C70 At The Bat

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

Reaction Post: Worldview Shaking

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

Reaction Post: Crazy Day in Cardinal Nation

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!

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With all the news that came out of the Winter Warmup this weekend, I got the guys (Twitter users StlCardsCards, KeeneMLB, and johnrabe) back together to talk about arbitration, player usage, and anything else that might come up.  You probably won’t be surprised where our track leads.

C70: We had a lot of things come out of Winter Warmup.  Let’s start with the big one–the club says that they are going to arbitration with Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.  Exactly what are they thinking?

Keene: I can see it with Wacha, who has underperformed. It makes no sense at all with Martinez. I can only assume Mo is trying to build up that war chest. As you guys probably already know, he’s going to have payroll muscle soon and he will definitely flex it.

Rabe: It’s very strange to me that this organization, which hadn’t taken anyone to arbitration in 17 years, suddenly has decided to do so with Carlos Martinez. I don’t follow arbitration much, since….who would? BORING. But when I saw the initial numbers submitted by each side, which were only a few hundred thousand dollars apart, I thought it would be resolved by nightfall. For this organization, a couple of hundred thousand dollars is what five bucks is to you and me. In a year where the team’s profits have once again grown while their payroll has essentially remained flat, I can’t quite understand the penny-pinching. The concern, of course, is that it will create bad blood when it comes time for contract extension negotiations. Someone yesterday on Twitter–I believe it was Justin Streibel–pointed out a number of cases where going to arbitration didn’t seem to hurt a player’s relationship with a team (e.g. Ryan Howard, Mariano Rivera). That may be, but why even risk it over a few hundred thousand? In an arbitration hearing, the Cardinals’ side will literally come in and argue strenuously why Carlos Martinez isn’t worth an extra $325,000. Carlos Martinez, who’s 24 years old and had an ERA+ of 135 last year. Sure, maybe he won’t take offense, and maybe he’ll fulfill his stated desire of remaining a Cardinal for life. But he hasn’t seen the Cardinals’ representative walk into the room yet and argue a case for why he doesn’t deserve an extra nickel. Will they bring up maturity issues? Will they attack his hairstyle(s)? Will they put together a video montage of dugout cup-pyramid-building? Will they show screen shots of his Twitter porn “likes”? There’s just nothing good that can come out of this.

Oh, and I guess they’re going to arbitration with Michael Wacha too. Whatever, I guess.

C70: And, obviously, if the money was a larger difference, it makes some sense.  Sticking to your guns for $350K and risk some bad feelings seems unwise.  Wacha definitely is a lesser issue, but even there you’d think you’d just try to settle for the midpoint instead of doing all the work to prepare a case.  I mean, they’ll probably spend $200K on time and materials to get ready for the case.

Rabe: Yeah, if the two sides were a million dollars apart, then go for it. Arbitration would make sense. But we couldn’t just split the difference here? Mo spends more than $325K per year on hipster socks. Incidentally, I do believe the Cardinals will lose the Martinez arbitration case. The Cardinals should’ve considered themselves lucky he asked for such a relatively modest amount. The eighth best pitcher in baseball (by bWAR) last year would earn many times what he asked for on the open market.

C70: I don’t think there is any chance the Cardinals don’t lose the Martinez case, actually.  They can argue injury and unknowns with Wacha and might get a win there, but what can you say about Martinez, that he should have made everyone else on the staff pitch better?

Keene: Martinez would be able to make Matheny manage better, if he were a good pitcher. He could have also stopped the Cubs from becoming good. Quit being so soft on him.

CardsCards: Wacha doesn’t even make sense with how close his figures are.

Save arbitration for when a situation warrants it. How hard is that?

But the upside is, what:

1. We have a chance to see how good we are arguing against our own players?
2. We might save enough money off of the midpoint to pay for 2 innings of Adam Wainwright. Seriously.

The downside, of course, is that Carlos wins, thus giving him a higher base for the next round of negotiations. Carlos might also get insulted, and yes, as Strebel points out, it would be a long bet to have Carlos hellbent on leaving St. Louis, but of course if he feels disrespected it might cost more in the future to make him feel respected. I mean, Striebel’s examples didn’t exactly make chump change after their arbitration hearings. And when you start adding it together with all of the nit picky things the Cardinals seem to object to about Carlos while he’s out there being the best pitcher on the team, I have to wonder how much an equivalent deal from another team might end up looking more attractive than his favorite twitter porn.

The point isn’t that the risk chances are low. The point is that the downside is potentially organization shifting and the upside is almost nonexistent.

Sure, the chances of you getting the 45 year old hooker pregnant might seem pretty slim, but considering the downside vs the upside, “non zero” is enough for me to eschew her and instead spend my night, alone, scrolling through Buffa’s workout pics.

On the other hand, next time I’m in a minor fender bender, if the other driver says we don’t need to get insurance companies involved, I’m going to say “nah, I want to see how go through this hassle just to see how I do for the next car accident that might not ever come”.

Makes sense.

C70: While not to end this conversation, I want to go ahead and toss another topic for you to juggle.  Mike Matheny says there are no actual plans to rest Yadier Molina this year, that as long as he can help them win each day he will be out there.  I guess we should give them some credit for dropping the ruse of rest for Yadi, huh?

Keene: To the extent that the charade of rest is gone, I don’t have a problem with him saying it. Of course, if the Cards had a sane manager who would rest a struggling player, this would go down a lot smoother. My fear is that Yadi starts 160 games next year and endures a Moss-like hitting slump, which Matheny responds to by plopping some more sunflower seeds in his mouth.

CardsCards: Right, I’m not even mad at Mike for saying it. It’s kind of refreshing.

I picture the off-season conversation to be something like:

Mo – We have this young prospect, people are going crazy for him. It could be the perfect time to get him a start or two a week and be able to both learn from Yadi, and provide him the rest that a catcher that age obviously needs.

Mike – Bleep. You.

Mo – Sorry, Mike. I’ll put Carson back in AAA and we’ll go ahead and sign Eric Fryer. He was great at never playing.

C70: It’s amazing how many moves and transactions are made to shore up the manager.  I feel this is different that when TLR was here–then they made moves because Tony wanted moves made.  Now they make moves because they hope to find that sweet spot where Matheny can shine.

Keene: Daniel is right. The problem is Mo is looking for the shiny side of a crap log. The sweet spot is when you flush.

C70: I did like Chase Woodruff’s post showing how the team has gone from stability to flexibility and back again trying to figure out his style of managing.

CardsCards: Mike’s job is to win games. And we want Mike to play when Yadi is going well.

