Mozeliak goes in depth about key 2014 moves

Mozeliak goes in depth about key 2014 moves

In advance of the Cardinals' fourth postseason trip in as many years, general manager John Mozeliak sat down with to address several different topics during an extensive question-and-answer session. In Part 1 of that discussion, Mozeliak talks about the signings and trades that went into building the 2014 team: Can you revisit how the signing of Pat Neshek came about late last offseason, and what your expectations were with bringing him into Major League camp?

Mozeliak: As we were approaching late January, we're always looking to be opportunistic on additions to Spring Training. At the time, we were a little concerned with where (Jason) Motte might be in his rehab, so all of a sudden all this depth we thought we had going into Spring Training, it might be a situation where we're pushing that a little bit and might have to do something quicker than we intended.

  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video

So there were about three or four relievers that we had identified that were still on the market, and subsequently, Neshek was the one that we targeted. The real reason we liked him over the other three was because he was just so different from what we had. It wasn't an arm strength thing that we were trying to get involved in. He was someone who threw from down low, whereas most of our relievers were higher up that had a lot of velocity. We just thought it would be a different look and a nice complement to what we had. Now, he obviously had to have a good camp, and he did to earn a spot. Obviously, the rest is history. Was the expectation that in Neshek you had a right-on-right specialist? Or did you envision him filling a role where he'd also be facing a lot of lefties?

Mozeliak: His effectiveness against right-handed hitters was one of the attractions, for sure, because you think about it in terms of with (Randy) Choate, we thought one could balance the other if necessary. When you made a four-player trade with Anaheim in November 2013, what were your short-term goals in that deal and how vital a piece Randal Grichuk was in getting that deal done?

Mozeliak: We wouldn't have done the deal without Grichuk. That was something that was a critical part. Obviously, we thought [Peter] Bourjos was someone who would come in, compete for center-field playing time and be a part of our club. Grichuk was somebody that we thought with the raw power would be a nice complement to our system. Without him, there is no deal. Did you anticipate seeing Grichuk make an impact at the Major League level this quickly?

Mozeliak: I was hopeful we'd see him, but I think he's made more of an impact that maybe we anticipated. I realize that a final assessment may not come for some time, but what do you see as the early grade of the moves this organization made at the Trade Deadline?

Mozeliak: I think the biggest thing was we started playing better baseball (afterward). For whatever reason, things started to click as a team. Maybe adding a little bit of a shakeup in there did help, though that wasn't necessarily the main focus of that deal. (John) Lackey was just someone that we thought down the stretch would be a big help to us in the rotation and also for next year. And we also had to figure out a way to manage out playing time (in right field) with players. In the end, it allowed us to accomplish those things.

Clearly, (Justin) Masterson, we had higher hopes for. It just didn't end up working for him, and that's too bad. But that's the part about doing deals. Sometimes you're going to get it right and sometimes you're not. I always feel like if you do nothing, you're going to get in trouble. And sometimes if you do something that doesn't work, you're going to get in trouble. The best thing to do is remain disciplined in the process, which we felt we were doing, and how we end up looking back on these deals, time will ultimately be the judge of that. But we feel like we put our best foot forward in the decision-making. While those deals were designed to address rotation depth, did the right-field situation end up being the biggest beneficiary? Since those deals, it seems like manager Mike Matheny has used the flexibility at the position to maximize the use of all his outfielders.

Mozeliak: I do feel Lackey is getting undervalued a little bit with what he's brought to this team. There really is a competitive edge to him that, I think, others saw and kind of liked to see. I know that pure performance stands as a gauge, but I just think his personality was something this clubhouse needed as well. I think all of that in an aggregate sense was a benefit to the club. One of your priorities last offseason was to upgrade this team on the defensive end? How successful do you think you've been in that regard?

Part of it has been what we've gotten out of (Jon) Jay; I think he's improved defensively. Having Bourjos in there from time to time or putting Jay in right, that has improved that. I think (Jhonny) Peralta surprised a lot of people because he has tremendous hands. If he gets to it, it tends to be an out. Matt (Carpenter) has been very steady. (Kolten) Wong has made the spectacular play from time to time. Even Matt Adams has improved. When you look at it in an aggregate, you can see why we've done better. You mentioned Peralta perhaps surprising people with his level of defensive play this season. Does that include you?

Mozeliak: Not really, because everything I was hearing was really as advertised. But I do think when you get to see it day in and day out, you tend to have more of an appreciation for it than when you just see it for a few days.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.