers pointed at Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan for the inability for Anthony Reyes to be the guy that was at the top of the Cardinals’ prospect lists for so long and the guy that stymied the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series.  Some thought that Duncan’s reliance on pitching down in the zone and getting ground balls was hindering Reyes, who had a high hard fastball and was a strikeout guy.

Reyes looked like he was going to prove those theorists right, putting up a 1.83 ERA in six starts after going over to Cleveland.  However, he cratered in 2009 (6.57 ERA in eight starts) and never returned to the big leagues, dealing with Tommy John surgery along the way.  He wound up in the San Diego system for a year before finally calling it quits.

Perdomo didn’t stick around long either, going to the Giants in that December’s Rule 5 draft.  He got into 35 games with the Padres in ’09 and resurfaced for 15 games with the Twins in ’12, but never was much more than a fill-in arm.  However, apparently Mo liked the process, since he went back to the Cleveland well more than any other.  Five of the 35 deals Mo made were with that club.

If you were to ask most anyone who won Game 1 of that 2006 Series, a lot of fans would be hard-pressed to come up with Reyes’s name.  Just another one of those amazing footnotes in history that seem to loom so large when you are living the moment.

Rating: A close loss.  It’s unlikely Reyes could have done what he did for Cleveland in 2008 for the Redbirds, but that’s still much more than Perdomo gave, well, anybody.

Trade 5: Mark Worrell and a PTBNL (Luke Gregerson) for Khalil Greene

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/4/08 Mark Worrell 0.0 -0.6 Khalil Greene -0.8 -0.8
Luke Gregerson 3.9 7.0*

*–Still active

Reaction Post: The Curious Case of Khalil Greene

You wonder if this deal gets made if Mozeliak was fully cognizant of the mental issues that Greene was dealing with.  For those that have come to Cardinal fandom since 2009, Greene was a power-hitting shortstop that had had some fluctuating years with the Padres, but given that the organization was in the midst of replacing a shortstop every year, he looked like a long-term solution at the position.

It didn’t turn out that way.  Greene, it turned out, dealt with social anxiety and he didn’t deal with it well.  In fact, the club wound up giving him time off during the middle of the season.  (Wikipedia notes that he was cutting himself, though I don’t remember us knowing that at the time.  We did know there was something wrong, though.)  He wound up on the disabled list twice and, unlike Zack Greinke, wasn’t ever able to work his way through it.  He tried to play for Texas the next season, but didn’t make it through spring training.  It’s a tough situation and you hate for someone to have to go through that on a national stage.

If Greene had been traded straight up for Mark Worrell, it might have still been at least close to a win.  Worrell, who if I remember right had a strange delivery, had Tommy John surgery and never wound up playing for the Padres.  He didn’t get back to the major leagues until 2011, when he got a couple of innings with the Orioles.  He may always be in the record books, though, because not only did he hit a home run in his first at bat while in St. Louis, but more notably he gave up the first home run to an Angels outfielder named Mike Trout.

What really hurts about this deal, though, is the player to be named later.  Even at the time, Luke Gregerson was considered a pretty solid relief prospect, though if you can deal two relievers for a starting shortstop, you probably do that every time.  Gregerson blossomed in San Diego and became one of the best late inning options in any pen, whether it’s been San Diego, Oakland, or Houston.  Reliever ERA isn’t a great measure, but last year’s mark of 3.28 was the worst of his career.  In his career, he’s averaged nine strikeouts per nine innings and even did well as the closer in 2015 for the Astros, tallying 31 saves.  There have been many times in the past few years where Gregerson’s arm would have been a huge boost to the Cardinal bullpen.

Rating: Loss, easily.

Those are the first five deals of Mozeliak’s tenure.  Next week, we’ll tackle a few more of them, because there are a lot of interesting deals still left to discuss!

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