JUPITER, Fla. –- Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has signed a three-year contract extension that, at the end of its duration, will solidify Mozeliak as one of the longest-tenured GMs in organization history.
The extension is tacked on to the end of Mozeliak's current deal, which was set to expire after the 2013 season. Now, his agreement will run through 2016.
The extension was announced during a Thursday morning press conference during which Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. also acknowledged that the club has exercised the club option in manager Mike Matheny's contract. In doing so, the Cardinals have committed to keeping Matheny as the team's manager through 2014.
"We just thought it was an appropriate time," DeWitt said. "We wanted to solidify their standing in the organization beyond one year, and keep the continuity of a first-rate baseball operation going."
Mozeliak, 44, was hired as the Cardinals' GM in October 2007, shortly after Walt Jocketty was dismissed. Though the Cardinals interviewed several outside candidates for the job, Mozeliak's readiness for the position and understanding of the organization's direction earned him the chance to move into the top baseball operations post.
It completed a 12-year climb through the organization for Mozeliak, who first joined the Cardinals as an assistant in the scouting department. Among Mozeliak's first priorities was to create a unified approach and consistent message that could be applied at every level of the organization.
"The thing that right away had to be done was create a more transparent communication," Mozeliak said. "We wanted to do that by setting a strategic plan from the senior level and work its way all the way through the organization."
Mozeliak had the vision to pour resources into drafting and developing players in order to build a stronger farm system. He was also integral in the Cardinals' decision to reinvest in Latin America, a place that, as recently as 2004, had no organizational presence.
This focus on the foundation has not been at the sacrifice of the Major League club either. Mozeliak inherited a club that won 78 games in 2007 and has averaged 88 wins per season since. The Cardinals have advanced to the postseason three times in Mozeliak's five-year tenure and have played in the National League Championship Series each of the past two seasons. The Cardinals captured a World Series title in '11.
In the first trade Mozeliak made, he landed a Minor League third baseman named David Freese in exchange for Jim Edmonds. In 2009, the acquisition of Matt Holliday at the Trade Deadline helped thrust the Cardinals to a NL Central title. That winter, Mozeliak negotiated the largest player contract in Cardinals history in order to keep Holliday.
Mozeliak's trades in July 2011 positioned the Cardinals for a World Series run. Last spring, he completed an extension with Yadier Molina that kept the catcher from exploring the free-agent market. Mozeliak's tenure has also been marked by the unsuccessful attempt to retain Albert Pujols.
"I think it's been very helpful the way [Mozeliak] has taken charge from day one, and that we were all in agreement in how he we're structured and what the goals were," DeWitt said. "All of those things have been part of this job. People read about GMs and they think he's making trades and signing free agents, but there's a lot more to the job than that. That's important, but really it's managing people and managing the baseball operations."
Assuming Mozeliak stays in his post through the duration of his contract, he'll be just the fourth GM in Cardinals history to hold the position for at least nine years. Vaughn P. (Bing) Devine was the team's GM for 18 years over two different periods. Dal Maxvill (10 years) and Jocketty (14 years) also had extended stays in the position.
"I have a lot of confidence in where we're going," Mozeliak said. "When you think about working for a Major League franchise with the history like the St. Louis Cardinals, I feel very fortunate. The great thing about the city of St. Louis is it demands winning. We get that. We respect that and we try to honor that.
"From a processing standpoint, our group has really come up with a good model and one that we believe in and one that has allowed us to have that type of success. I'm very excited about this opportunity to continue to be with the Cardinals."
The task of maximizing the talent Mozeliak brings in will fall on Matheny, who led the Cardinals to an 88-74 record in his rookie season as manager. As the Majors' youngest skipper last season, Matheny brought St. Louis to within a win of a return trip to the World Series.
Hired to replace a retiring Tony La Russa, Matheny said he hadn't been concerned about his contract status heading into the season.
"It wasn't something on my radar," Matheny said. "I knew I had a job to do and that's still what I see. For me, I don't take one of these days for granted, let alone further than that. So I get an opportunity today to go out and earn what I do and push this group forward and make myself better, the staff better and our players better."
Matheny stepped into the managerial role after a 13-year playing career and a short stint as a special assistant in the player development system.
"What a great compliment to know that this organization, the ownership group, the front office believes that what the staff and I have done and will continue to do is part of the future," Matheny said. "This is a special place to be a part of."