The St. Louis Cardinals on Friday promoted General Manager John Mozeliak to president of baseball operations and named Michael Girsch the team’s new vice president and general manager.
Mozeliak, 48, was hired as general manager after the 2007 season, replacing Walt Jocketty. Girsch, 41, was in his seventh season as assistant general manager, a job he began in January 2011. He joined the organization in 2006.
Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said the new contracts for Mozeliak and Girsch extend through the 2020 season. Mozeliak’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season.
“I thought it was appropriate at this time to assure continuity of our senior baseball leadership prior to the second half of the season,” DeWitt said. “Over the past 10 years, baseball operations have become more complex and demanding, and giving Girsch more day-to-day responsibility will enable Mo to focus more on strategic initiatives and long-range planning. They will continue to work closely together on all phases of the operation.”
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Girsch becomes the 13th general manager in franchise history.
“This organization holds a special place in this community, and I don’t take this new role lightly,” Girsch said. “This is a great responsibility and I appreciate the confidence that Bill and Mo are showing in me in giving me this opportunity.”
Mozeliak said the Cardinals haven’t discussed whether they will name a new assistant general manager, adding only that it’s “a possibility.”
Girsch takes over at a critical juncture of the season. The Cardinals entered their game Friday night against Washington with a pedestrian 37-41 record, but because the NL Central has been so ordinary, they were just 3 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee and 2 1/2 game behind the second-place Chicago Cubs.
The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, and the Cardinals still are trying to determine whether they will trade players from their major-league roster or add players from outside the organization. The next two or three weeks will help determine their strategy.
DeWitt, asked about the prospect of the Cardinals being “sellers” at the deadline, had a different take on the situation.
“I think being a seller is sort of a misnomer,” he said. “We’re not selling to dump payroll. We’re looking to improve, both short-term and long-term. If we have a short-term asset and we can get a long-term asset, I don’t view that as selling. I view that as investing.
“There’s not going to be a wholesale overhaul. We’ve got a great young corps on this club that we think will be with us for a lot of years. We’re always looking to improve it.”
Those decisions will now rest largely with Girsch, with some help from his friends.
“In terms of ... player moves and player transactions, specifically trades, these are all things (Girsch) will have his fingerprints on,” Mozeliak said. “When you think about some of the impact of these types of decisions, we will certainly keep Bill in the loop and get his blessings on anything that’s a major decision that could affect the franchise. Girsch will keep me in the loop on anything he’s thinking about and any ideas.
“Girsch is a talented baseball person and baseball professional. Both Bill and I wanted to make sure he remained a Cardinal. It made sense to do this now vs. wait for some August or September distraction.”
Girsch said the Cardinals are “evaluating all of our options” as the deadline approaches.
“These next few weeks will figure in to how we look at things,” he said. “Our goal is to win; our goal is always to win. What form that takes at this trade deadline is sort of to be determined. But that’s what we’re trying to do: Set ourselves up to win.
“This is a team that hasn’t performed to our expectations, the players’ expectations, the coaching staff’s expectations. We’ve been playing better recently. That’s somewhat reflected in our record, but not completely. We started this season expecting to compete, expecting to have a team that can win. I still think this is a team that can win. We’re reaching a critical point in the season where it has to start soon.”
DeWitt said keeping Girsch was a priority. He pointed out that the Cardinals have been “picked over a little bit the last number of years,” a reference to the Houston Astros hiring former scouting director Jeff Luhnow as their general manager and the Oakland A’s choosing former scouting director Dan Kantrovitz as their assistant general manager.
“We need to be cognizant of that,” DeWitt said. “We’ve done a very good job in hiring excellent people, but once they do their job and improve, we need to move them (up). This is an opportune time because of the expansion of baseball operations departments.”
“This is a good day for us,” he said. “Girsch is a talent. He’s someone I’m glad is getting this opportunity, and I think it’s well-deserved.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm