The Trade History of John Mozeliak, 2011

As you know, we’ve been taking a look at the trading history of Cardinal general manager John Mozeliak.  If you’ve missed out, we tackled 2007-2008 here, 2009 here, and 2010 in the last installment.  Today, we’ll tackle the year of the last World Championship.  There aren’t many deals here, but since one of them takes up a lot of verbiage, we’ll stick to 2011 instead of our original plan of taking the next two years together.

Trade 16: Future considerations to Kansas City for Victor Marte

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
4/13/11 Victor Marte -0.4 -0.4

Looking for a little pitching insurance, Mo made this move right after the 2011 season kicked off.  Marte was immediately assigned to Memphis, where he stayed all season long, piling up 31 saves and a 1.44 ERA down in Memphis.  I honestly can’t remember why he didn’t get a shot sometime that season, but perhaps by time the team was comfortable with him they had already bolstered the bullpen.  Plus my feeling (and I’m not sure exactly how to look it up) is that Marte wasn’t on the 40-man roster, which probably meant the Cards weren’t wowed enough by his performance to add him during their run to a title.

Marte did make it up to the bigs in 2012, making the team out of spring training.  He had some good outings, but struggled more as the summer went on, running his ERA to around four and a half before being sent back to Memphis at the end of July.  His return in September didn’t help matters and while the Cards kept him on the 40-man, he made just four appearances around the beginning of June in 2013.  He went back to Memphis, stayed there the rest of the year, and never played in the professional ranks again.

Rating: I’m going to go with a loss here, given that it’s not usually that hard to come up with some sort of replacement level bullpen arm from your own system, so whatever Mo gave up for Marte (and I realize, it might not have been much of anything), was probably a waste of resources.

Trade 17: Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters to Toronto for Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson, Octavio Dotel, and Edwin Jackson

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/27/11 Colby Rasmus 6.6 11.4* Marc Rzepczynski -0.2 1.0*
Trever Miller 0.0 0.1 Corey Patterson -0.4 -0.4
Brian Tallet -0.4 -0.4 Octavio Dotel 0.2 0.6
P.J. Walters 0.1 -2.0 Edwin Jackson 0.6 -1.3*

*–Still active

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Obviously, this is probably the trade that people would associate with John Mozeliak.  When we look back on 2011, we think about this trade being the impetus of that amazing run.  It’s probably fair to say that the Cards don’t win the title without the players that came in, but it wasn’t the immediate jolt that we sometimes think it was.

The morning of the 27th, the Cardinals were 55-48 and a half-game ahead of the Brewers for the Central Division lead.  It seems funny now to look at those standings and realize the Cardinals were actually a team that led the division for a while.  There’s this mythos about the team that was dead that made this huge, life-saving run and all of that is true, but like the 2006 team, this was a better team than we remember, they just underachieved for a while.  (And, to be fair, if St. Louis had been behind the Brew Crew by 1/2 a game, they’d also been 5.5 out of the wild card.  The Central wasn’t having one of its strongest seasons.)

In less than a month, the Cards were 10 games behind the Brewers and, as we all know, 10.5 games behind in the wild card race.  They went 12-15 after what was supposed to be a trade that was to put them over the edge.  You have to wonder whether Mozeliak looked himself in the mirror during August and wonder if he had done the right thing.  After all, Rasmus was quite a talent, though the fact that he hit .216/.239/.398 and was on the DL on August 25 probably helped ease a little of the sting.

Of course, we know how shaky Rasmus’s relationship with Tony La Russa and the front office was, so trading him while there was still value made sense, but really dealing him for spare parts seemed iffy.  When you are trading a young, talented, under contract center fielder, you’d think you’d get more back than a couple of bullpen arms, a questionable starter, and a well-past-whatever-prime-he-had outfielder.

