Mozeliak Sets the Direction

As the remaining couple of days tick by before free agency fully opens in MLB, St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak joined St. Louis Baseball Weekly to address what direction and priorities his team has set for this off-season.

“It’s understanding that we’re going to try and find a more impactful bat for the lineup and we’re also going to look at some back of the bullpen help,” said Mozeliak. “If there’s an opportunity out there to touch on some starting pitching or more of a swing type pitcher, we’ll do that as well. But I still think the priority is going to be looking at the lineup and looking at the bullpen.”

Among the names who could be available is Greg Holland, who returned from Tommy John surgery to record a league leading 41 saves with Colorado last season and is set to turn down a $15 million option to return to the Rockies. But after being almost unhittable in the first half of the season, his ERA was nearly five runs higher in the second half of the year.

San Francisco didn’t see their deal for Mark Melancon work out as expected. The Cardinals saw their own designs of how Seung Hwan Oh would close change over the season. Juan Nicasio finished the season strong–but it was a small sample size.

So is the evaluation of signing a closer, especially one seeking top dollar and multiple years, the toughest position to evaluate?

“I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘toughest’, but I would use maybe the word ‘volatile’,” answered Mozeliak. “When you look at bullpens in general and relief pitchers, there tends to be a little bit more volatility in year to year performance. The other thing you really have to take a deep breath on is understanding usage prior to signing them, because sometimes that factors into their following year. I think we learned a little bit of that with Cecil this past year and so that’s something we just have to manage.

“I think one of the strategies that we have going into next year is just understanding bullpen usage and trying to find the right types of players where we’re not just relying on two or three arms down there. We have to have more depth in that bullpen to allow a little bit more balance of power, if you will.”

Mozeliak also confirmed the Cardinals will qualify Lance Lynn, which will provide draft pick compensation if the free agent right-hander signs with another team as expected.

The situation is not quite as clear for reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“So far so good for him, he’s in a good spot,” said Mozeliak. “Obviously, we’re going to have to make a decision on him and I imagine we’ll do that in the near future. But I think the decision isn’t all that complicated, when you’re looking at someone like him and his contractual situation it’s going to be very tough for us find a spot at this point.”

Eligible once again for arbitration, Rosenthal made $6.4 million last year.

While there may not be an immediate deal, expect the Cardinals to be active early this off-season as necessitated by the deadline of November 20th–when teams must have their 40-man roster set. It would be more advantageous to make a move now while still having a surplus of players, such as in the outfield, than after the deadline when a player would need to be released and now compensation would follow.

A player like Jack Flaherty, who had his contract purchased this past season, must now be protected which leaves one less roster spot for another prospect in the organization.

“We have basically three weeks to sort of navigate how we want this to look like,” acknowledged Mozeliak. “It wouldn’t shock me if you saw us try to do a move where maybe we took two roster pieces and got one back. Trying to make sure we have enough space to protect the players we feel we need do and then also trying to make sure we have true opportunities for others. So I do think over the next three to four weeks, we’re going to be pretty busy trying to get that 40-man looking like what we want.”

photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com; Chris Humphreys, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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