As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (or, here, the owner’s office) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
President of Baseball Operations: John Mozeliak
Overview: Hindsight is very helpful to Mo for this season. Making deals for J.A. Happ and Jon Lester at the trading deadline were not at all what fans wanted and they looked like “do something to do something” moves. Then Happ and Lester, aided by a remarkable Cardinal defense, went out and improved significantly from their time with Minnesota and Washington, respectively, and helped push the Cardinals into the postseason. Lester, in fact, would have probably been the Game 1 starter in the NLDS had St. Louis made it there. Add that to the waiver moves of Wade LeBlanc, Luis Garcia, and T.J. McFarland and Mo did a real fine job of identifying potential where everyone else saw rubble.
And, of course, you can’t think about 2021 without the big one, the acquisition of Nolan Arenado. I do think Mo was aided in the fact that Arenado didn’t want to go anywhere else and used his influence to make sure he wound up in St. Louis, but Mo and Bill DeWitt Jr. were willing to go get him. That, along with the Paul Goldschmidt move, shows that they aren’t necessarily afraid of big salaries. They just like to know what they are going to be up front, which may mean they don’t trust themselves to get into a bidding war.
That doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and roses, though. When Cardinal pitchers were dropping like flies and the club was in a tailspin in June, the mantra from the front office was that it was “too early to deal” and “nothing is out there”, but you can’t tell me a Happ or Lester couldn’t have been gotten for basically the same price then. Mo was also unable to bring in additional offense for the club, though that probably was less of an issue than finding pitching.
Then there’s this offseason. It started out with removing the manager, which as we said earlier this afternoon was a bold choice. This is Mo’s third manager to hire, something that most GM/PBO folks don’t get the opportunity to do. If for some reason Oli Marmol flames out (not that I expect he will), it becomes harder to blame the man in the dugout. The Cardinals also had a lot of money coming off the books (it varies depending on whose calculations you look at) but all they have to show for it so far is the return of two legends (Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina), the return of a reliever who may or may not be able to repeat his 2021 work (T.J. McFarland) and a #3 starter (Steven Matz). It’s not bad, but it’s surely not exciting. Seeing Marcus Stroman go to the Cubs for a deal that the Cardinals should have been able to offer (and maybe they were in the conversation, I don’t know) is a tough look.
Outlook: As I wrote after the season, John Mozeliak isn’t going anywhere. He and DeWitt have the same vision, the same philosophy about how the Cardinals should run and how they can be good in the future. Both have a desire to win but they also want it to be sustainable. Mozeliak can be a little too conservative from the fan point of view and I do think that there are times he could be a little more aggressive in what he does (even the big moves of Goldschmidt and Arenado weren’t really risks), but it’s very hard to argue with no losing records since he took over the top spot. The Cardinals might be vanilla, but more people eat vanilla ice cream than anything else.