There is no questioning the results thus far. Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak has built a good track record during his time with the team. Is there a method to his madness? Maybe. He may not have a printed set of blueprints for building a team, but he certainly seems to have an idea of how he wants the entire thing structured. Betting long on a corner outfielder? Refusing to bet the farm on a superstar 1B? Signing the right guys to fill the right roles for just the right length of time? He’s making it look easier than most GM’s do, and he’s doing it while maintaining payroll flexibility. Consider 2 prime examples:
- Matt Holliday‘s enormous contract is only guaranteed through Holliday’s age 36 season. The option year (age 37) is for $17M, but the buyout is only $1M. Despite the fact that the Cardinals owe Holliday $85M for the next 5 years, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad bet. What are the odds that Holliday posts a total of 18-20WAR during that same period?
- Jaime Garcia is an up-and-coming ace, and he could be paid like one….sort of. The big years in his contract are both team option years for $11.5M and $12M respectively, and the buyouts are only $500K for each season. That means that the young lefty is signed through at least his age 28 season without the Cardinals being on the hook for $10M/yr unless they opt to pick up the option for 2016. For a guy who has averaged 30 starts and 175+ innings each of the past 2 seasons (26-15), that seems like a pretty reasonable deal.
- Although the comparison hasn’t been made much yet, it is worth noting that the Cardinals have switched their outfield rotation from something like Holliday-Jay-Rasmus-Schumaker-Berkman to Holliday-Jay-Schumaker-Beltran-Craig. The former was okay, but the latter has the potential to be better than just “okay”. Best of all, only LF is essentially committed to for the next several years, so there is room for another “baby bird” soon enough.
Finally, look at the really big picture…the one with the really big numbers.
- Matt Holliday – $17M
- Lance Berkman – $12M
- Kyle Lohse – $11.875M
- Chris Carpenter – $10.5M
- Adam Wainwright – $9M
- Jake Westbrook – $8.5M
- Yadier Molina – $7M
- Rafael Furcal – $6M
- Jaime Garcia – $3.25M
- Kyle McClellan – $2.5M
- Jason Motte – $1.95M
- Skip Schumaker – $1.5M
- JC Romero – $750K
Throw in $1.3M for Furcal’s buyout and $750K for Dotel’s buyout, and you still have a team under $95M ($93.875M for those keeping score at home). Toss in Carlos Beltran and a bunch of pre-arbitration guys, and you have a full set for around $112M.
Given that projected opening day salary total, I’m not sure how to feel about the possibility of Roy Oswalt signing with St. Louis. Unless Westbrook can be moved for a useful piece without the Cardinals paying a huge portion of his salary, it looks like Oswalt would be more than just an insurance policy. The Cardinals already have guys who can spot start, and signing Oswalt could reduce financial flexibility in the short term. Yes, adding Oswalt would give the Cardinals a really strong rotation on paper, but not too many playoff games are won on paper.
As it stands now, the Cardinals have an experienced starting rotation without a ton of mileage on all the arms, a solid core of position players who can put runs on the board with good regularity, a proven bullpen, and an All-Star catcher who is coming off of his best ever offensive season. If that is Mozeliak’s blueprint for building a contender, then I’m all in favor of it.
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