The Trade History of John Mozeliak, 2015-2016

I don’t care how long this post gets, we are finishing up looking at all of John Mozeliak’s trades in this post.  Last time we linked to all the former posts, so if you’ve missed any you can find them there.  Some of the trades in this post may be hard to grade, as they are pretty fresh and almost always involve players still producing one way or another.  We’ll give it our best, though!

Trade 29: Sam Freeman to Texas for PTBNL or cash

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
3/28/15 Sam Freeman 1.0 0.7*

*–Still active

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Sam Freeman and those like him are a seemingly endless resource in Major League Baseball, a homegrown reliever that can be effective enough until the service time becomes too much or, as it was in this case, there are just too many folks better than him.  Freeman had spent parts of three seasons with the club (I didn’t realize until the latest STL CardGals podcast that he made his debut in the Johan Santana no-hitter*) and had shown some interesting potential, especially for a left-handed reliever.  Freeman didn’t pitch in a lot of high-leverage spots and his walk total was always a bit too high for a guy like him, but there seemed to be a little value, at least.

However, when it came to the spring camp of ’14, there were just too many different options for the club and Sam, well, he was out of them.  Rather than outright releasing him, John Mozeliak (I assume) got some cash for him from the Rangers.  Texas wound up putting Freeman on waivers soon after they received him, but nobody bit and he started the season in the minors for them.  He did fine in AAA, but was pretty rough when he was called up in May.  He did eventually get his legs under him, though, and from July 1 on he had a 1.82 ERA and allowed just a .189 BAA.

His control issues were still there and, being that he was still out of options, Texas sold him to the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of the 2016 spring training.  He struggled with the Brewers, though, putting up a 12.91 ERA in April before again going on waivers, again clearing, and again heading to the minors.  He never returned to the big leagues (a 5.20 ERA at Colorado Springs didn’t help) and this offseason signed a minor league deal with the Braves.  The life of a left-hander with just enough intriguing talent.

Rating: I think I’ll give this one a toss-up.  Perhaps you could say it’s a loss because the club had to lose Freeman because they still had Randy Choate and he did have a fairly decent year in Texas, but overall it feels like he’s been pretty replaceable.

Trade 30: Kyle Barraclough to Miami for Steve Cishek

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/24/15 Kyle Barraclough 1.8^ 1.8* Steve Cishek 0.4 2.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

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Hey, it’s a trade deadline Mozeliak prospect-for-reliever deal!  Man, who’d have guessed that was coming.

At the time, it really didn’t seem like much.  Cishek had a solid relieving portfolio and while he’d struggled some in 2015, he’d had an ERA under 1 since coming back from the DL in early June.  Barraclough was a fairly unknown prospect, at least to casual prospect followers (like myself) and it seemed like another one of those deals where Mo ships off someone that’s never heard from again while Cishek shored up the bullpen and helped the Cards into the playoffs.

Cishek did his part, putting up a 2.31 ERA during his time in St. Louis and striking out almost a batter an inning.  His control wasn’t quite what you’d want, but the Cardinals could have done worse than bringing him back.  Instead, they kept Jonathan Broxton and Cishek signed with the Mariners, where he had 25 saves and a 2.81 ERA in the Pacific Northwest.

Barraclough proved to be a little more than your typical deadline deal prospect, though.  He made his major league debut about a week after the deal and proceeded to go five outings before allowing a run.  Removing his final outing, when he allowed two runs in 1/3 of an inning, he posted an ERA under 2 and picked up a couple of wins and six holds.  2016 was more of the same (2.85 ERA) and so far in his career has limited both lefties and righties to less than a .190 average.  He’s seen more plate appearances in high-leverage situation than any other kind and seems to be developing into quite a late-inning weapon for the Fish.

Rating: Mo doesn’t lose many of these deals, but he definitely did here.  Perhaps if he’d ponied up for Cishek this would have been a little different, but even so it’d have been better to have a solid bullpen weapon at league minimum than a pricey former closer.