In April, Yadi was going REALLY well. .877 OPS. He had one full game off. (April 29th) Of course, April is usually stacked with days off. the same can’t be said for…
May, Yadi was still riding his hot streak! then, poof. it was gone. The 2nd half of May is OPS was .345. That’s pitcher territory. In May he also had 1 full game off (May 29)

June? Terrible. .542 OPS. Zero power. Dying on the vine. Mike saw this and gave him TWO full games off. June 20, and June 27.
July started off pretty meh, and then Yadi got 5 DAYS OFF AROUND THE ALL STAR BREAK, and as noted by @c70, came back a different man.I don’t know how much rest and fatigue had to do with it, but when Yadi is going well, he plays every day. When Yadi isn’t going well, he plays every day. When Yadi doesn’t have a thumb and needs a specially built mitt to catch the ball and cannot even start to hit, he plays every day. The good news is, in 2 years he’s going to be able to afford a kick-butt wheelchair.Rabe: As I’d hoped, it has again turned into a Matheny-bashing thread. As all proper discussions of the Cardinals ought to.

The thing I enjoyed was Matheny pairing his surprising candor about Yadi with needless self-pity. He was like, “Oh great, now I have to hear about Yadi’s playing time again. What is it with you guys?” He literally “you guys”-ed them for asking him if his 34-year old potential-Hall-of-Fame catcher, who caught his career high in innings last year after having two thumb surgeries, would finally get a much-promised rest. And Matheny used it as another opportunity to blame others for his failures.

I would actually appreciate his candor and his win-at-all-costs attitude if it weren’t such obvious nonsense.

“Until my job description changes and it’s not about winning games, then at that point maybe we’ll have a different conversation. But the conversation stays the same. We’re going to put the best team out there each particular day.”

This is an actual thing that Mike Matheny said. This actually came out of his mouth. The guy who relentlessly started Pete Kozma. Who ran Allen Craig out there day after day when the guy couldn’t hit .120. The one who insisted that Jon Jay was better than Tommy Pham, every single day. The guy who thinks that Jonathan Broxton is a clutch reliever. I guess “we’re going to put the best team out there each particular day” means Kolten Wong never enters into Mike Matheny’s conception of the Cardinals’ “best team…each particular day.”

And now I’m ranting. Thanks a lot, guys.

C70: Basically the only reason we do these is to see how long it takes before the rants start.

CardsCards: When your best team has Kolten Wong in left field, or Daniel Descalso at 1B, uh oh.

Keene: I guess he was putting the best team on the field when he started Moss in a 0 for career slump.

C70: ​The best bro-hug team, what with him and Gyorko.​  Finally, the catch-all spot (and again, feel free to revisit any of the other topics): Randal Grichuk had knee surgery, Kolten Wong coming in with the idea he’s not the starting second baseman, Yadi and C-Mart saying they want to be Cardinals for life, and anything else that struck your eye this weekend.

CardsCards: oh, now I can comment on Grichuk and Wong too? I’ll do so in just a few minutes. Let me start my car with the garage door closed first.

Rabe: Back when I was a young sports radio pup in the early 90’s, and the Cardinals were still owned by Anheuser-Busch, Kevin Slaten used to call the Cardinals “The Kremlin.” I’ve been out of town for 22 years now, so I don’t know if he still does that, but it’s apt again, especially when it comes to the team’s medical issues. Is there any greater combination of medical incompetence and secrecy in all of baseball? So now, Randal Grichuk has had a heretofore unknown knee surgery. I pray that it was done outside the organization, or else he already has a bar of Irish Springs as a kneecap, held together by tendons fabricated from used AstroTurf. Who knows when it happened? Or if he’s fully recovered? All we know is that when he goes on the DL, Kolten Wong will play in his outfield spot ahead of Tommy Pham.

On a rare positive note, I’ll say this though. I’ve really been enjoying Dexter Fowler. The dude just seems to get it. I think he’ll bring some much needed fun and personality to the public persona of this team, whereas we’ve only previously had Lance Lynn’s smirking postgame sarcasm as any supposed “proof” that there was actual fun taking place on this team.

C70: I’d add Wainwright’s dances to that mix, but otherwise the point is well taken.

I’d like to think that the Cards kept Grichuk’s surgery quiet to keep any possible leverage away from the center fielders they were negotiating with.  That may be generous, though, I realize.

CardsCards: Look, when you get through the middle of January, and only Grichuk is the only secret surgery you’ve heard about, you can either decide you’ve had a good and lucky off-season, or there’s a lot more we’re going to hear about when we get to Jupiter.

All I ask is that players are forthcoming about their injuries when they happen, and that the teams handle them in a responsible manner. Hiding the injuries from idiots like me has no bearing on the product on the field. Finding out Lance Lynn has only had one arm for the last 3 months but has been playing anyway, does.

As for Kolten, I have no idea how to handle him to get the most out of him. Clearly Mike doesn’t either, or we’d have seen better results. But at the is point I wouldn’t blame Kolten if he is unsure about his starting status the day after he breaks Cal’s consecutive games streak. The team often doesn’t act in the matter it declares it’s going to act in public, and we have heard players groan about communication in private. If I were Kolten, I wouldn’t bother fully unpacking my new house yet.

And yes, Dexter Fowler, personality wise, has to be the Cardinal you’d most want to spend a day with, right? Especially if his new contract means he is buying.

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We’ve come to the third of our continuing series of posts looking back at the trades John Mozeliak has made since he became the full-time general manager in October of 2007.  While not all of them are memorable or notable, 2010 was the year Mo made more trades than any other single year.  Some of the groundwork for 2011 was formed in the deals of this season.

Trade 10: Julio Lugo to Baltimore for a player to be named later or cash

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
4/1/10 Julio Lugo -0.8 -0.9

Reaction Post: Talking Cardinals

We discussed the acquisition of Lugo last time around, but this is a great example of buying low and selling high.  Lugo only got 312 plate appearances over the next two years with a .232/.284/.260 slash line before retiring after 2011 with Atlanta.  With Brendan Ryan fully established at shortstop (at least at the moment) and plenty of middle infield types to back him up, plus the addition of Felipe Lopez, Lugo was extraneous and there was no reason to gamble that his production at the end of 2009 would carry forward in 2010.

Rating: It’s a win for Mo because he got something, probably cash, for a player that wasn’t going to be needed and wasn’t going to be productive.  Can’t argue too much with that.

