John Mozeliak has just pulled off some remarkable moves. I am not just referring to the players we received, but rather I am referring to the way he pulled them off. Let me explain.
We have several contracts that have just recently come off the books in 2013, totaling up to about $45 million Granted, some of that will be spent on pay raises, etc., but that is still a good amount to spend on free agency. In addition to that, if the Cardinals decide to decline John Axford's option, then there will be an additional $5 million to spend. That is nearly $50 million dollars available for Mo's use.
In the David Freese trade, the Cardinals upgraded at CF and actually saved money by doing so. Freese was likely to make around $4 million next year, meaning nearly $54 million available for free agency. The contracts of Bourjos and Salas offset each other.
MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH:
The Card's minor league depth is the envy of all of baseball. Many thought we'd have to deplete some of that depth to upgrade our team. But in just 2 moves, the Cardinals upgraded both CF and SS and kept our entire minor league system intact. In fact, it was even strengthened with the addition of Randal Grichuk. And by signing Jhonny Peralta rather than Stephen Drew, we saved ourselves a first round draft pick.
One bit of scrutiny that I have heard with the Peralta signing was the fact that 4 years were given to a 32 year old SS. But let's consider our other options. Some suggested trading for Tulowitzki. Not only would that have depleted much of our farm system, but he will also be 36 when his contract expires. And he gets hurt all the time. Elvis Andrus was another option talked about, but he also has a long contract taking him to age 35. JJ Hardy was an option, but only if he agreed to sign an extension, but at 31 years old, any chance he would agree to anything less than 3 years? Not a chance. All of the available trade options were going to result in players with contracts lasting til about the same age as Peralta will be when his is finished. So that shouldn't even be a discussion. Plus Peralta is more durable than all of the above-mentioned names, as well as Stephen Drew, who will likely get a similar contract length.
FUTURE FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY:
This is quite possibly the most important and yet the least discussed of all of the reasons why these moves have been impressive. Peralta's contract will finish up in 2017, the same year as Matt Holliday's and Jaime Garcia's. In 2018, Adam Wainwright's, Yadier Molina's, and Allen Craig's contract will come to an end. Why is that important?
Guess which players are on tap to hit free agency the following years:
2020: Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez
By signing Peralta, that gives us a solid option that will still allow us to offer extensions to the above players when and if that time comes. Trading for someone like Tulowitzki or Andrus would have handicapped us with contract length to where we couldn't have done such a thing.
All this to say, Mo is a genius. Without losing much (2 very replaceable players), we upgraded our 2 biggest needs and kept our minor league depth intact, as well as our present and future financial flexibility. Now that we have upgraded our needs, now time to go get our wants.