COMMENTARY | As word filters out of St. Louis Cardinals spring training in Jupiter, Fla. that the team is working behind the scenes to try to hammer out an extension with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, it's a good time to take a look at the resume of Redbirds general manager John Mozeliak.
Here are three of the best deals Mozeliak has made as the head of the St. Louis front office... and three of the worst.
3) Colby Rasmus apologists went bonkers, initially, when Mozeliak traded his club's one-time top prospect for several pending free agents and one guy who was under Cardinals control for more than a few weeks, reliever Marc Rzepczynski. But he got the ultimate payoff when those role players -- including lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes, righty reliever Octavio Dotel and journeyman starting pitcher Edwin Jackson -- helped the Redbirds go from third place in October to winning a World Series championship. It didn't hurt that Rasmus, who blamed his lack of production on manager Tony La Russa and the allegation that some of his teammates were mean to him, went to the Toronto Blue Jays in the swap and turned out to be a major bust. Rasmus has been a .213 hitter with a .273 on base percentage with the Blue Jays.
2) It was a sad day when Mozeliak traded fan favorite Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres for a guy from Class AA that few people had ever heard of. And bad went to worse when San Diego released an embittered Edmonds who then signed with the Cardinals' arch rival, the Chicago Cubs. But that Class AA ballplayer grew up to be David Freese, a St. Louis native who arguably had the best World Series game in Cardinals history when he hit a two-strike, two out triple to erase a two-run deficit in the ninth inning of Game 6 of 2011 Fall Classic. Then in extra innings he hit a home run into the batters backdrop in centerfield to force Game 7. If Freese never does a thing, he'll be a legend in St. Louis for life. Meanwhile Edmonds, who also played for National League Central foes the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds before he retired, has come back to the Cardinals family, working in spring training to help the next generation of St. Louis outfielders perfect their trade.
1) Prospect watchers howled again when Mozeliak traded top hitting prospect Brett Wallace to the Oakland Athletics to rent slugging outfielder Matt Holliday for a couple of months. The idea, of course, was to try to showcase to Holliday what it was like to play for St. Louis. After a tense negotiation, Holliday eventually did decide to stay for $120 million over seven years. Again, some complained that it was too much. But Holliday is a .302 hitter who averages 26 homers and 93 RBIs since he inked his extension. Wallace, meanwhile, has been a .250 hitter for Houston who has not yet managed to crack double figures in home runs for a single season.
3) It seemed like a great move at the time. Chris Carpenter had a $15 million option on his contract to pitch for the Cardinals in 2012. After an 11-9 season with a 3.45 ERA in 2011, Carpenter was a monster down the stretch and in the playoffs, pitching gems on the last day of the season, in the deciding game of the NLCS and, finally, in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. So it seemed like a steal when Carpenter agreed to a two-year extension for $21 million instead. Unfortunately, the St. Louis ace broke down in 2012 spring training and has never been the same since. Barring a miracle, he'll pitch in a total of six games over the life of that contract. he won one of them.
2) In 2009 the Cardinals' revolving door at shortstop stopped at Khalil Greene, a talented but troubled player previously with the San Diego Padres. It turned out that Greene was dealing with some pretty serious psychological issues that kept him off the field. Those problems were apparently well known when he was with the Padres. But it would seem that the Redbirds made a poor effort of doing their due diligence. Greene was a .200 hitter in 77 games with the Cardinals before he was let got and he's never surfaced in the big leagues again. The Redbirds had to pay Greene $6.5 million and they lost a pretty steady reliever, Luke Gregorson, in the deal.
1) While some Cardinals fans are of the opinion that the the team should have signed Albert Pujols to a deal which would have kept him in a St. Louis uniform for life and others believe that the Redbirds dodged a bullet when they let the best player in baseball over the last decade walk away for a quarter of billion dollars from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, one thing is for certain: Mozeliak's handling of the situation was poor. It's obvious to St. Louis fans that Pujols lost faith in Mozeliak and didn't want to deal with him after the Cardinals pulled back on statements that they would work to sign Pujols to a contract extension shortly after they signed Matt Holliday to a deal that made him the richest contract in franchise history. If things weren't doomed before they started, they were when Mozeliak "insulted" Pujols with an offer of a five year contract, half the length of Pujols' demands. In the end, Pujols wouldn't pay Mozeliak the courtesy of giving the Cardinals a chance to match the Anaheim offer before fleeing St. Louis.
Mozeliak and Wainwright seem to have a much better history. Mozeliak in 2008 signed Wainwright to a four-year contract for $15 million with a pair of option years that tacked on another $21 million. The deal turned out to be a steal for the Cardinals despite Wainwright's injured 2011. He finished in the top three in Cy Young balloting in two of those seasons and has won 64 games over the life of the contract. It also wasn't a bad deal for Wainwright who was granted a lifetime of financial security after his second big league season.
Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.
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