Trade 11: Future considerations to Washington for Andrew Brown

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
5/24/10 Andrew Brown -0.2 0.1

Andrew Brown’s main claim to fame in the Cardinal system is that he crashed into Shane Robinson terribly hard in a game for Memphis in 2011, a collision that crushed Robinson’s orbital bone.  While thankfully that didn’t stop Robinson’s ascent–after rehab and such he made it to the big leagues–it was a legendary collision.  Brown wound up with the better end of the deal, only gaining a concussion.

Other than that, Brown’s career in St. Louis wasn’t really noteworthy.  He played in 11 games for the Cardinals in 2011, then bounced around to Colorado and the Mets before ending his career in 2014.

Rating: We don’t know what the future considerations were, but it couldn’t have been anything that made a dent.  It’s an entirely forgettable deal, which means we’ll rate it a tossup.

Trade 12: Ryan Ludwick to San Diego for Nick Greenwood and Jake Westbrook (from Cleveland)

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/31/10 Ryan Ludwick -0.9 0.1 Nick Greenwood -0.2 -0.2
Jake Westbrook 1.3 1.3

Reaction Post: Did I Miss Anything?

For reasons relating to work and school, I typically spend the latter part of July in Ohio visiting my wife’s family.  That’s where I was in 2010, when I checked my phone in a McDonald’s (seriously, that area is terrible for cell signal) and found out this deal had been made.

Most of you probably remember the angst around it, especially afterwards as the Cardinals slipped down the stretch and were overtaken by the Cincinnati Reds.  There was outcry about how Mo could make a deal that shipped out a bat when the offense was just barely holding its own.  In August and September, the Cardinals went two games under .500 and people were not happy.  (Ironically, though, the Cards averaged 0.2 runs more in that span than they did the earlier part of the year.)

And it’s not like Jake Westbrook was any great shakes.  I mean, he’d had a couple of good years, but was sporting a 4.65 ERA when the Cardinals acquired him.  If you are going to go for pitching depth shouldn’t it be, you know, good pitching depth?

Again, though, Mozeliak showed that he was a fairly good judge of talent.  Ludwick didn’t take to the West Coast, though he rebounded some when he returned to the National League Central, first to the Pirates via trade and then the Reds via free agency.  Still, he never was much more than a replacement player, which many who followed Ludwick in St. Louis would have been surprised to learn.

(Personal note: I’ll always remember his return to St. Louis, because I was actually in the press box and couldn’t join in the ovation.)

Westbrook, besides being the answer to the great trivia question of who got the win in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, turned out to be a pretty solid pitcher.  He was no ace, but he filled in nicely in the back of the rotation, winning over 10 games in both ’11 and ’12.  Most of that positive WAR, however, comes from 2012, when he was worth 1.1 wins above replacement.

Nick Greenwood was pretty much an afterthought on this deal (and the least heralded, especially now that the pitcher the Indians got in this deal was San Diego prospect Corey Kluber) but he did provide a little value for the Cardinals in a bullpen role in 2014.  I’ll always remember him, though, as the guy that got the last minute start in Arizona on the last day of the 2014 season instead of Adam Wainwright once the Cards found out they had clinched the division.  It’s the strange things that stick with you, you know?

Rating: An easy win for Mozeliak here.  I loved what Ludwick did while he was in St. Louis, but he never gave any real cause to regret bringing Westbrook in.

Trade 13: David Carpenter to Houston for Pedro Feliz

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
8/19/10 David Carpenter 0.1 2.0* Pedro Feliz -0.4 -0.4

*–Still active

Reaction Post: Have the Cardinals Bounced?

This is one of the rare trades where not only did nobody like it at the time, there was never any reconsideration of this deal.  Pedro Feliz had had a pretty decent career with the Phillies and the Giants and was known as a premier glove.  However, by 2010 the offense had fallen precipitously.  As I said in the post, he wasn’t even starting for Houston, which meant something back then when the Astros were piling up 100 loss seasons and trying to get as high a draft pick as possible.

In 40 games with St. Louis, Feliz wound up with two extra-base hits and couldn’t even hit .210.  We suffered through Pete Kozma, so we know you have to have a very, very solid other hitters to be able to cover that kind of a black hole.  I’m not sure there was any team that had the hitters to handle that, but the Cardinals sure didn’t.  He wasn’t exactly Scott Rolen at third base either and the whole package led to him only starting about 65% of the time in September, as the Cards faded out of contention.  He signed with the Royals the next spring but didn’t make it out of spring training.  A stint with the Padres at the end of the year also didn’t see him return to the bigs.

Trade 14: Blake Hawksworth to Los Angeles (NL) for Ryan Theriot

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
11/30/10 Blake Hawksworth -0.4 -0.4 Ryan Theriot 0.1 -0.2

Reaction Post: Cardinals Turn On the Stove

Brendan Ryan has floated through a few of these recaps, as the shortstop position always seems to be one that the Cardinals need to address.  In 2010, even though he’d kept playing his strong defense, his offense had slipped to a .573 OPS.  At the time, there was still an idea that he could bounce back from that a bit, though looking into the future now we can tell that .573 was really in the ballpark of the true player that Ryan was.  And when Chris Carpenter does this to you, you might not want to put down firm roots.

Afterwards, it came out that there were others that had issues with Ryan, so in hindsight a deal for a shortstop isn’t too surprising.  Ryan Theriot definitely had a better offensive profile, though bringing in a former Cub is always an issue.  (Well, hopefully not always, right Dexter Fowler?)  Theriot would be the shortstop to start the 2011 season for the Cardinals, a team many remember well.

Of course, Theriot didn’t really end the season as the starting shortstop, a fact he highlighted late in the year by noting the team was winning when he was out there at the six position.  Theriot’s offensive profile was actually fairly in line with his career norms when you take the season as a whole, but he hit .236/.293/.325 in the second half of the season and saw his playing time basically eliminated when Mo made a deadline trade to bring in another Dodgers shortstop (teaser!).  Theriot was on fire against the Phillies in the NLDS, hitting .600 over the five games, but only had two hits more in the rest of the playoffs.  When the season ended, he was granted free agency, moved on to San Francisco, and won a ring there in 2012.  Yes, Ryan Theriot is a two-time World Champion.  I know, it’s mindboggling.

So we can see that the Cards didn’t exactly gain a lot from this deal, but they didn’t lose anything either, besides the pitcher in their organization with arguably the coolest name.  Hawksworth had always been a guy people had kept an eye on and he had a pretty decent rookie year for the Cards in 2009, going 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA out of the pen.  Anytime a player makes his debut at 26, though, you do wonder how much of that will stick around once the league adjusts and 2010 showed that the league had truly adjusted.  He was a tolerable low-leverage reliever for the Dodgers in 2011, but wound up with arm problems that eventually cost him his career.