Trade 31: Malik Collymore to Milwaukee for Jonathan Broxton

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/31/15 Malik Collymore 0.0^ 0.0* Jonathan Broxton 0.5^ 0.5*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

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Jonathan Broxton’s never had a huge fan base in St. Louis since this trade went down, but he’s been marginally effective in his time in Cardinal red.  That’s probably more than we thought we’d see out of him when Mozeliak made this deal, as Broxton had been pretty rough in his time in Milwaukee.  He was on a good run as noted in the reaction post, which made folks think that maybe the GM saw something.

Perhaps he did, since Broxton had a 2.33 ERA that season after coming to the Cardinals.  For the most part, he was a steady if unspectacular reliever, best used in mid-leverage situations.  He did have more than a strikeout an inning and fanned about a quarter of the batters he faced, which was a nice weapon to have.  He might not have been the nicest looking guy out there, but overall he got the job done.

Even so, it was a bit of a surprise when Mozeliak pressed his luck and signed Broxton to a two-year deal after buying out his option at the end of that campaign.  Broxton was not as effective over the long haul, with his ERA creeping back over the 4 mark which had been its normal spot over the past few years.  While reliever ERA doesn’t necessarily tell you a lot, Broxton fell a little short of a K per inning, though his K/BB rate actually improved in 2016.  This was one of the rare two-year reliever contracts that DIDN’T see the reliever immediately get hurt and basically provide nothing over the course of the deal, though given the Cardinals and injuries, you can’t rule out that it won’t happen sometime in 2017.

As for Collymore, he played well in rookie ball after the trade, but seemed to struggle in 2016 when he moved up to High-A Brevard County.  Collymore hit just .167 in 59 games there and spent the winter playing ball in Australia.  Collymore isn’t necessarily considered one of the Brewers’ top prospects or anything, but there’s still plenty of time for him to adjust and become a solid ballplayer.

Rating: I’m going with a win on this right now, but it’s really still in flux.  Broxton has been a nice piece, but not so nice that it would take a lot from Collymore on the major league stage to tip the scales toward the Brew Crew.

Trade 32: Tony Cruz to Kansas City for Jose Martinez

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/2/15 Tony Cruz -0.1 -0.1* Jose Martinez 0.0^ 0.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

Backing up Yadier Molina isn’t a glamorous job, of course.  For much of the time, if you get into a game more than once a week, you are doing better than a lot of your compatriots.  I remember going to a Blogger Day at the end of April in 2013 (I believe) and he’d had a handful of at bats at that point in the season.  And not necessarily a big handful, either.

However, Cruz was supposed to be this guy that could start on most any other team.  His defense was lauded and the bat was reported to be fine if he got some regular playing time.  He was the best backup that the club had had in a long time, though that only included luminaries like Jason LaRue, Gary Bennett, and Gerald Laird.  Cruz was an upgrade, though.  That’s what we were told in various forms.

Until push came to shove, of course.  Molina got hurt in the July 9, 2015 game and Cruz then started nine of the next 11 games, hitting .176/.222/.235 in that span (and .175/.230/.246 the rest of the season).  The club didn’t hesitate to grab first George Kottaras and then A.J. Pierzynski when they came available on the waiver wire, pretty much indicating that they weren’t confident in Cruz’s ability to run the whole show.  Cruz didn’t do much more in 2015 and his swap to the Royals after being placed on waivers after that season barely elicited a raised eyebrow.

Going from backing up Molina to backing up Salvador Perez is like night and…..later that night.  Perez is another one that plays all the time and Cruz wasn’t going to change that, getting just three at-bats in June and two in September, spending the rest of the time at AAA.  The Royals set him free after that and he’s latched on with the Braves, again with a minor league contract.