Then it all clicked.  Dotel did give up six runs in September, but he struck out 16 in 12.1 innings and became a great neutralizer out of the bullpen.  Rzepczynski gave the club a strong lefty and one of the more legendary World Series goof stories when Derek Lilliquist apparently mixed his name up with Lance Lynn.  Jackson went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA after the trade and grabbed a win in the NLDS against the Phillies.  (He also got one in the LCS, but with an ERA around 9 to show for it.)  And Corey Patterson……was also there.

As we knew then and know now, this was a short-term solution.  Dotel moved on to the Tigers and had a good 2012, but had an elbow injury during 2013 and retired from baseball after the season.  Patterson was done with big league ball after he was left off the postseason roster, though he bounced around the minor leagues for a couple more years.  Jackson put up three mediocre season with the Nationals (where the Cardinals got to fortunately face him in the NLDS, once as a starter and once when he entered the legendary Game 5 in relief) before turning to the bullpen and having a very good 2015.  As of right now he’s a free agent, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him show up in someone’s camp.  Finally, Scrabble (whose name I did learn to spell, though I had to refresh myself for this post) will show up in our next post but seemingly moves every trade deadline to another team that needs a tough lefty.

Rasmus struggled in Toronto (and occasionally he or his dad would throw a little jab toward his former club) but did put up 6.6 WAR there mainly due to his power bat.  He put up about 20 homers every year, even if his average–except for 2013–stayed in the .220 range.  A free agent after 2014, he moved on to Houston, where his 25 home runs got him a qualifying offer and he became the first player in history to accept it.  The encore wasn’t nearly as exciting, though, and he is now currently a free agent.  He’s about to play in his Age 30 season and hit 15 home runs last year in 107 games (albeit in a small ballpark).  He’ll get a look somewhere, I figure.

Oh, and the other parts that went to Toronto?  Most people forgot they were ever Cardinals.  Brian Tallet had played almost his whole career in Toronto before signing with St. Louis as a free agent in November of 2010.  Perhaps he was homesick, perhaps Mo thought he’d do better back in a familiar environment, perhaps he just wanted to ditch a 8.31 ERA.  Interestingly, you hear often that you can’t trade a player on the disabled list, but you can with the player’s permission.  Tallet was on the DL after straining a muscle sneezing (though doctors found out in that exam he also had a kidney disease) but he willingly returned to Canada, where he made one last major league appearance on August 30, allowing two runs while getting just one out.

Trever Miller had an interesting story when he joined the Cardinals, as he had a daughter with serious medical issues.  In fact, she almost died during the 2011 season and even though the club told him they would let him have whatever time he needed, he still pitched.  As much as he tried to compartmentalize, though, it’s probably not a coincidence that 2011 was the worst of the three years that he had while he was in St. Louis.  Given the club was getting Rzepczynski back, they had no spot for Miller.  Sadly, neither did the Blue Jays, who released him less than a month after the trade, nor the Red Sox, whom he joined a week later.  He didn’t make it out of the Cubs’ spring training in 2012 and that was it for him and baseball.  It looks like he’s involved in this ministry (along with Adam Wainwright) but nothing more about his home life can I find.

As for P.J. Walters, he always had a special place for me because I interviewed him at least once for UCB Radio.  I don’t think I could find those interviews now, but it was fun to talk to what was then at least a major league prospect, even if nobody thought he’d be a star.  He had tragedy as well, losing his newborn daughter in 2010.  Walters didn’t do much in Toronto and spent a couple of years in Minnesota with less-than-stellar results before washing out of the game.

Rating: I’m giving Mo a win on this one just because flags fly forever.  If it wasn’t for that title, this might be pretty lopsided on the other side of the ledger.  Rasmus may not have been the superstar we thought he was going to be, but he’s still been a productive player over the last five years, which is more than we can say for most of the rest of the deal.

Trade 18: Alex Castellanos to Los Angeles (NL) for Rafael Furcal

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/31/11 Alex Castellanos -0.6 -0.6* Rafael Furcal 2.1 2.1

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Happy Flight.