Rating: Theriot was actually worth a positive WAR and did help the Cardinals out at least some in the first half, so we’ll give Mo a win on this one.  If you wanted to rate it a toss-up, I’m not going to argue with you.

Trade 15: Brendan Ryan to Seattle for Maikel Cleto

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
12/12/10 Brendan Ryan 7.3 6.8* Maikel Cleto -0.7 -0.9*

Reaction Post: Scrooged

So I had just written a Christmas Carol parody where Mozeliak, visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, decided that Ryan’s glove was worth keeping when Mo went out and shipped Ryan off to Seattle for an A-ball prospect.  If you ever thought the front office read this blog and considered what I said, I really don’t know why.

We’ve talked above about Ryan’s drawbacks, but there’s no doubt that if you can put up with the bat (which, granted, is easier in the American League what with that DH thing and all, meaning Ryan can be the only black hole instead of being the black hole in front of the pitcher) he can flat out pick it.  Look at that WAR number with Seattle.  Around 70% of that comes from his defense.  Baseball Reference shows oWAR of his time in the Pacific Northwest to be 2.3 while the dWAR to be 6.9.  (Why those don’t add to the 7.3, I don’t know.  I assume they are slightly different measures.  I look forward to someone schooling me.)

Ryan had worn out his welcome in St. Louis, but flourished in Seattle.  Then he got the chance to go to New York and be the backup to Derek Jeter, which isn’t a terrible gig when it comes right down to it.  (No word on if he filled in on any of Jeter’s dates if the Captain needed a rest.)  Last season, he backed up Andrelton Simmons, which is one of the rare times where he might have been a step down defensively from the starter.  This offseason, he signed with the Detroit Tigers, so he can keep plugging along.

Cleto had a blazing fastball, but he really didn’t know what to do with it.  The Cardinals moved him quickly up the ladder in 2011, bringing him to the big leagues after a middling run at Memphis.  Command was never Cleto’s friend–in his 45 major league innings, he’s walked 30–and the Cardinals got less than 16 innings out of him in the big leagues over the three seasons he was with the club.  His ERA in those innings?  10.34.  And that wasn’t skewed by one bad outing.  Only five times (out of 13 appearances) did he escape without a run.

The Cardinals lost him to the Royals when they put him on waivers early in the 2013 season.  The White Sox took a flyer on him in 2014 and that’s where the bulk of his major league experience comes from, getting into 28 games in 2014.  He’s bounced around since and last month signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs.  The odds of him returning to Busch Stadium in the blue pinstripes, though, is long.

Rating: I get why the deal was made.  I get that the Cards might not have been able to get as much out of Ryan as some American League teams could.  But when Ryan was even the better pitcher in the deal (two innings, no runs for the Yanks in 2015), it’s hard to chalk this up as anything but a loss.

We’ll probably try to tackle 2011 and 2012 together next time, as there were only three deals in ’11 (though one you might remember).  Hope you are enjoying this stroll down memory lane!

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Arbitrary Decisions

There are a lot of good things about Winter Warm-Up.  For one, it raises a lot of money for Cardinals Care.  (Kudos to Adam Wainwright for pledging part of his karaoke receipts to help defray the loss of a day this year.)  It lets folks meet the players and get autographs.  And, most importantly for this site’s sake, it brings some news to discuss to the middle of the cold winter.

The biggest news that came out of this weekend, of course, was the fact that the Cardinals are going to take Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha to an actual arbitration hearing.  On the face of it, this seems crazy.  After more reflection….it still seems crazy.  There aren’t a lot of things that get an overwhelming consensus in Cardinal Nation, but this is one of them.

I point out every year around this time, when the Cards are either settling their arbitration cases or filing and then settling later, that you have to go back to 1999 and Darren Oliver to find the last time St. Louis and one of its players went before an arbiter.  I said last night on the podcast that I didn’t think John Mozeliak was even in the organization that far back.  He was (he joined the club in 1995) but was an assistant in the scouting department at the time.  I don’t say that to indicate Mo isn’t going to be good at this, just that he’s never actually gone through the process.

It’s funny, but I’ve always felt like the streak of avoiding arbitration was a badge of honor for the club.  Nobody should want to go into a hearing and have to denigrate, in any form, one of their employees.  I understand it could be a necessary part of doing business, but I would think you should do everything you can to avoid that, which includes not ruling out reaching an agreement after the filings.  Heck, if you are afraid of an inflated midpoint, file lower than you want to settle at.  You run the risk of offending the player a bit there as well, but I think if you settle those hurt feelings go away.  Hearing that the player is lacking in X, Y, Z takes longer to heal up.

This policy was put down at the beginning of the offseason, it appears, and was going to be followed no matter who didn’t agree to contracts, but I bet Mo wishes it’d been Trevor Rosenthal or Matt Adams that couldn’t come to terms rather than their de facto staff ace.  There’s stronger reasoning for going to arbitration with those two, given their roles and their history, and you’d think that the team and their camp would have been farther away on the dollars.  Apparently not so much, as both of those players (and Kevin Siegrist) signed before the deadline hit.  Wacha would probably also fit into this scenario if he was asking for a lot more than the club wanted to give.  However, that isn’t the case.

I just don’t get the benefit of going to a hearing with your best pitcher.  As Joe Schwarz mentioned in one of the links above, a win could help set a lower baseline for future filings, but 1) how are you going to win with the season Martinez put up last year and 2) how much, really, is saving $350,000 here going to multiply?  Let’s not even factor in this whole idea that there’s plenty of payroll room, especially since payroll has actually gone down over the winter, and there’s a billion dollar TV contract on the horizon.  No, let’s look bad by trying to skimp on a player that we are going to need to be competitive next year and the years to come.

Look, we’ve already seen that St. Louis’s magical “hometown discount” is pretty much nonexistent anymore and this idea that you get to play before “the best fans in baseball” is worth close to bupkis when it comes to signing a player to a contract.  You’d think you’d rather generate some goodwill by avoiding a hearing where you have to say anything negative about a guy like Martinez.  It feels like a situation where you are being penny wise and pound foolish.

I’m a parent, so I know that at times you have to follow through on a threat to make sure they know you will do what you say you’ll do.  Which may be what we have here, that Mo’s kinda backed himself into a corner because he told these agents they’d go to arbitration and they tried to call his bluff.  Maybe that’s been a problem for the staff over the last couple of years.  I don’t know, but it’s a bad look and I hope Mo finds a way to avoid this and save face at the same time.