Jose Martinez spent nine years in the minor leagues, winning a batting title at AAA in 2015, before being part of this deal.  If it wasn’t for Matt Holliday‘s injury and Brandon Moss‘s legendary slump, there’s a good chance that he’d have spent all of year 10 at Memphis as well.  Instead, he got the callup, got to be the feel-good story, and actually played fairly well in his limited time, getting seven hits in 16 at bats.  Still, he usually was hitting at the bottom of the order and had only one extra-base hit to show for his troubles.  Martinez is still on the Cards’ 40-man roster, however, so it’s possible that he’ll continue to add to his value here.

Rating: It’s gotta be a tossup, right?  I guess Martinez could change things but I’m not really sure why he’s still here on the 40-man when others were cut loose.  There could be a question of outfield depth, I guess, but again, it seems like he’d have been an easy cut somewhere along the line, especially when trying to free up spots for protecting Rule 5 eligible folks.  Neither player is likely to make much of an impact on their teams, I wouldn’t think, so we’ll call it a wash.

Trade 33: Jon Jay to San Diego for Jedd Gyorko

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/8/15 Jon Jay 1.1 1.1* Jedd Gyorko 2.9^ 2.9*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

We all know Jon Jay and all that went with him.  I’m pretty sure when Jay came up, fans wanted to see him in the lineup over some of the others in the outfield and he helped win the 2011 World Series.  Over time, though, Jay’s playing time became more and more of an issue as Mike Matheny would run him out there over other seemingly more qualified folks.  While the Allen Craig trade seemed to clear the way for Oscar Taveras, Jay still wound up seemingly keeping Oscar from significant playing time.  Even when Jay stopped hitting in 2015, Matheny kept writing him into the lineup even when it seemed clear others should get a shot.

Some would say this was another of Mo’s moves to take a player away from Matheny.  Maybe it was, maybe it was to open up more time for Randal Grichuk and get a strong bat into the outfield.  Whatever the case, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of value to Jay.  There were some that thought he might just be outright released, but I don’t think anyone thought he’d bring back an actual major league player.

Jedd Gyorko was a Padre through and through, having come up in their system.  He was somewhat burdened by the fact that he hit 23 home runs in his rookie season back in 2013, setting a bar that he was unable to clear in future seasons.  Gyorko never hit over .250 and never really got close to 23 homers again, which got Padres fans ready to send him out of town.  The Cardinals were happy to comply.

While there’s only been one season of data here since the deal happened, it’s a pretty stark one.  Jay did fine in San Diego, hitting .291/.339/.389 and playing his brand of average center field, but he wound up getting hurt and didn’t play from the middle of June to the beginning of September.  Jay also became a free agent, signing with the Cubs in the offseason and leaving San Diego with nothing really to show for the deal.

Gyorko, of course, wound up hitting 30 homers in St. Louis, playing all over the infield and bringing pop to all of them.  He again didn’t hit .250 (reaching .243, which is right in line with most years) and his glove was adequate if not stellar, but that kind of power can’t be understated.  Gyorko started a lot more during the season than expected, partly because of the power and partly because of the Kolten Wong situation, and he gave quite a good bit of value.  Gyorko is under contract through 2019 and that should continue to make this deal more and more lopsided.

Rating: A clear win for Mozeliak.  To get anything of value back for Jay was a testament to Mozeliak’s skill, but to have a guy that was a huge contributor right out of the gate puts this solidly in his W column.

Trade 34: Charlie Tilson to Chicago White Sox for Zach Duke

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/31/16 Charlie Tilson 0.0^ 0.0* Zach Duke 0.9^ 0.9*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

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This was a deal that was so obvious, I even partly called in on the Meet Me at Musial right before the deadline, noting that Tilson was exactly the kind of player that Mo would deal at this time of year.  Tilson was a solid outfield prospect for the Redbirds, hitting for a good average and stealing bases.  Before being sent off to Chicago, he was hitting .282 in Memphis with 15 steals after stealing 46 with Springfield the year before.  A lot of folks were intrigued by his speed, a facet of the game that St. Louis didn’t have a lot of.