Even if Furcal contributed nothing else to that legendary run, he gave us the catchphrase that defined it.  (So much so that we in the UCB snagged it for the title of our postseason publication.)  Furcal did much more than that, though.  After hitting .197 with a single longball for the Dodgers, he was one of the great examples of Cardinal voodoo magic, hitting .255 with 11 doubles and seven homers.  He wasn’t necessarily dominant defensively, though it’s tough to tell with small samples when you look at defensive metrics, but he seemed to shore that up compared to what Ryan Theriot was doing there.  Furcal’s bat quieted in the postseason, as he hit just .195 in October, but his leadoff triple against Roy Halladay (and subsequent scoring on Skip Schumaker‘s sacrifice fly) may have been the biggest non-Game 6 hit of that entire run and gave Chris Carpenter all he needed to make sure one of the best pitching games ever went St. Louis’s way.

Furcal lost a little of the luster in 2012, but he still hit .264/.325/.346 before going down with an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery and him missing all of 2013.  The Cardinals had signed him to a two-year deal before ’12 began, showing that Mo’s tendency to sign someone to a deal they won’t play half of is not limited to just relief pitchers.  (This also led to a callup of Pete Kozma and the best six weeks of Kozma’s life, six weeks that are still as inexplicable as crop circles, the D.B. Cooper mystery, and the Bermuda Triangle.)  Furcal then moved on to Miami for a season before winding up in Kansas City’s minor league system for a month, at which time he realized he had plenty of money and why was he playing in the minors when he could retire.

Castellanos played a total of 24 games for the Dodgers over two seasons, and while he did compile four extra base hits (including two homers) in that span, he couldn’t hit consistently enough to stay up.  He’s not played in the major leagues since 2013, most recently spending time at Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate.  He was granted free agency by the Rockies at the end of last season, though, so whether he’ll latch on somewhere else remains up in the air.

Rating: A clear win for Mo here.  You could make an argument that if this trade doesn’t happen, the big trade doesn’t matter and you wonder how Mo’s tenure would be seen now.  It would also seem that he’d have not necessarily had the capital to make an unproven Mike Matheny the manager to follow up Tony La Russa if there wasn’t a World Series trophy to bask in.  Things could be a lot different if 2011 went a different way.

Again, I got to rambling but these were key deals in Mo’s tenure.  They were definitely worth discussing in depth.  There are seven deals for 2012 and 2013 combined and most of them are small, so we’ll see if I can curtail my tongue enough to get them all covered next time!

  • 2cards

    So,in other words…..he knows very little about making good trades.

    • Cardinal70

      I don’t know if I’d go that far. There have been some very good ones, there’ve been some pretty bad ones. It seems to me to be a bit more of a mixed bag than I thought, but I still wouldn’t say he’s done an overall bad job in his deals.

      • 2cards

        Not sure I would call him a master at the trade game,if anything just SO-SO.

        • Cardinal70

          That’s fair. I don’t know that he’s been consistently good enough to get a legendary reputation. He has had very few dealt that you wish you could have back, though, which is something.

          • 2cards

            My biggest complaint with him is his lack of courage to pull the trigger on known free agents. For 2-3 years he has said there is money available yet only gets a middle of the road RP and overpaid for a career average outfielder. Fowler’s number prove him to be almost exactly AVERAGE,no better. About 9-10 HRs/year,maybe 10 stolen bases/ year and FLDG% is exactly MLB average.

          • Cardinal70

            I think that’s valid. I’m not going to tackle the free agents he should have gotten or the circumstances that might have forced his hand in these blog posts, but there does seem to be almost too conservative nature to his dealings. That said, I think Fowler will be a benefit to the club. His OBP should help this lineup click in a way that it hasn’t in a while. We’ll see, of course.

  • 2cards

    Since I live about 45 minutes,I can only say that I am hoping for a great 2017 season.

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