The Trade History of John Mozeliak, 2012-2013

I think you could argue that 2011 was the high point of John Mozeliak’s trading tenure, at least so far.  There are still some very interesting trades to talk about, it’s true, but I don’t think Mo’s “shrewd dealer” reputation was ever as high as it was when he was coming off a World Series title that, in fairness, might well not have happened without his mid-season trades.

In 2012, the team was trying to repeat while also proving that they could be more than just a wild card spoiler.  There is no doubt that expectations and pressures shifted with that title, which might be reflected in a more cautious approach by the general manager.

Trade 19: Future considerations to Oakland for Cedric Hunter

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
4/4/12 Cedric Hunter 0.0 -0.8*

*–Still active

Perhaps figuring that, if 2011 went so well with a trade like this, he should keep it going, Mo dealt for Cedric Hunter in the Oakland organization.  When I was researching these deals and came upon this one, there was really only one response:

I pride myself on having at least passing recognition of most every name that has come through the organization over the past decade, but I drew a complete blank on Hunter.  Of course, being that he never made it to the big leagues probably had a little to do with it, though Hunter did play passably at Memphis that season, hitting .268/.355/.375 with five homers in 129 games.  Not anything that is going to get you all that excited, especially since Hunter had been in the professional ranks for six years before joining St. Louis.  At the end of the season, he was granted free agency.  He bounced from Cleveland to Atlanta before winding up in Philadelphia and playing 13 games with the Phils last season.  He hit just .088 in those games, but as far as I can tell the Phillies still have him under contract so maybe he’ll get another chance this season.

Maybe Mo was clearing a debt from the Matt Holliday deal and helping out Billy Beane who needed to move Hunter for some reason.  Maybe they just wanted a little insurance.  No idea, but it seems like the future considerations weren’t a major issue here.

Rating: Pretty much a toss-up, as zero equals zero at least from the Cardinals point of view here.

Trade 20: Zack Cox to Miami for Edward Mujica

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/31/12 Zack Cox 0.0 0.0* Edward Mujica 2.8  2.5*

*–Still active

Reaction Post: Cards Make Move Before Deadline

Given that Cox was drafted out of the University of Arkansas, where I did my college work lo so many years ago, I always kept tabs on him.  A first round draft pick in 2010, given that he was a college hitter (and a pretty good one at that) it’s not surprising that he quickly worked his way up the ladder.  He had plateaued a bit in Memphis in 2012 (.254 with nine homers) but still looked like at least a decent shot at being a major leaguer, even if he wasn’t going to be the star that you’d have thought a first-rounder would be.

When we think of trading deadline moves now, this type of move–a mid-range prospect for a bullpen arm–feels like a Mozeliak move, doesn’t it?  However, this was really the first time he made this kind of deal and it paid off in spades, as the saying goes.  With a little weakness in the bullpen–this was the year they dipped down to AA to bring up Trevor Rosenthal, which worked fairly well but was still pretty risky–getting a solid guy like Mujica was something the club needed, even if they didn’t know how well it would pan out.

Mujica thrived in 2012 in St. Louis, as we know, posting a 1.2 WAR the rest of the season after having a -0.1 WAR in Miami before the trade.  Mujica has been a four WAR player in his career and almost three of that came in his year-plus in St. Louis.  He had a 1.03 ERA down the stretch with the Cards and gave up just two runs in the postseason, throwing four scoreless frames in the NLCS against the Giants.  In 2013, he slid into the closer role when Jason Motte got hurt and Mitchell Boggs turned into a gas can Mo had to sell to Colorado to keep Mike Matheny from using and went to the All-Star Game, piling up 37 saves before leaving via free agency.

Cox never made the big leagues and, while he’s still considered “active” on the Baseball-Reference site, he spent his Age 27 season playing independent ball in Wichita.  The odds of him ever making the big leagues, much less an impact there, are remote and shrinking.

Rating: Mo showed he still had his touch in this win.  A very solid move that didn’t cost the Cardinals anything in the long run.

Trade 21: Tyler Greene to Houston for cash or a player to be named later.

