Cheap Seats

Just what did John Mozeliak do to earn a contract extension from the St. Louis Cardinals?

The St. Louis Cardinals this week announced that they have signed President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and General Manager Michael Girsh to three-year contract extensions, along with field manager Mike Shildt.

And with that, the bulk of the off-season signings for the team are apparently completed.

With the possible exception of a new deal for one more year of Adam Wainwright and the less likely proposition of an extension for left fielder Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals aren’t likely to pass out a lot of money this winter for outside reinforcements. Why? Because the guys who just cashed in with extensions spent way too much money inking under-performing players to pacts, namely Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, Mike Leake, Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter. Personally, I question the Miles Mikolas extension, too. But at least he is functional if inconsistent and not exactly dominant on the mound most times out. The jury is still out on Andrew Miller, who was paid like he is still and elite reliever when his performance in the first year of his Cardinals deal indicates that those days are likely behind him.

All told, that’s about $40 million that could have been used to add an impact player or two to a team with a lack of front end of the rotation talent. It all adds up to an odd time for the Birds to commit to their front office team with a three-year vote of confidence.

While supporters can point to the fact that Mozeliak has in the past built teams that won two National League pennants and a World Series and this year his team made it to the second round of the postseason, he also presided over three consecutive seasons of not making the playoffs while fielding some of the most expensive rosters in club history. I thought the goal was to produce talent in-house to build a championship roster. But, the Mozeliak Era hasn’t seen a lot of success in that area, necessitating the expensive signings of second tier free agents like Fowler and Leake.

While pitchers Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson look promising, Alex Reyes remains an enigma. Randal Grichuk didn’t pan out. Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill aren’t trending well, the list goes on and on. This year it appears the team is going to have to buck that trend. It’s counting on Carpenter to rebound in a major way and the rest of the offensive improvement to come from youngsters like outfielder Lane Thomas and even younger prospect Dylan Carlson who has only a handful of at-bats beneath his belt higher than Class AA. I think it’s going to be tough for the Cardinals to repeat their National League Championship Series appearance while other teams are shopping to get better and St. Louis is standing pat.

While I would love to see the Cardinals add a top of the rotation pitcher and replace Ozuna in the cleaup spot of the batting order, it seems much more likely that the front office will sit on its collective hands and wait for 2021 or 2022 when the bad money it has thrown after good will start to drop off the payroll to allow the team to have a second chance at putting together a more cost effective and productive roster.

Adam Wainwright, Ted Simmons in the news

Even though there aren’t many moves to be made this winter, I’m glad to hear that Wainwright wants to come back. First, I think he’s a hugely important influence on the team’s younger pitchers. Second, he’s a fan favorite and it’s fun to watch such a dedicated and talented player perform his craft.

Finally, I don’t believe Wainwright would be willing to spend another year on the road if he didn’t think the Cardinals were capable of winning it all. So, hopefully, having a two-time World Series champ on board is a good sign that this team will, one way or another, find a way to advance past the accomplishments of last season.

As we wait to see what will happen with the 2020 Cardinals, I’m glad to see that former catcher Ted Simmons will receive consideration this year for a long-overdue invitation into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Simmons is simply the best catcher in history who isn’t already in the Hall of Fame and I hope the powers that be do the right thing and let Simba in once and for all.

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Scott Wuerz is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. The Cheap Seats blog is written from his perspective as a fan and is designed to spark discussion among fans of the Cardinals and other MLB teams. Sources supporting his views and opinions are linked. If you’re looking for Cardinals news and features, check out the BND’s Cardinals section.

Scott Wuerz has written “Cheap Seats,” a St. Louis Cardinals fan blog for the Belleville News-Democrat, since 2007. He is a former BND reporter who covered breaking news and education.
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