The front office has more information than we do.  They know the path they want to take.  I’m not saying that this is the wrong move because I don’t know all of that.  I am saying it really, really appears like the wrong move.

Lots of other things came out of the shortened WWU, like the fact Randal Grichuk had knee surgery to start the offseason (he says he’s better now) and Kolten Wong is coming in trying to win the second base job, no matter what the team says, but the last interviews of the event probably were the ones most focus on, as Mike Matheny says there are no plans to rest Yadier Molina this season.  You can imagine how well THAT went over.

“My job description is to win games,” Matheny said. “And if I have a player that I feel like is going to help us win games and that I feel is able to answer the bell, he’s going to be in the lineup.”

The problem is, of course, Matheny has shown no aptitude for understanding if a player can help win games or answer the bell.  We saw that as he continued to run out Brandon Moss last year in the midst of the worst batting slump most of us have ever seen.  We saw that when he resisted moving Trevor Rosenthal out of the closer role even as he was losing games right and left for the club.  We’ve seen it time and time again that if you leave it up to Mike Matheny, he’s going to err on the side of playing a player too much for the most part.

Yes, Molina had a great second half last year.  It was remarkable what he was able to accomplish and I’m not saying that his time behind the plate should be severely curtailed at all.  Remember, though, he had a .671 OPS in the first half when he was playing just as much if not more.  You could make the argument that the four day break in the middle of the season, when he didn’t go to the All-Star Game, rejuvenated him a bit.  (You could also say the slight motivated him, which would probably be fair as well.)  We went through what some catchers have produced at Yadi’s age and older when we talked about the issues around his extension.  It tended not to go very well for those guys.  Yadi could easily be the exception, but he’s caught a lot more innings than most of those guys have.

I guess we should give credit to Matheny for coming out and saying it like this instead of saying that they are going to rest him more and then the backup catcher makes his first appearance in mid-April and the second in mid-June.  At least we know what we are going to get, huh?

I’m glad that Molina wants to be a lifetime Cardinal and I hope that he is.  I just hope he’s not a broken-down shade of himself by time he gets to that point.  Let’s put it this way–I’m fine with Molina playing as much as he wants if he produces.  I just hope Matheny can realize when to rest him before it becomes a problem.  I don’t have a lot of confidence that is the case, but I can hope.  At least Carson Kelly will be getting time at Memphis.  This is the reason folks didn’t want him to be the backup in St. Louis this year.

The talk from this weekend was welcome, because it was baseball in January, but I don’t know that it was comforting.  Hopefully we’re ordering crow on both of these things later this season.  It wouldn’t be the first time!

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I was really glad to get to talk with Laura and Holly of the podcast STLCardGals.  There are a few podcasts that are my must-listen shows and theirs is right at the top of the list.  It was fun to talk about their history in St. Louis and their thoughts on the upcoming season.  Check it out!

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Last week, we started our examination of the trade history of Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.  He came out with a bang in 2007, trading two pieces of what we would now term “the core” and then wrapped up 2008 with what is one of his most disappointing trades.  In the next two years, Mo picked up the pace, making 10 such moves.  I thought I would be able to do both years in this post, but I started getting wordy (imagine that) so we’ll look at 2009 here and 2010 in the next one.

Trade 6: Brian Barton to Atlanta for Blaine Boyer

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
4/20/09 Brian Barton 0.0 0.0 Blaine Boyer -0.2 -0.9*

*–Still active

Reaction Post: Cards Not Quiet on Off Day

Brian Barton was an interesting one.  A former Cleveland minor leaguer (Mo tapping that connection again), the Cards took him in December 2007 during the Rule 5 draft.  As you know from following Matthew Bowman this past season, Rule 5 folks have to stay on the major league roster all year long.  Barton had two seasons of double-digit homers in his minor league portfolio as well as three seasons of twenty-plus steals.  The talent seemed to be there and while nobody was dreaming 30/30 out of a guy like this, he profiled to be a productive piece of the puzzle.

He stuck around all of 2008, putting up a line of .268/.354/.392 in 81 games.  He only had a couple of homers and a handful of steals, but still seemed to be a solid choice for a fourth outfielder.  The next season, though, he didn’t make the team out of spring training and, after a week or so at Memphis, was dealt to the Braves.

It seems that Mo had a better sense of his evaluation than the rest of us did.  Barton wound up with one more major league at-bat–a strikeout on June 3–then bounced around in the minors and independent ball until 2014.  Another case of minor league talent just not translating well to the big leagues, though his ’08 season would have seemed to warrant someone taking another look here or there.

While Mo didn’t lose out on anything shipping Barton to Atlanta, he didn’t receive anything either.  Boyer only pitched 16.1 innings in St. Louis that season and had an ERA close to 4.50.  In what might be classic Mozeliak fashion, Boyer pitched five innings in his last game with the Cardinals, allowing just two runs (one earned), and then, having gotten perhaps all he could out of him, was put on waivers.  The Diamondbacks picked him up and he did pretty well for them (2.68 ERA in 37 IP).  After that, he’s been your typical veteran reliever, bouncing from place to place, playing around replacement-level ball.  He even spent part of 2013 in Japan.  He’s still going–he was with the Brewers last year, though he’s currently a free agent–but he’s not done anything to really spur regret.

Rating: Again, this one feels like a tossup.  Perhaps you could give it a loss given how long Boyer’s career has lasted versus Barton’s, but for the Cardinals, it really didn’t feel like this one much mattered.

Trade 7: Chris Perez and a PTBNL (Jess Todd) to Cleveland for Mark DeRosa

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
6/27/09 Chris Perez 4.1 4.0 Mark DeRosa 0.4 -0.9
Jess Todd -0.4 -0.4

Reaction Post: Cardinals Still Searching

Maybe Mozeliak just shouldn’t trade relief pitching.  That seems to be his biggest issue when you look at these deals.  The only players that have really been extendedly great after being dealt have been relievers.  Which I guess if you are going to have a weakness, that’s the one to have.  Relievers tend to be a dime a dozen, at least reasonably good ones.

This trade is also a little hard to evaluate because three games after DeRosa arrived in St. Louis he hurt his wrist and went on the DL.  DeRosa never recovered from that and after the season had a wrist surgery that, afterwards, he termed a “total failure”.  We’ve seen a lot of wrist injuries in St. Louis over the past few years and we know that it seems like that never ends well, at least in the short term.  DeRosa hit .228 (though with 10 homers) the rest of the season and became a free agent afterwards, signing a deal with the Giants.  He didn’t play over 80 games again in his career until his last season in 2013, when he appeared in 88.  The demarcation of his career (10.7 WAR before St. Louis, -0.9 after) is pretty clear.