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
8/9/12 Tyler Greene -0.1 -0.6

Reaction Post: The Stopper

Whenever I hear that players such as Kolten Wong “need to play everyday”, I may not disagree, but I always have Tyler Greene in the back of my mind.  Greene was that up-and-coming shortstop prospect that seemed to be blocked at every turn and when he did get to play, it never seemed to be for long.  There was always the thought that, if Greene could just get some games under his belt, that talent that he obviously had (yet another first round pick) would come to the surface.

Then 2012 came.  Tony La Russa was gone, second base was at least partially his, and it didn’t take long to see that for whatever his faults, TLR did typically know when a player would help the team or not.  Greene hit .200 in April in 15 games (nine starts) and never really got much better throughout the season.  It got so bad that the normally “best fans in baseball” took to booing him, which came to a head the day before he was dealt, when he was booed to begin the game and even more so when he booted a double play ball.  Greene spoke to the media that night and said something to the effect that if fans were going to boo, they might as well stay home.

You can call it a coincidence, like Mozeliak did when announcing the trade, but it is still notable that a player criticizes the fan base (and not exactly in the harshest manner) and was dealt out less than 24 hours later.  Jeff Luhnow was in Houston by that time and was able to acquire a player that he had drafted and thought highly of while he was in St. Louis.  With the Astros going through a complete teardown, there was no pressure, no competition, nothing to do but let his talent shine.

Greene started 33 of 39 games he played that year with Houston and hit .246/.278/.460 with seven homers.  Not world-beating numbers, by any means, but light years ahead of what he did in Cardinal red, where he had nine home runs total in three and a half seasons.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep him even on a dreadful Astros squad and he was cut during the 2013 spring training.  He resurfaced for a bit with the White Sox, but was released in August and then spent a little time in a couple of other minor league systems before calling it quits.

Rating: I’m going with a tossup because the Cards didn’t receive anything of any real value, but there would be an argument for calling it a win getting Greene off of a roster and out of a place where he clearly didn’t want to be anymore.

Trade 22: Skip Schumaker to Los Angeles Dodgers for Jake Lemmerman

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/12/12 Skip Schumaker -1.4 -3.3 Jake Lemmerman 0.0 0.0

Reaction Post: Skipping Town

Everyone remembers Skip Schumaker, the outfielder turned second baseman that personified, for a time, the scrappy, do-more-with-less stereotype that the Cardinals get attached to often.  (Attached as in people associate it with the Cardinals and as in very fond of.)  There’s no doubt Schumaker had a lot of great moments in St. Louis and was a wonderful person, but Mozeliak realized that he really wasn’t going to help the team going forward.

From that reaction post:

There’s no doubt that Schumaker’s value to the team as a player has declined over the last few years.  He’s still got a value to them, it’s true, but it’s more of the clubhouse leader value rather than a directly impacting games value.

The above WAR numbers prove that point.  Skip didn’t do much in his one year with the Dodgers–though his .665 OPS was better than his next two seasons–and then he moved on to Cincinnati where he seemed to be able to apply his veteran presence in an organization with some St. Louis connections.  Again, I’m not saying that Schumaker didn’t have a reason to be on a major league roster, but those reasons were less and less tied to what he brought to the diamond.  He hit .238 for his two years in Cincy, which was a long way from his .300 averages while wearing Cardinal red.

As for Lemmerman, he played one year at Springfield, hitting .231 with eight homers, before being left unprotected and taken by the Padres in the minor league portion of the December 2013 Rule 5 draft.  Lemmerman played for the Padres in 2014 and did advance to AAA, but never made the majors and was released during spring training the next year.

Rating: I initially marked this as a tossup, but I think it was a win for John Mozeliak to be able to remove Skip Schumaker from the team without having to cut him or have an otherwise messy divorce.  The fact that they didn’t get anything for him that amounted to much should have been expected.  It only seems fair to rate this deal on intangibles, doesn’t it?

Trade 23: Marc Rzepczynski to Cleveland for Juan Herrera

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/30/13 Marc Rzepczynski 0.9 1.2* Juan Herrera 0.0^ 0.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active in organization

Reaction Post: Panning for Silver (Linings)

Two years after making what will be one of his most remembered deals, Mozeliak wound up shipping the last piece of the Colby Rasmus trade to Cleveland, leaving the club with no direct ties to that trade.  We talked some about Scrabble in the last deal, but after some good work in 2011, he had mixed results in 2012.  He struggled in April of 2013, allowing a .915 OPS against and seven runs in eight innings, which led to a somewhat surprising demotion to Memphis.  (Surprising because he was in his fifth major league season; veterans don’t often have that happen to them.)  He was brought back for two outings, apparently in a trade showcase, and even though he allowed two runs in his last appearance, 1 1/3 innings against the Pirates, he was still traded off to the Indians.

Returning to the American League must have revitalized him, because he allowed just two runs in over 20 innings for the Tribe.  2014 was a good year for him as well, then he began the travels of an established lefty reliever, something some team always seems to be needing at the trade deadline.  Cleveland sent him to the Padres in July of 2015, the Padres flipped him to Oakland in December of that year, and Oakland sent him to Washington at the 2016 deadline.  A free agent after last season, he signed with the Mariners and will team with another former Cardinal, Steve Cishek, in the Seattle pen.  (We’ll talk about Cishek next time.)

Rzepczyski has had some ups and downs, which is pretty much par for the course for relievers, especially ones that have limited innings like Scrabble.  Herrera, though, hasn’t done much in his time traveling the St. Louis minors.  Herrera has stayed on the various team prospect lists, because folks that can play middle infield are hard to come by, but he started last year at Springfield and was demoted to Palm Beach after hitting under .200 in 150 AA plate appearances.  Herrera still is just right at 23 1/2 so there is still time to develop, but he doesn’t appear to be going in the right direction.  I checked with my favorite minors expert John Nagel about Herrera and he confirmed what I thought, that Herrera has a good glove, but the bat just never has developed and there are no major expectations for him anymore.

Rating: Right now, I think this is a loss for Mo.  The club has had to go out and acquire folks like Zach Duke and Brett Cecil to find that solid lefty specialist when Rzepczyski could have filled that role.  (To be fair, he might have needed to get out of the organization for whatever reason to reclaim his mojo.)  With Aledmys Diaz apparently ensconced at short for a bit, Herrera would really have to blossom to make this decision different.

Trade 24: Michael Blazek to Milwaukee for John Axford

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
8/30/13 Michael Blazek 0.1^ 0.1* John Axford 0.3 2.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active in organization

Reaction Post: In Mo We Trust (Again)

When you are dealing for a former closer with a 4.45 ERA and no saves on the season, trust is about all you have when it comes to dealing with that trade.  There were a lot of folks scratching their head over importing Axford.  Sure, the bullpen could use some help, but was Axford really going to be able to do that?

Yes, yes he could.

It was only 10.1 regular season innings, but Axford struck out more than a batter an inning, allowed just two earned runs, and walked just three. It was a short burst of greatness that continued into the postseason, where Axford gave up one run against the Dodgers but otherwise was not touched in almost six innings over three rounds.  His impact helped the Cardinals hold off the Pirates and take their first NL Central crown since 2009.

And for that, the Cards dealt Michael Blazek, who spent a little time with Milwaukee in 2013 (he actually faced St. Louis twice that September, taking an extra-inning loss in one of them) then all of 2014 in the minors before staying on the big league roster the next two years.  Blazek had a good 2015 but struggled in ’16, so time will tell whether that was general reliever fluctuation or if he’s had his moment in the sun.  Either way, it doesn’t seem like Blazek is going to be an end of the bullpen guy, but remain a middle innings type that, honestly, most teams have plenty of.

Axford moved on to Cleveland after 2013 as the front office didn’t really want to press their luck with his resurgence.  He bounced around since then, from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Colorado to Oakland, but he’s stayed semi-effective, perhaps on the level of Blazek with a little more experience.  (His clubhouse presence, given his Twitter feed, is probably more outgoing as well.)

