John Mozeliak’s State of the Cardinals – December 9, 2020

photo: John Mozeliak via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, December 9, St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak entertained questions from assembled media via Zoom for over 50 minutes. As you can expect, the topics were wide-ranging.

For the hardcore who want to take in every answer (and endure the questions), the full video is at the end of this article. For those who prefer a quick summary, following are some notes from my notes. In case you later want to listen to the section in question, I will list the comments in close to chronological order.

Summarizing Mo

This is an awkward time. Touching base with clubs and agents, but via phone and text. A different pace.

“January is the new December.” (This was stated multiple times during the hour.)

Patience will be required. Knows they have tasks in front of them. Molina and Wainwright discussions are ongoing. Depending on that, they may have to pivot. Having clarity on the two would be helpful.

Keeping pulse of trade and free agent markets. Have had some trade discussions but nothing imminent. There are challenges, but they are excited about the guys they have.

Haven’t changed. Have an idea what payroll will be but there is no hard number. Does not feel his hands are tied. Anticipate payroll will be less than one year ago.

Paul DeJong could be impact middle of the order hitter, but needs consistency. Don’t read into 2020 with all the stops and starts. He also had COVID.

Would not specify which positions he looks to upgrade offensively. Could lean more toward adding an offensive player since the defense is already strong. Cited Paul Goldschmidt as an example of a player who makes others around him better. Nice to anchor to.

On the designated hitter, knowing the rules would be helpful for roster construction. For St. Louis, the DH seems like a good place to start. Not sure when they will get the answer, so be patient.

If Molina does not re-sign, the team will explore outside options. Doing due diligence in background, but hope to have Molina back.

Was never opposed to platoons in the past. If you have a “splitzy” team, trying to balance it is logical.

John Mozeliak via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

On non-tenders, saw more players sign due to threat of being non-tendered instead. Thought there should have been more non-tenders in past. Moved up date from Dec. 20 to Dec. 2 to give players more time. David Eckstein was once a non-tender. Everyone uses the tool differently.

Having more payroll would be to everyone’s advantage, but don’t know if they will be the opportunity to move payroll. Attaching a prospect to a bad contract to save money would not make sense to the Cardinals.

Not surprised about fan angst. Hear it all the time in his job. Some fans want different things, but many have an appreciation of the continuity. Five years of CS appearances tough to replicate. Not all MLB teams created equal in terms of spending. Some play on a different playing field.

Expects Matthew Liberatore to break camp in Double-A, move up to Triple-A and would not be shocked if he pitches in St. Louis in 2021. Hoping for some kind of normal minor league season. Expects Zack Thompson could move rather quickly.

Probably not going to hold January instructional camp. Does not want players to get hot, not knowing when they will return. Want camp to flow into regular season.

Dylan Carlson’s return impact was exciting. Justin Williams hasn’t gotten the opportunity yet.

If MLB and minors camps run in parallel as normal, expect fewer players in MLB camp. If not, then will have a traditional size spring camp.

Minor league contraction – St. Louis was in favor of the new model. Better training of players and now can invest more in each player.

Jordan Hicks and Miles Mikolas are expected to be ready to go in spring. Miles spent November in St. Louis. Both are in a good spot and expect them to have a normal spring training.

The door remains “slightly ajar” for Kolten Wong’s possible return. But focus in short term is on Molina and Wainwright.

Can the team improve in 2021 with mostly the same roster from 2020? Could be yes and could be no. Mo is advocate for fresh focus, new refreshing environment – but two legacy players in free agency during pandemic puts them in different places. Don’t want to give up on younger players – hard to judge 2020. Tricky to navigate. Want to find way to give opportunity to current players.

On would they buy low? He talks with Bill DeWitt daily. Not afraid to zig when others zag. If value is out there, they will look at it.

In terms of attendance, it may take a few years to get back to normal. Very nervous about 2021 financially, but hopeful.

On women in baseball, Kim Ng in Miami is very deserving. Known her for more than 20 years. More will follow. Cardinals have some women in jobs they would never have been considered for before.

John Mozeliak via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Biggest difference in winter meetings is no face-to-face time. No “lobby life”. Kinda misses it. But virtual approach not worst experience in terms of efficiency.

Feels the club is good defensively. Couldn’t do normal routine in 2020. There are things individuals are working on.

With no Winter Warm-Up, the medical staff is using Zoom to keep up with players. Players already asking about protocols for reporting to Jupiter. May fill up sooner than usual.

No one wants a spring delay. Ideal would be 5-6 weeks of spring training and then we play baseball.

Carlos Martinez has to come into camp and earn a rotation spot. Lots of competition, nothing guaranteed. Alex Reyes will coming into camp looking for starters innings. May need to make decisions earlier this year. Cannot get through year with just five or six starters. 70% of the pitchers have ability to be stretched out. Problem if they are not stretched out in July.

Will not show hand on plans for Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.

Minor league system at the rookie level will include just one team in the Gulf Coast League and two in the Dominican Summer League in 2021.

Footnote 

In separate news on Wednesday, the Cardinals confirmed long-expected decisions that they have invited all four prior full season minor league teams to continue their affiliation.  They are Memphis (Triple-A), Springfield (Double-A), Peoria (High-A) and Palm Beach (Class-A). A change is a flip between levels for the latter two clubs as part of a cross-MLB alignment change.

As had already been announced, former short-season Cardinals affiliates in State College, PA and Johnson City, TN have moved to new collegiate wood bat leagues. The driver was MLB teams pushing greater cost-efficiency into their player development processes, and therefore, trimming their minor league operations.

Full Mozeliak video


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