Cardinals fans, sports writers, and talk radio have been calling on the Cardinals front office to make a large free agent acquisition this winter. Many are frustrated that a move of that nature has not been made…yet.
Out of the many quotes from Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak at Winter Warm Up, one seemed to get lost or left out of many articles.
Mo on off-season shopping list “We’re never finished…if something makes sense for us, short term or long term, we can make the move.” @ArchCitySports @Cardinals #STLCards #WinterWarmup
What does the Cardinals Front Office need to do to convince fans that they’ll do this? Honestly, I have no clue. In my opinion, they’ve proven time and again that they’ll make a move to improve the team not only for the short term but for the future. The trades of Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk helped fill positions in their minor league system and 25 man roster that were perceived as weaknesses. They also cleared some excess depth that will allow younger players to get an opportunity to show what they can do at the major league level (Harrison Bader/Tyler O’Neil). Sorry fans, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t tout the Cardinals system and prospects but then get mad when they are given an opportunity to produce at the MLB level. That normally means someone else won’t get that opportunity.
Is Greg Holland really better than what the Cardinals have in their pipeline? Perhaps for this season, but three years down the road? The way the free agent market is moving, the patience shown by the front office might prove fruitful for a team that is bridging the gap between their next round of prospects. If you could get Holland for a year or two, sure it might be worth doing. When it comes to free agent spending this season, the Cardinals are right in the middle of the league at 15th with $11 million spent. Addison Reed would’ve been a nice fit in the bullpen, but really what other player that has signed would’ve been a significant upgrade to this roster? I really don’t see anyone that really pushes the needle for this team.
After talking to various Cardinals Front Office members, it’s rather apparent to me that not only are they on the same page but they are thinking about sustained success rather than just an immediate upgrade. Comments like the one below not only show this but give a greater sense of how the team views specific players as well.
Mo on an everyday set lineup “Lineup flexibility was a commonality between the final four teams in the playoffs last year.” Depth is a bigger focus. @Cardinals @ArchCitySports #WinterWarmup #STLCards
The Cardinals are looking to build a deep lineup, that can withstand injuries, days off, slumps, etc. Apparently, Randal Grichuk couldn’t understand why you would roll with the hot hand, but Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong wouldn’t have received the opportunity to play if that hadn’t been the case (José Martínez too). This franchise is not looking to be good just this year, but to continue their sustained success in the future. Some fans might not like to hear this, but to compete against the Cubs and Brewers you can’t just throw money out at free agents (especially the ones available this season).
From a Scouting Director perspective, Randy Flores made it clear (at Winter Warm Up) that building depth isn’t necessarily based on the position a player played as an amateur. He also made it clear that just because a certain position might be deep within the system that they won’t pass up on a player.
@Cardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores “We have to be careful and not make decisions based on the short-sightedness of basing on a weakness in the current system.” @ArchCitySports #stlcards #winterwarmup
@Cardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores “Cardinals fans have always paid attention to our minor league system and player development.” @ArchCitySports #stlcards #winterwarmup
Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque (at Winter Warm Up) expanded on this idea further when he talked about challenging young players in the system.
@Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque “We typically send 3 to 4 players each season to @peoriachiefs to challenge them at a height they’ve never achieved before yet in their careers.” @ArchCitySports #STLCards #WinterWarmup
Fans often focus on various top prospect lists from Baseball America to Fan Graphs, but the Cardinals focus on two specific factors. Players sticking on the MLB roster and success in October.
@Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque ” Getting to the big leagues is one thing but staying there is how we manage success.” @ArchCitySports #STLCards #WinterWarmup
@Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque “Obviously, getting to October is one of our goals but winning in October is what matters most.” @ArchCitySports #STLCards #WinterWarmup
Depth and development of that depth is something that has evolved rapidly in the game over the last 30 years. When I spoke to Cardinals Director of Baseball Administration John Vuch a few weeks ago, he described how the Cardinals have evolved since he first started with the team 30 years ago.
“I think the way young players are treated today compared to when I joined our Baseball Operations department 30 years ago is night and day. Whether it’s player nutrition, individualized training (both baseball and strength/conditioning), use of analytics and technology or simply educational/personal development opportunities, the organization now provides so many more resources than in the 80’s and 90’s. Ultimately, it’s still up to the player to take advantage of those resources, but it’s much less of a “sink or swim” mentality than it was years ago.”
Vuch elaborated further on a program called Cardinals Core, which was created in 2012 to help players on and off the field.
“In 2012 we started a program called “Cardinals Core” which helps prepare players (for) a lot of the things they experience as professionals or even just as emerging adults – seemingly simple things like personal responsibility, goal-setting (and achieving) and other things that give them some life skills tips, and we also potentially gain the side benefit of them becoming better teammates. We’ve had a lot of our current major league players that really benefitted from the program – and while the majority of minor league players will not reach the major leagues, hopefully a lot of them learned things that helped prepare them for their post-baseball careers.”
When it comes to technological changes, Vuch touched on how the Cardinals have addressed that and gave his thoughts on what George Kissell would think of the technology used today.
“With most of our players having grown up in the smart phone era, we’re developing more training techniques that take advantage of their comfort level with devices. One of the things that I always admired about George Kissell was his ability to adapt his teaching techniques to each generation of players. He was always curious about innovative teaching ideas and I have no doubt that if he were around today, he’d be on board with incorporating the current technology into the way he would teach now. Many of our players have familiarity with more advanced statistics, or Trackman generated information like spin rate or exit velocity, so a lot more of our teaching involves that information, along with an increased use of video.”
The Cardinals are playing the long game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re in good hands, and have proven time and again that they’ll make the move when they need to do so. Baseball season is almost here, get excited! This team with a chip on their shoulder is going to be fun to watch! Just remember though, the roster on Opening Day is most likely not going to be the one they finish with this year. If a move is there to make, Mozeliak and crew have the resources to make it.