Rating: A nice little win for Mo here.  Some good evaluation resulted in a strong stretch for Axford and they didn’t press their luck and re-sign him.  All in all, a good move.

Trade 25: David Freese and Fernando Salas to Los Angeles Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
11/22/13 David Freese 3.8 5.6* Peter Bourjos 0.6 0.7*
Fernando Salas 0.1 0.7* Randal Grichuk 6.0^ 6.0*

Reaction Post: They Don’t Make Eras Like They Used To

It feels like this deal was a symptom of the current age, doesn’t it?  In the fifties or so, Freese might have ridden his World Series heroics to lifetime employment with the team.  In the current age, when everyone is trying to maximize their club, finding every advantage they can, an off-season by Freese put him on the trading block.  2013 saw Freese hit .262 with just nine home runs and, with him not having any injuries to really explain it and it being his Age 30 season, it gave Mozeliak a chance to try to improve the team with a fairly valuable asset.

Which may have been the best move.  You look at what Freese has done, both in Los Angeles and his move to Pittsburgh, and he’s been a solid if unspectacular bat that can help a team but isn’t necessarily a major piece of the puzzle.  (That said, it would have been interesting to see the Cardinals try to reacquire Freese before he went to Pittsburgh to help with the bench, but it was not to be.)  Freese rebounded a bit in 2016 and it should be interesting to see how he does going forward.  It will also be interesting to see how many standing ovations he gets now that he’s a Pirate for the long haul.

Moving to Anaheim with Freese was another contributor to the 2011 title in Salas.  The vagaries of reliever usage apply here as well, as his 2013 and 2014 with Anaheim had some different outcomes, but Salas was another mid-leverage reliever, the kind that we’ve talked about forever on these posts.  Does he have value?  Of course.  Is he worth keeping around?  Probably.  Is he worth a lot of effort to do so?  Not really.  He moved to the Mets last year at the August waiver deadline but is currently a free agent.  It feels like he might sign a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, especially since he’s still out there looking now.

As many remember since this wasn’t so long ago, this was really supposed to be the Peter Bourjos trade.  Bourjos was this elite defender with a solid enough bat and would definitely shore up the Cardinal defense when healthy.  What we didn’t take into account was his usage by the manager, especially when Matheny had another option in Jon Jay.

You can debate, I guess, whether Bourjos played himself out of a job, whether Matheny has his guys, whether it was something in the middle.  There’s no doubt he got off to a slow start, hitting .160 in the first month of the season, but he was also dealing with the aftereffects of hand surgery.  Even though Jay was only hitting .213 himself, he started 22 games to Bourjos’s 14 over that stretch.  (Obviously, some games they were in the outfield together, with Jay over in right.)  Offensively, Bourjos never really got on track and the playing time suffered as a result.  He started four straight games from June 7 to June 11, then didn’t start that many in a row again until July 30-August 3.  2015 didn’t go much better for him and he was allowed to be a free agent, signing with Philadelphia and then, just a few days ago, the White Sox.

Again, there’s going to be a lot of finger pointing on Bourjos, but not really any of it is going to go toward Mozeliak.  The move made sense and it should have helped the team.  Plus the at-the-time overlooked part of the deal really redeems the whole thing.

Given Randal Grichuk’s ups and downs, his stints in Memphis, his streakiness, it’s pretty impressive that since this deal he’s posted a 6 bWAR for the Cardinals, which is just short of what Freese and Salas combined have done without any minor league stints to their name.  Grichuk will be the starting left fielder this season after spending some time in center and doing a passable job of it as well, but it’s his power bat that gets folks excited.  The WAR is just going to keep accumulating for the Cardinals, making this more and more of a good deal.

Rating: If Grichuk wasn’t involved, this is probably a loss for the Cardinals, but again Mo’s eye for talent saves the day and gets him another victory.  Grichuk’s value to the Redbirds–the major league ones, not the AAA ones–is going to make this deal look even more unbalanced when someone looks at it five years from now.

Twenty-five trades down, ten to go.  We’ll look at 2014-2016 in our next installment, then wrap it all up in a final post later on.  Be sure to come back!

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