However, with folks like Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty already staking down outfield spots and Harrison Bader ahead of Tilson on the prospect charts, Tilson was expendable and the bullpen, as always, needed some shoring up.  Duke, the former Pittsburgh Pirate that the Cardinals had done pretty well against as a starter, had redefined himself as a left-handed bullpen option and was putting up some good numbers in the White Sox bullpen, striking out more than a batter an inning and actually doing a little better against righties than he was against lefties, but was very effective against both.

What also intrigued Mozeliak was the fact that Duke was under contract for 2017, meaning the club was getting more than just a few weeks out of him.  At least, that’s what they thought.  However, while Duke did a fine job for the rest of the 2016 season, he wound up having Tommy John surgery after the season.  While there is still a small chance, given the early surgery (in October) and the fact that he’s a reliever, that he could return to the Cardinals before the end of the year, it would seem that Mozeliak’s multi-year reliever jinx has fully struck again.

As for Tilson, he was immediately called up to the big leagues last year by the White Sox.  He singled in his first major league at bat, but then tore his hamstring later in the game and missed the rest of the season.  Unfortunately, as he’s made it to his first spring training with the Sox, he’s been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his foot (similar to the one Michael Wacha has in his shoulder).  The Sox are just going to have to wait and see whether he’ll be healthy to be that leadoff man they were expecting him to be this season.

Rating: Has to be a tossup right now.  Duke gave a lot to the 2016 Cardinals, but if he doesn’t return and Tilson becomes a solid player at the big league level, the scales will tip into the loss column.  If Tilson can’t overcome the injuries, it’s possible that this will be a slim win for Mo, but that would seem to be unlikely.

Trade 35: Jaime Garcia to Atlanta for John Gant, Chris Ellis, and Luke Dykstra

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/1/16 Jaime Garcia 0.0^ 0.0* John Gant 0.0^ 0.0*
Chris Ellis 0.0^ 0.0*
Luke Dykstra 0.0^ 0.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

Reaction Post: From “Honkin’ For Jaime” to Gone Garcia

I’m not sure if there was a more frustrating or divisive pitcher in recent Cardinal history than Jaime Garcia.  He would tantalize with outstanding stuff, then wind up getting hurt or not coming through in some big moments.  That got a lot of folks worked up about him, but he was a left-handed starter with the ability to shut down a lineup, so people dealt with it.

Garcia had an interesting contract quirk (one that apparently has been added to Carlos Martinez‘s new contract) that he had two option years that the team could pick up at the end of his deal.  In 2015, it seemed almost a no-brainer that those options would be declined, but then Garcia stayed as healthy as he had been in a long time and posted a 10-6 record with a 2.43 ERA.  Suddenly, the no-brainer was to pick up that option and the expectation quickly became that the 2017 option would get exercised as well.

It was, but not because of another great year.  Garcia had 32 appearances (30 starts) which was the most he’d been out on the mound since 2011.  Unfortunately, whether it was fatigue or other issues, his effectiveness withered during the year, to the point that he wound up in the bullpen for a while.  Still, the option year for 2017 was cheap in relation to the market and the club went ahead and picked it up, figuring either they’d need pitching or they could trade him.

They did just that in December, sending him to Atlanta for three prospects.  John Gant just made The Redbird Daily’s Top 30, but Chris Ellis and Luke Dykstra are both seen as role players, if that, and Gant’s not expected to be a front end starter or anything.  These kind of players can fill a need, for sure, but they aren’t going to be players that people are just going to be overly excited about seeing, probably.  That always could change, of course.

Rating: Given neither side has seen their players perform in a competitive setting yet, it’s got to be a tossup.  Mo might be able to get a win out of this if Ellis or Gant contributes for a few years and Garcia doesn’t do much in Atlanta, but my bet is looking back on this in five years or so, we’re still saying it’s basically even.

That’s all the trades!  I will be back with a wrap-up post, including some of your thoughts on Mo’s dealing dexterity from Twitter, sometime soon.  Until then, though, I hope you’ve enjoyed these looks back!

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