Would a healthy DeRosa make this a win for St. Louis?  Probably not, though it at least would have been a little more of a discussion.  Jess Todd, who I always kept up with since he was from the my alma mater (University of Arkansas), had a strong minor league track record, but I think it again had more to do with delivery and being a bit more developed than the competition.  As he got to Memphis, his momentum stalled, and he never was able to do much at the big league level.  (Years later, Todd wound up back in the Cardinal system, but again struggled at AAA.)  So a Todd for DeRosa deal would have been fine in retrospect.

It wasn’t, of course.  Chris Perez was the Cardinals’ first round pick in 2006 and he quickly moved up the ranks, showing that he was going to be a future closer and it wasn’t going to take long.  Perez had a solid rookie year in 2008 and, save for a couple of rough outings in June, seemed to be on track to do more of the same in 2009.  Moving over to Cleveland, he became the closer in 2010 and racked up 123 saves with an ERA a touch over 3 for the next four years, including two All-Star appearances.  In 2013, though he got 25 saves, he did see his general effectiveness start to drop off, so much that Cleveland released him at the end of the season.  (The fact that he was arrested during that season for marijuana possession might have factored in as well.)  He had another season with the Dodgers, tried to catch on a couple more places, but that was it.

Rating: The 2009 Cardinals had Albert Pujols hit 47 home runs.  Next highest? Ryan Ludwick, the only other person over 20.  There was obviously a reason that Mo felt he needed to bring in offense.  All in all, the process worked–but the trade didn’t.  Sometimes you can do everything right and still have a loss result.  On the flip side, if this deal works, you wonder if the trade coming up in a couple would have happened, which would have significantly altered Cardinal history.

Trade 8: Chris Duncan to Boston for Julio Lugo

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/22/09 Chris Duncan 0.0 0.0 Julio Lugo 0.6 -0.3

Reaction Post: A Busy Day in Cardinal Nation

There is no doubt that Chris Duncan played a huge role in the 2006 run to a World Series title.  His 22 home runs that season (in just 90 games) powered the Cards into the postseason and beyond.  He had another 21 in 2007, but scuffled in 2008 and his season ended July 21 when it was determined he needed serious neck surgery.  He returned in 2009 but wasn’t the same player. with just one homer in 300 plate appearances.

As you can see in the post, Dunc got a lot of grief for falling from his heights.  The fact that his father, Dave Duncan, was the pitching coach on the team didn’t help matters at all.  Nepotism is a word that gets tossed around a lot when players are struggling (less when they are hitting well) and that was the case here.  Duncan’s neck issues were large, though, and it’s really not surprising that he never made it back to the bigs.  Boston sent him immediately to Pawtucket and the Nationals had him in their AAA squad the next year.

To get anything for Duncan was a pretty impressive feat for Mo.  As you remember from yesterday’s post, Khalil Greene was dealing with issues, which only left the unproven Brendan Ryan at shortstop.  Getting a veteran to provide depth and hopefully revive his career in the magical waters of St. Louis was usually a Walt Jocketty maneuver, but it worked this time as well.  Lugo was actually doing a tolerable job in Boston (though not to the heights of his earlier career) but they’d put him on waivers given their general shortstop situation.  Mo pounced, Lugo revived a bit in St. Louis, and it worked out.  Befitting the short-term nature of the deal, Lugo moved on to Baltimore in 2010 (we’ll get to that) and Atlanta in 2011 before retiring.

Rating: This has to be a win for Mo, since Lugo was worth more than half a win and Duncan never returned to the big leagues, though he is back in St. Louis doing radio these days.

Trade 9: Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson, and Brett Wallace to Oakland for Matt Holliday

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/24/09 Clayton Mortensen -0.9 0.0* Matt Holliday 23.1 23.1*
Shane Peterson 0.0 0.6*
Brett Wallace 0.0 -0.6*

*–Still active

Reaction Post: Cardinals Get Holliday

If you were to ask the random Cardinal fan about John Mozeliak trades, the first one mentioned probably would be the 2011 deadline deal.  A close runner up, though, would be this one.  It’s a deal that most GMs dream of making, a deal that probably couldn’t be made today.  I think prospect evaluation is different, more focused, than it was just eight years ago.

Obviously, Brett Wallace was the centerpoint of the deal from Oakland’s point of view.  Moneyball proved that they had no hangups about the way a ballplayer looked and Wallace was always thought to be too chunky to stay at third base.  He was the first round pick of the draft the year before and had already slugged his way to Memphis, where before the deal he had six homers and a .769 OPS.  The position may have been in flux, but his hitting seemed to be a lock.

Then you had Clayton Mortensen.  It’s hard to believe, in this era of amazing Cardinal pitching prospects, of hard throwing hurlers that dominate from the get-go, that Mortensen really was at the top of the list when it came to Redbird minor league pitchers.  His numbers at AA and AAA didn’t excite, which really made him the best of a weak lot.  (Remember, a lot of Jeff Luhnow’s picks were still in the lower minors at this time.)

Shane Peterson was a throw-in even then, a way to give the A’s another shot at a major leaguer.  Peterson’s ceiling always was of a fourth or fifth outfielder, but those guys do have some value, of course.

If you’ve read me for any length of time, you know that I’m often wrong in my thinking.  That’s probably part of the entertainment value.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong, though, than when I was concerned about losing Brett Wallace for Matt Holliday.  Hindsight and all that, but that one is really, really bad.

When you add up all the bWAR that the Cardinals got in all of these trades we are discussing, excluding this deal, you get a total of 37.7.  Holliday, by himself, was 23.1.  The next closest is Jason Heyward at 6.5.  Now, to be fair, it cost all that talent plus the fact that the Cardinals shelled out a record-setting contract when he did become a free agent at the end of the year, but the “get them in and sell them on the organization” technique, most notably used on Mark McGwire, worked here as well.  Holliday not only became a fixture in the lineup and in the clubhouse, but in the community as well.  We’re still wondering who takes over Homers for Health in the coming season and there are many gaps in the charitable landscape of St. Louis with him now moving on to New York.

Rating: It would take a lot for John Mozeliak’s tenure as general manager to be considered a flop after making a deal that was an obvious win like that.  He gave up three players that define replacement value (their combined bWAR since moving on is zero) for a guy that will one day wear a red jacket and be inducted into the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  Legends are made with deals like that.

All right, we’re 2000 words from where we started, so let’s take a break.  We’ll tackle 2010 coming up soon.

