I’ll start with some background. Every year the St. Louis Cardinals put on an awesome event called “Blogger Day” in which Cardinals bloggers, podcasters, twitterers, and content creators gather in a party suite for a game, food, drinks, and some Q&A with John Mozeliak
It’s a great opportunity to hear from the president of baseball operations himself and see people that I mostly know from Twitter and other blogs and podcasts. It was truly an awesome event that I had the pleasure of attending.
In regard to the Q&A session, Mo was candid and revealing in his answers and that’s what I want to discuss here. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Mozeliak is aware of the team’s struggles and mistakes
Rest assured, the Cardinals president of baseball operations is aware that this season is not going well. That should seem obvious but I wanted to say it anyways,
In discussing the team at a high level, Mozeliak broke things down this way:
- The rotation is inconsistent but trending up
- The bullpen has been unable to consistently handle high leverage situations
- The everyday lineup has gone through some slumps and injury issues
Some of those things (injuries) are difficult to plan for while other issues are a result of potential errors in judgement and Mozeliak didn’t shy away from that. One mistake he pointed to specifically was the decision to prioritize opportunity for the outfielders already in the organization.
At the time, it felt reasonable to not add to a group of Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson, and Jordan Walker but the group as a whole hasn’t excelled as expected. That’s due in part to injuries to players like Nootbaar and O’Neill but also ineffectiveness from players like Carlson, O’Neill (when healthy), Burleson, and Walker.
And while Mozeliak acknowledged that it was a mistake to bet on the internal group, he also pointed to difficulties in courting outfielders in the past winter due to those players’ belief that they wouldn’t get the playing time they were seeking (due to an already deep group of outfielders in St. Louis).
Mo also pointed out that he expected this group of starting pitchers to be better, which, again, is probably fair. I did too. In my season preview article I described the Cardinals rotation as consisting of pitchers not 1 through 5 but rather 3a through 3e, meaning that the team didn’t have a bonafide ace but it had a bunch of solid mid-tier arms. That should have been good for about an average rotation or maybe a bit better, but this rotation instead ranks 18th in fWAR.
The main takeaway here is that this team has under-performed and Mo is aware of that fact and hasn’t shied away from acknowledging it.
The Cardinals have leaders
This is another obvious statement but I’m writing about it anyways. Someone asked if the absences of Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols have left the Cardinals with a lack of leadership and the answer to that was no.
I won’t belabor the point here because I find this to be a tiresome narrative grounded purely in speculation, but Mozeliak called out Adam Wainwright and Paul Goldschmidt specifically as leaders, and, though he didn’t mention the names specifically, I don’t think anyone doubts the leadership qualities of Nolan Arenado or Andrew Knizner, who has been consistently praised for his conduct and leadership.
A lack of leadership is not why the team is losing.
The World Baseball Classic affected the Cardinals
When asked about the effect of the World Baseball Classic on the Cardinals and their preparation for the season, Mozeliak was clear that the WBC did make a difference, and not a positive one.
He pointed to the sheer number of players the Cardinals had competing and mentioned that it didn’t give the clubhouse the same sense of togetherness in Spring Training, which is important for team bonding prior to the start of the year.
He also pointed to Adam Wainwright getting injured (though he did acknowledge that he could have been injured in Jupiter too) and the fact that Miles Mikolas didn’t have the full workload that he would normally have had in the spring to prepare for the season.
The Mikolas point is interesting because Mikolas struggled immensely at the beginning of the season, pitching his way to a 10.05 ERA through his first 3 starts and taking 6 outings to record his first quality start of the season.
It’s certainly possible, if not likely, that the World Baseball Classic played a role in his slow start.
Perhaps a limitation as to how many players can attend the WBC could help alleviate these issues in the future but it’s also important from a league perspective to grow the game whenever and wherever possible. Mozeliak acknowledged this during the Q&A and I wouldn’t be shocked if the issue became more of a debate in the lead up to the 2026 WBC.
Still evaluating deadline strategy
Mozeliak told everyone at blogger day the same thing he’s told the media - the next few weeks will have a big role in determining the Cardinals’ deadline strategy.
One thing is for sure, though - the Cardinals aren’t going to blow things up. Mo said that he remains patient and optimistic while saying multiple times see where the team is in September.
It certainly sounded like Mozeliak wants to add, but with the way this team is playing things could still go either way. Or things could go a third way with the team both adding and subtracting similar to the Harrison Bader for Jordan Montgomery swap of last year.
The next few weeks of play will be pivotal in setting the direction that the front office takes at the trade deadline, or even before.
Tommy Edman is the center fielder (for now)
This is one of the most interesting bits of information I took away from blogger day. When I asked Mozeliak about the potential of Edman being a long term solution in center field, he said that we can expect to see a lot of Edman in center for the next 3 to 4 weeks. He also went on to say that he likes Carlson and Walker more in the corners than in center.
