Under Construction

by on February 1, 2012 · 8 comments


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.

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.


Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for ideas on how I would spend $112M!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Zach February 2, 2012

I heard a couple of rumors that the cardinals may be going after Adam jones. What do you think it would take to get him?

Dennis February 2, 2012

Well, it would probably take a bit more than the Cardinals would even consider giving up at this point. Adding Jones wouldn’t do much to give the Cardinals anything that they don’t already have. He isn’t a high OBP guy, and he isn’t particularly good against LHP. His defense was really down last year in CF, so I don’t see the rationale for adding him, especially if it means giving up prospects. Besides, Jon Jay is in his pre-arb years, and Jones is arb-eligible. Trade for a more expensive guy who isn’t much of any upgrade (if at all)? Doesn’t make much sense, unless you are just sitting around dreaming up trades that help other teams which is exactly what a lot of people do this time of year.

Zach February 2, 2012

Well i just heard on Belleville news democrat that we were interested in him. Also someone on the cardinal website said Strauss reported it as well. I like jay but I could see us trading him cox and McClellan for jones. But we still have a great team regaurdless

Scott February 2, 2012

It’s amazing what guys like Mo and Walt Jocketty have been able to do with the “right players,” not necessarily the big names, but the right guys that fill the right holes. I get frustrated every season with the lack of a solid, consistent middle infield, but somehow it always seems to work out. As long as guys like Lohse, Westbrook, Schumaker, etc. continue to do what they’ve done for most of their careers, I think the Cards have a pretty legitimate shot next season.

Also, kudos to Mozeliak for not overpaying for Pujols. I’ll miss him (I already do), but that contract would have been nothing but bad news in a few years.

dave February 3, 2012

I dunno if you can consider Carp and Wainwright arms “without a ton of mileage on [them]” any more. One of them is 36 with 14 major league seasons under his belt and the other just had his arm sliced open and missed a year.

Dennis February 3, 2012

Zach- The Cardinals interest in Jones has been covered by a lot of people, but most of the deals discussed have been variations of ridiculous overpays such as Jay and Shelby Miller as part of a deal. Everything else has been just 2nd generation at best. Jim Bowden jumped into the fray early on, and his ideas were pretty far out there. The point is that teams express interest in a lot of players they aren’t really all that interested. A lot of scenarios are basically “What if?” games played by people who cannot explain why a deal they suggest actually makes sense for both sides.

Dennis February 3, 2012

Scott- I couldn’t agree more. It’s the small things like picking the right veteran on a 1 yr deal to fill a gap that can make a huge difference frequently enough to matter.

I really respect Mo for not going any higher for Pujols. The team can get creative with the next couple big extensions and still afford to be “buyers” in the FA market.

Dennis February 3, 2012

Dave- I appreciate what you are saying, but I did specifically mention that there isn’t a ton of mileage on ALL the arms. Outside of Carpenter, none of the starters have really had heavy workloads. Carp is the only one to go 200+ innings during the regular season in 2011.

Missing time also tends to keep mileage relatively low. That also means that the number of years played does not stand alone very well in this context. The number of appearances, innings pitcher, pitches thrown (and types of pitches thrown) are all factors as well. For their respective ages, Wainwright, Garcia, and Lohse simply haven’t thrown an unreasonable amount.

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