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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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The Cardinals settled their first arb-eligible case today, agreeing on a $2.8 million deal with Matt Adams per Jon Heyman. The Cards have not gone to arbitration since 1999 (Darren Oliver), but there is more work to do to keep that streak alive.

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Daniel sits down with John Nagel of CardinalsFarm fame (and his regular Meet Me at Musial partner, but that’s much less impressive).  They chat about growing up in St. Louis and how that influenced everything, why John is so interested in the minor leagues, and why he decided to get back into the site game with his new place, The Redbird Daily.  Plus Daniel talks a little about Rogue One, because it’s Daniel.

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2017 has rolled in and is starting to get its bearings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk a little more about New Year’s Resolutions.  While the team in general probably has things like “hit better with runners on base”, “actually catch the ball when it is hit to you”, and “not blow a late inning lead” on its list, I thought it might be fun to see what some of the other Cardinals might have going for their individual goals.

Kolten Wong: To find out which kind of coffee Matheny likes the best and deliver a hot cup of it every day, hoping to get on his good side.

Dexter Fowler: To not wear his World Series ring in the clubhouse more than once a month.

Adam Wainwright: To resist calling into radio shows when he’s drafted in the bottom half of a mock draft.

Matt Carpenter: To listen to “Three Is The Magic Number” every day until he’s comfortable in the third spot.

Seung-hwan Oh: To figure out how to tell Eugene he’d like a little more space, really.

Stephen Piscotty: To practice smiling 15 times a day until the muscles do it naturally.

Jedd Gyorko: To stop listening to “All By Myself” and come to terms with the fact Brandon Moss is gone.

Matt Adams: To find some really good seat cushions to make sure he doesn’t get splinters in his backside.

Mike Matheny: To determine which reliever gets to replace Seth Maness as the go-to every-day no-matter-what guy.

John Mozeliak: To continue to remind himself that the idea of charging for soda in the clubhouse is a bad sign, not a money making opportunity.

Got others?  Leave them in the comments or Tweet them to me @C70.

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Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

I don’t have much to say here, but it seemed nice to end the year on a run of five straight days of posting, something that I don’t think this blog has seen since….well, all the stuff in November (Exit Interviews, Top Cards on Twitter, Adventures of Luke Skyweaver), I guess, but before that you probably have to go to Playing Pepper back in February and March.  For the fact that I pride myself on regularly updating this blog, there wasn’t a lot of that in 2016.  I may be the oldest regular Cardinal blogger this side of Tom Knuppel.  If not, it surely feels like it at times.  Sometimes the energy, the motivation, just isn’t there like it used to be.  Thank goodness for Heroes and Goats to force me to at least look at every game.

So that’s my goal for 2017, to write a little more regularly, with fewer series recaps and more game recaps.  The weekend series are likely always to be summed in one post–I never have posted much on the weekends, especially since Sunday mornings are reserved for church–but I’ll try to do a little better about dragging myself out of bed to talk about whatever happened the night before.  (StlCardsCards is now groaning, realizing there will be more content.)  We’ll see how regularly that pans out–as everyone knows, resolutions made in January don’t always last that long and it’s going to be tough to find things to write about before the Winter Warmup, which means bad habits can start early–but that’s the plan.  I’d like to figure out more stand-alone posts, such as the one about Kolten Wong in August or the one this week about Yadier Molina’s extension, but that’s never been in my wheelhouse.  If they come, they come, but you are more likely to get another Star Wars parody than a real insightful post on a single subject.

I also hope to do a few more Conversations With C70 shows this coming year as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I love doing Meet Me At Musial and I’m sure John Nagel and I will keep that going strong in 2017.  The weekly schedule of MMM does make it difficult to work another show into the mix, but there are so many folks I want to sit down with and hear from that I’m going to try to make that extra effort.  I know there will be a number in January and February before we get MMM going full strength.  I have to do my annual sit-down with Cardinal bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue, for instance, and there are a few others I’ve reached out to as well.  Heck, John’s never been on Conversations!  That’s something that needs to be rectified.

(Speaking of my podcasting partner, tomorrow–as the ball drops in Times Square, from what I understand–his new site The Redbird Daily will go live.  You should bookmark that and follow the Twitter account, because that staff is going to have a lot of great Cardinal stories and thoughts over this coming year, I think.  I know I’m looking forward to another strong Cardinal blog being on the Internet and I’m excited to see what they come up with.)

As well as Musial, Tara Wellman and I plan to keep Gateway To Baseball Heaven running for another season, which is great if you are a fan of Tara and if you aren’t a fan of Tara, I think you should probably question your humanity.  There was still some question about how long the show would be on Blog Talk Radio, but I think even if that went away Tara and I would still find a way to do it.  Having that regular recap of a week is good and I don’t know how often our conversations on Sunday night have leaked into Monday morning’s post.

Assuming no major changes, which in this world you can never be completely sure of, in July–I believe on the 17th–it will mark 10 years since I started up C70 At The Bat.  That seems like a long, long time.  In the blogging world, it really is.  Pip over at Fungoes had been going longer, but even he had to give it up last year.  I think Tom’s been going long than I have.  Blogs and bloggers tend to have short life spans, especially with Twitter being available to allow opinions to be aired to more and more people.  Back when I started this, we didn’t have any Twitter, didn’t do much on Facebook, and we blogged in the snow uphill both ways!  (It’s possible I got a bit carried away there.)

I’m proud to have lasted this long.  (I need to get Jon Doble to design a 10th anniversary logo.)  And while I’d probably write this stuff even if nobody ever seemed to read it (hey, sometimes I do!), but it’s because of that interaction I get with folks, either here or on Twitter, that makes it that much more exciting, more rewarding.  So thank you for reading this year and I hope you’ll continue with me through the next.  The words blessed and honored get tossed around a lot, making them lose their meaning (or take on some sort of ironic twist), but I really do feel that way that folks read this stuff and enjoy it or think my opinions make some sort of sense.  I’ve had a lot of kind words come my way, mostly undeserved, and I really, really appreciate all those that are along for the ride.  Thank you for your support and your friendship.

2016 was a rough year for Cardinal fans, what with Those Guys winning the World Series and all while the Redbirds sat at home, but we got through it.  2017 will be better.  It has to be.  Right?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Happy New Year, everyone.  I’ll see you in 2017.

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Every year, as part of the general United Cardinal Bloggers calendar, members are encouraged to write about their picks for the top five stories that happened in the last calendar year.  I forgot to remind the membership to do that this year, but I figured I’d go ahead and take a crack at it anyway.