This is interesting for 3 reasons. The first is because Carlson played an excellent center field last year but is still considering primarily a corner outfielder on this roster. The second is that, of the current outfield group, Nootbaar seems to be the preferred option in center field. And that leads us to our 3rd reason, which is that Mo’s comment seems to suggest that Nootbaar’s injury seems to be a little more serious than anticipated.
I expected Nootbaar’s injury to give him the minimum stay on the IL, but if Tommy Edman is going to be the center field fill-in for the next 3-to-4 weeks, it’s likely because Nootbaar is going to be out that long.
When he does come back, it seems that Nootbaar is the preferred center field option but Mo didn’t rule out Edman staying there and I think it’s certainly possible that he could considering how well he has played the position. 3 to 4 more weeks of stellar outfield work could make Edman too valuable to move back to the infield. And, if we look further forward, that would certainly open up the shortstop spot for Masyn Winn whenever he is ready to claim it.
Ivan Herrera is a completely different player
That is an exact quote (or as close to the exact quote as I can remember) that Mozeliak used when describing Ivan Herrera in response to my question about how he views Herrera considering his difficult path to MLB playing time.
One of the things that Mozeliak said that struck me was that he felt like Herrera didn’t understand the defensive demands of catching in the majors last year. He then went on to rave about how Herrera is aggressively learning and improving that side of his game and how he is taking a lead role in pitching meetings in Memphis.
Mo did mention how impressive Herrera’s bat has been but he really raved about the defensive improvement and how he continues to receive great reports on Herrera from the Triple-A staff.
It really seemed like Herrera is a player that the organization thinks highly of, but then Mozeliak went a bit further, mentioning that Willson Contreras is a really athletic catcher that can be moved around if necessary.
This is an idea that came up a bit when it was announced that Knizner would take the lead catching role for a bit earlier in the season and we all saw what happened then, or, rather what didn’t happen. Contreras never played the outfield. So my advice is to not look into this too much. The main takeaway is that the organization likes Ivan Herrera a lot and they are potentially willing to get creative to find him playing time when his time comes.
The door is always open for Yadier Molina
This was another really interesting tidbit from the Q&A session. Someone asked whether or not Yadi could come back and coach and Mozeliak’s quick response was - “the door is always open”.
He then went on to say that any kind of coaching gig will have to be on Molina’s terms since he will need to be willing to sacrifice his newfound free time and get back into the grind of a 162-game season. That’s not an easy decision for a retired player to make as we saw with Matt Holliday when he was hired and then stepped down shortly afterwards due to the his desire to spend more time with his family (which is something that Mozeliak confirmed for us).
Will we see Molina back in the dugout? Maybe. But considering how quickly the former catcher moved to managing (first in Venezuela last winter and now in Puerto Rico this coming winter), I wouldn’t be shocked if he wanted to return to the major leagues as a coach in the somewhat near future.
The 2024 rotation will have external acquisitions
Okay, so this is a bit of speculation on my part but, after listening to Mozeliak, I believe it to be true.
For starters, the president of baseball operations said that it’s a problem that the Cardinals have so many open rotation spots next year (as many as 4 depending on Matz and Liberatore). He then went on to discuss the internal options, listing McGreevy and Graceffo specifically, before somewhat dismissing them.
Keep in mind that it’s only June, but Mozeliak said that McGreevy has been throwing the ball really well in Memphis but it’s a lot to rely on him for 180 innings next year. He had the same reservations about Graceffo too, especially considering how his injury is taking innings away from him. I believe he even used the word “disappointing”, or something to that effect, to describe Graceffo’s season so far, and that refers to both his injuries and the fact that he had a 4.91 ERA and 5.00 FIP before getting hurt.
All this is to say that we should expect some moves from the Cardinals to fill out next year’s rotation, whether on the trade market or in free agency. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cardinals chasing controllable (at least beyond this year) starting pitching at the deadline.
Whether those acquisitions are in the high, middle, or low end of the market remains to be seen as Mozeliak affirmed that there is more risk than perhaps he and the organization are willing to take on when chasing high end starting pitching. Maybe the assessment changes when considering the cost of prospects (trade) vs the cost of money (free agency), especially considering budget constraints (which he mentioned multiple times as being a factor), but we’ll just have to wait and see.
For now, I expect the Cardinals to make an acquisition or two to fill out the rotation before the start of next season.
Overall, Blogger Day was a great event and Mo gave some great information and some great responses to everyone in attendance. And while the information was great I particularly enjoyed his somewhat dry and straight-faced sense of humor and his willingness to be straightforward with us.
I found the Q&A to be informative with more than a few really interesting nuggets of information that I’ve laid out above so hopefully this article helped answer some of your questions because Mozeliak certainly answered some of mine.
Thanks for reading, VEB.