The Trade History of John Mozeliak, Wrap-Up

Back in the winter, I started looking at the history of John Mozeliak’s trades, what value he’d given up, what value he’d gotten, and how the players did before and after.  It’s been a while since we did one of these, so here are the links if you want to go back and refresh your memory.

2007-2008
2009
2010
2011
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016

Since we looked at these, of course, Matt Adams and cash got traded to Atlanta for minor leaguer Juan Yepez.  We’re not going to count that into this final evaluation, but we did miss one pretty obvious trade in our original pass, so let’s take a look at that one now.  I’m adding it to the end of our list, but if you wanted to do in the proper order, it would actually be trade 31 between the Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton deals.

Trade 36: Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland for Brandon Moss

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/30/15 Rob Kaminsky 0.0^ 0.0* Brandon Moss 1.0 1.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

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Usually, Mo is giving up outfielders to get relievers, but he went the other way in this one, in part due to the loss of Matt Holliday and an offense that seemed to need a kick start.  Unfortunately, 2015 Moss really wasn’t any great shakes as he was still recovering from offseason surgery.  He didn’t seem to have his legs under him and many a ball died on the warning track instead of creating that run-scoring power the team craved.  Mozeliak seemed to take that into consideration and went ahead and tendered him a contract for 2016.  Which was a great idea…until it wasn’t.

We vividly remember the horror that was the end of Moss’s 2016 season, when he went 9 for 91 in the month of September, with the only small saving grace being that three of those hits were home runs.  His OPS for September–OPS, mind you–was .387.  He struck out over a third of the time.  It was possibly the longest, most sustained inability to hit that this team has seen, and this is a team that had Pete Kozma for its shortstop for an entire year.  It was that bad.

Before that, though, the season was actually going quite well.  Moss had 25 homers, he was hitting .261, and had an OPS just at .900.  He struck out a lot, true, but for much of the season folks talked about maybe extending him the qualifying offer or trying to get him to sign another short-term deal.  He brought value to the club, even if he tried to wipe it all away with that miserable September, a September that–as we all know–saw the Cardinals miss a Game 163 by one game.

As for the other side of the deal, Rob Kaminsky was one of the talents in an organization known for pitching prospects.  He was having a fairly successful run at Palm Beach, even though he was about three years younger than the rest of the league, and folks were already thinking about the lefty being in St. Louis in a short span of time.  Which meant that dealing him off for a hulking, semi-effective slugger didn’t sit well with much of the fanbase.

That being said, Kaminsky has been in the Cleveland organization for almost two years now and still is pitching at AA Akron, though he is sidelined currently with a forearm issue.  His first time around the higher level was fine if not overwhelming.  Kaminsky’s K/IP rate isn’t anything spectacular but he does have the fact that he’s a lefty to keep him going.  Kaminsky slipped in the prospect lists this offseason, but he still may make it to Cleveland in the next couple of years.

Rating: How you evaluate this probably depends on if you want the instant gratification or the long-term payoff.  How you feel about the time value of prospects, basically.  Kaminsky may come up and help Cleveland, but it feels like even if he does, it’s going to be as a back-end starter and it’s not like the Cardinals don’t have plenty of folks that can be that or more.  Moss has already helped the Cardinals (or hurt them, if you want to focus on that last stretch) and it feels to me that Mo probably got the better end of this deal, much more than we thought when it was made.  We’ll chalk this one up as a win.

All right, now that we’ve rated all the deals, let’s take a look at the numbers.  For “WAR Given”, we’ll add up the WAR the players achieved after being dealt, while “WAR Received” is the same for those coming in.  Note that the latter number also includes teams they went to after leaving St. Louis.

Total Deals Wins Losses Tossups WAR Given WAR Received Difference
36 17 10 9 54.4 70.1 +15.7

The raw numbers look good, of course, but how often has Mo made one of those deals that really, for lack of a better term, “ripped off” the other side?  Here are the deals where the WAR for St. Louis was three or more wins greater than the WAR for the other team.

Received WAR for SL Traded WAR for Other Team Difference
Matt Holliday 23.1 Brett Wallace et al -0.9 24.0
David Freese 5.7 Jim Edmonds -1.0 6.7
John Lackey 5.4 Joe Kelly/Allen Craig 0.0 5.4
Jason Heyward + 7.1 Shelby Miller + 3.2 3.9

Out of 36 trades, only four have gained that much value for the Cardinals.  Which, perhaps if you did this for all the GMs, would be about right.  After all, trades these days seem to be less likely to be skewed.  There is a lot of information out there and folks may value players differently, but they don’t usually value them THAT differently.

On the flip side, has Mozeliak been “ripped off”?  Has he had any deals where he lost 3 WAR or more?

Received WAR for SL Traded WAR for Other Team Difference
Marc Rzepczynski et al 0.2 Colby Rasmus and others 6.3 -6.1
Khalil Greene -0.8 Luke Gregerson/Mark Worrell 3.9 -4.7
Mark DeRosa 0.4 Chris Perez/Jess Todd 3.7 -3.3
Scott Rolen 7.4 Troy Glaus 4.2 -3.2

So Mo’s lost big as often as he’s won, though the wins (mainly due to Holliday’s sustained excellence) are going to more than cover the losses.  What’s also interesting is that the last time Mo had a trade that had a large difference in WAR was 2014 and the back-to-back (for him) deals for Lackey and Heyward.  The trades in 2015 and 2016 netted the Cards a total of 1.9 WAR over eight deals.  Some of that is because WAR is a counting stat and some of those players haven’t been able to accumulate much in that short period of time, but I also feel like it’s a function of Mo’s cautiousness on the trade market.  Out of the 36 deals, 17 of them have a difference in WAR between the Cardinals and the receiving team of less than 1 WAR.  Those are coin flip trades that either work out for both sides or, more likely, are so immaterial that if you lose on them, it’s not a big deal.

When I initially started this project back in the dead of winter, I asked on Twitter what the general impression of the general manager was, just your initial thoughts.  I’ll admit, before digging into this I would have thought more highly of Mozeliak’s moves, because the big ones like Holliday and Freese really stand out, plus the Rasmus trade (though a net loss) has a legend around it given the results of 2011.  Here’s what people on Twitter had to say.

It was interesting to see the various opinions on Mozeliak’s trading history.  For the most part, it does seem like people thought he’d done a good job, though maybe not to the legendary status that he seemed to have after getting Freese or even some of those spare part trades like Edward Mujica.  It feels like more would trust him in the trade market than they would in the free agent market, especially after those close-but-no-cigar misses over the past couple of years.

Mo’s won more than he’s lost, which is a good thing, but he very rarely pushes all his chips to the table and tries for the big pot.  Which is probably a missed opportunity because he has built up this goodwill, enough that people would probably give him a little credit for trying even if the deal didn’t pan out (assuming it was a deal that made sense in the first place).  We’ll have to wait and see whether he decides to get a little more aggressive in his dealings or is comfortable trying for incremental gains.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the trading history of the general manager.  If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them here or hit me up on Twitter @C70 and I’ll see if I got an answer while I was compiling the data!

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