5. Aledmys Diaz steps in and steps up.  When Jhonny Peralta went down with a thumb injury during spring training, it looked like a critical blow to the Cardinals.  Sure, Diaz was doing well in spring training, but March’s results often dissipate like fog on a summer morning.  The club wasn’t sold on his spring strength, nor the strong six weeks he put in during 2015 after being designated off the 40-man roster, and went out and signed Ruben Tejada who had been released by the Mets.

Thankfully for the club and for Diaz, Tejada came up lame in the last spring training game, clearing the way for Diaz to shine.  All he did was hit .500 through his first 48 professional at-bats.  He hit .423 in April and while obviously he cooled from that during the year, he still managed to hit .300, crank 17 home runs (including a powerful one after the loss of his best friend Jose Fernandez), and make the All-Star team after Matt Carpenter had to withdraw due to injury.

It wasn’t all perfect, of course.  Diaz’s defense was rough at times, though it seemed to improve as the season wore on.  He’s not likely to ever be a Gold Glover, but he shouldn’t be as shaky as he was in the first half of the season, when he made most of his 16 errors.  He slumped occasionally at the plate, though did work his way out by making adjustments to the adjustments being made to him.  John Mozeliak has indicated that he believes Diaz can be the future at short, at least for the near-term.  2017 is going to be big for Diaz, who needs to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder.

4. Cardinals lead the NL in home runs.  For fans of Whiteyball, when Whitey Herzog was fairly sure his team’s home run total would catch Roger Maris, this season must have been a shock to the senses.  St. Louis hit 225 home runs, second only to Baltimore’s 253 in the major leagues.  They would tie a record with a home run in 25 straight games during the season and set a record with three pinch-hit home runs April 8 against the Braves.  Jedd Gyorko, who hit 30 homers on the year, cranked one while playing every infield position.  With Matt Holliday‘s dramatic homer in the last homestand, they had six players smash at least 20 long balls and nine that got 10 or more, with Tommy Pham falling one short of making it double digits for double digits.

Obviously, as we’ll discuss in a bit, home runs by themselves do not a successful team make.  That said, there was something exciting about knowing the team never was really out of it, that there were a number of players that could come off the bench and tie up a one-run game.  It was a strange season for the Cardinals and it’s unlikely this portion will be repeated, but it was an interesting oasis in the regular less-than-powerful run of the Redbirds.

3. Cardinals sign Dexter Fowler to a five-year deal.  When the offseason started, John Mozeliak identified some issues that he wanted to address to make the team better.  At the top of the list was getting more athletic and to improve the defense.  All eyes turned to center field, which seemed the easiest way to deal with that, but as the winter meetings came and went, nothing had been finalized to fix that position.

As the team’s brain trust returned from Washington D.C., though, a press conference was called and it was soon learned that the club had signed Dexter Fowler, their top offseason target, to a five-year, $82.5 million deal.  Fowler, who probably had a career year last season with the Chicago Cubs, brings a OBP presence and some speed to the top of the lineup, bumping Matt Carpenter down (probably to third, though second might be the better spot).  There are differing opinions about his defense, but the combination of Fowler/Randal Grichuk should be stronger than Grichuk/Holliday was last year.

Fowler already is ingraining himself to the club and the fanbase, being an active Twitter user and using the account to retweet fans and host giveaways.  His Instagram of his young daughter wearing a Cardinals cap was an immediate hit.  Mozeliak stated at the press conference that he looked forward to seeing Fowler’s personality modify the clubhouse, though we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.  All in all, it seems like the Cardinals have a winning move on their hands with the new addition.  If nothing else, Cardinal Twitter had improved at least 100% with this kind of personality being on there.

2. Alex Reyes makes his major league debut.  We’d heard about him for quite some time.  The fireballing phenom.  The top ace talent that was on his way.  We saw him make some of the top prospects in the game look silly at the Futures Game out in San Diego.

And then, finally, he was here.  August 8th, it was announced that Alex Reyes would be joining the major league squad as a bullpen piece, while Luke Weaver would come up later in the week and take over Michael Wacha‘s spot in the rotation.  He made his debut that night in a loss to the Reds, but showed everyone just what the hype was about.

Reyes could hit 100 mph like he was just casually playing catch.  His offspeed stuff could make folks look silly.  While his command was still a work in progress, it was notably better in the majors than it had been on his climb up, which may have been a case of heightened focus, it could have been a case of getting to work with Yadier Molina.  Whatever the case, Reyes eventually worked his way into the rotation as others stumbled and likely would have been the Game 1 NLDS starter had the Cardinals won the play-in game behind Carlos Martinez.  Reyes finished four innings shy of losing his rookie status, meaning he’ll be one of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year next season.  Having him in the rotation for a full year is one of the more exciting things to anticipate for 2017.

1. Cardinals miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010.  October baseball is not only expect but demanded in St. Louis.  The Cardinals won 86 games, which is a nice total, but fell one game short of “the playoffs” when the Giants swept the Dodgers during the last weekend while the Cards were doing the same to the Pirates.  (OK, so technically they were one game short of tying the Giants, so they’d had to play a Game 163 before actually making the playoffs, but pedantry doesn’t look good on you, to be honest.)

When you come that close to your goal, there are lots of different reasons for not getting it.  Many folks pointed their fingers at Mike Matheny and it’s fair to assume that his contributions could have been netted into one loss.  There was also a pitching rotation that didn’t come anywhere close to expectations, much less the historic heights they reached in 2015.  There was a bullpen, most notably Trevor Rosenthal, that blew more than their share of games before things got sorted out.  There was the loss of Lance Lynn all year due to Tommy John surgery.  There were injuries to Carpenter, Brandon Moss, Holliday, Diaz.  There was the terrible slide Moss had to end the season.  Turn around any of those and likely the Cards at least get that wild-card chance.  (Of course, it also helped the Giants cratered in the second half, otherwise it wouldn’t have been that close.)

Adding insult to injury, of course, was the fact that for the first time in 108 years the world lives under the auspices of a Chicago Cubs championship.  (There’s a reason everyone hates 2016.)  To see the rivals succeed when the Cardinals failed is tough to swallow.  There seems little doubt that 2017 will be another strong year for the North Siders, so hopefully the roster changes plus some returns to form will help the Cardinals get into October and, perhaps, end that Cubbie reign.

Honorable mention: Matt Bowman’s successful Rule 5 season, Weaver’s major league debut, Adam Wainwright‘s struggles, Molina’s second half, Seung-hwan Oh saves the bullpen, Wacha injured again.

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