Key Cardinals takeaways from John Mozeliak’s Winter Warm-Up media session

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak speaks at Winter Warm-Up at Busch...
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak speaks at Winter Warm-Up at Busch Stadium, January 14, 2023.(Brenden Schaeffer)
Published: Jan. 14, 2023 at 3:23 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak held a lengthy press conference with local reporters inside the Busch Stadium interview room at Saturday’s Winter Warm-Up. Below, we compiled some of the most notable quotes from the session.

A loaded opening monologue

Before taking questions from the assembled media, Mozeliak spoke for more than three minutes to open up his media session. He discussed expectations for the upcoming season and leaned into his optimism surrounding the roster despite the team’s limited transaction log this winter.

“As we start to look at the season, obviously, it’s a very exciting time for the St. Louis Cardinals,” Mozeliak said. “When we reflect back on the off-season, there were certainly some things we were hoping to do that we weren’t able to accomplish. But our number one goal was obviously to add a catcher. We were fortunate enough to do that. And then a lot of things sort of unfolded or transpired that necessarily didn’t break the way we had hoped. But as we start to look at Jupiter and start to really think about the 2023 season, we really are excited about what we have. We know this was a talented team and when you look at our roster and wonder, like, well what could you have augmented or what should you have augmented, or how should we have thought about that?

“I really sort of will have everybody circle back to, when you think about performance, and how people played or if they were injured, the key for the St. Louis Cardinals as you think about 2023 is really going to be, who are we? And what I mean by that is what is Tyler O’Neill? What is Dylan Carlson? What are we going to get out of Jack Flaherty?

“If these guys perform to the expectations that we believe they’re capable of, we think we’re going to be a very talented and competitive and compelling team to watch. These are the bets we made, but we’re certainly excited about the group we have. Obviously, we know we have a great core when you think about Goldy and Nolan. But it’s really, what’s around that? And when you think about that roster, there are emerging stars coming. And that’s not even really to start to dig into what we think we have at the minor league system or at the prospect level, but when you look at that prospect group, there are some younger players that are starting to put themselves on that major-league radar. When you think about somebody like a Jordan Walker and what his impact might be. Or a (Gordon) Graceffo, (Michael) McGreevy to name a few. So that’s really what’s going to go into how we think about the 2023 season unfolding.

“You guys might not share my same enthusiasm or optimism for this season, but I promise you, it’s going to be a fun team to watch and one that’s going to be very competitive.”

The payroll question

Mozeliak’s proclamation in the 2022 end-of-season press conference that the club’s payroll would increase for 2023 has gotten a lot of public attention throughout the off-season. The Cardinals addressed the catcher position with the free-agent signing of Willson Contreras but ultimately haven’t spent any significant money elsewhere this winter.

The team’s president of baseball operations responded to the payroll topic on Saturday.

“Let’s start with the question: Will payroll go up? Right? And I answered yes,” Mozeliak said. “Has payroll gone up? Yes. Okay. Now, did it go up as high as your guys’ expectations or fans? That’s the eyes of the beholder, right? Like, it doesn’t mean that we weren’t looking to invest in other things. We already touched on that, some of the areas we did. Now, unfortunately, we didn’t achieve that. But from the simple question: Did payroll go up? Payroll has gone up. Do we have the bandwidth to still add to this club throughout the year? Yes we do. Is the market something that had an adverse effect on possibly us spending? The answer is of course.

“The way we operate is we’re going to invest in what we think are smart investments, prudent. But also investments that we understand that could have backside negativity or loss. Having said that, you’re still not going to just do something, just to do something. And you’re not going to spend to spend.

“As I said earlier, you can always spend. So I would say to our fans, look, we like our team. If we didn’t like our team, we’d be making adjustments to our team. That’s how we do things here. But resources that are available today and resources moving forward are definitely more than what they were in 2021, 2020 and 2019.”

Were Cards looking to spend big on SS or SP?

Though the Cardinals were rumored throughout the winter to have been involved in the markets for significant impact shortstops or starting pitchers, Mozeliak’s implication Saturday was that the rumors were overblown.

“I think a lot of people had us connected to the shortstop market, the starting pitching market and candidly, we really weren’t all that active in that,” Mozeliak said. “Now, that might be a strategic mistake and in hindsight six months from now or a year from now we can look back at that and say, okay, we probably should have. Our hope is that we are right and that it won’t be something that we regret.

“But I feel like the effort, what we put into the off-season, was real. I can promise you it was a very busy one in the sense of effort, but the return is what it is. But again, not overly concerned about it because I really think we have a good club. We have a lot of talent on this team and a lot of talent coming.”

The Cardinals’ failed pursuit of a left-handed bat

Mozeliak shared that the Cardinals unsuccessfully pursued a left-handed hitting option to add to the lineup this off-season. He characterized that the team’s internal depth made it difficult to pitch to free agents regarding the role they would have available to them in St. Louis.

“One of the things we were looking for was a left-handed bat, a veteran bat,” Mozeliak said. “But I don’t think we were a very compelling team to come to because when you look at our roster, there is competition for who that might be. I think some people just did not find that all that interesting.

“Typically in negotiations, it really comes down to money and years. But there’s also that factor of ‘how do I fit in as that player?’ I think we were having a hard time really convincing that this was an impactful-type role given the competition we have.”

Matt Holliday’s sudden resignation, Joe McEwing’s hiring

The Cardinals got a surprise last week when Matt Holliday resigned from his post just two months after the team hired him as the new bench coach on manager Oli Marmol’s staff. The club pivoted and hired Joe McEwing to fill the role upon learning of Holliday’s resignation.

Mozeliak was asked when he learned that Holliday was perhaps wavering on his commitment to fill the role.

“Last Saturday?” Mozeliak said with a sardonic laugh. “Look, I’ve known Matt a long time and have the utmost respect for him. When you find out someone is stepping down from your coaching staff in the second week of January? Candidly, it’s not ideal.

“But I came into my office last Sunday. I went through, for lack of a modern phrase, the Rolodex to try to figure out what possibly could we do. So what we did was we explored potential internal moves or promotions--what that might do and the domino effect of that. And we also tried to explore what outside options we would have. I think we were very fortunate to end up where we did.

“Joe McEwing is someone that has experience. He has history with the St. Louis Cardinals. Anybody that knows him or has been around him, he really does exemplify everything the Cardinals stand for. And if you think back to his early career, he’s definitely somebody that was a (George) Kissell disciple. He learned from that traditional group of people that we do try to surround ourselves with.

“I really feel like we’re thrilled that we could end up with Joe given the short notice and the fact that, look, in three and a half weeks, we’re down in Jupiter. Beggars can’t be choosers, but I can tell you that as far as it is coming out on the positive side of this, I think we did.”