St. Louis was shoved into the blistery winter without its 12th World Series championship, falling to Boston in the Fall Classic. General manager John Mozeliak entered the offseason knowing he had a glaring hole to fill for 2014: shortstop.
Mozeliak was patient in finding the perfect fit for the future. Options were numerous, but the solution arrived in the form of Jhonny Peralta, whom the Cardinals nabbed during free agency.
Mozeliak also enhanced his club's depth by landing Peter Bourjos, the center fielder whom the Cardinals received from the Los Angeles Angels in the David Freese trade last month.
In terms of "smarts," Mozeliak outsmarted the competition and flashed his brilliance within the span of a few days by shipping Freese and signing Peralta.
First, the upside of the Freese trade and Peralta signing.
Freese will forever be remembered for his heroics that lifted the Cardinals to their 11th championship in franchise history in 2011.
However, after a subpar 2013 season which saw Freese hit just .262 with nine homers and 60 RBI, the Cardinals were in a dilemma: Hand Freese a contract between $4 million and $4.5 million next season, or let him walk and get nothing in return.
Mozeliak simplified the equation by using proper judgment; he opted to trade Freese and get a reliable resource in return.
With Freese out of the fold, Matt Carpenter will shift over to his natural position at third base, making room for the young and green Kolten Wong at second.
Also, the addition of Bourjos will prove highly beneficial for the Cardinals. The Cardinals ranked last among National League teams in stolen bases (45) last season. Bourjos is a speedster. He was successful 22 times in 2011.
National media pundits gave the Cardinals a thumbs up for the Freese trade:
Carpenter moves to 3B, Wong moves to 2B, Bourjos takes over CF and Cards now better defensively at all three positions
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 22, 2013
Stan McNeal of Fox Sports Midwest and USA Today:
Scout on Bourjos: "The perfect player for St Louis. Great makeup, plays with same intensity throughout every game… And he can fly" #stlcards
— Stan McNeal (@stanmcneal) November 22, 2013
The Peralta signing drew widespread criticism, which was partially deserved. Peralta was suspended for 50 games last season as a result of Major League Baseball's investigation concerning the Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic.
His poor judgment came into play. Questions arose surrounding his suspension, and backlash soon followed.
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher and union player representative Brad Ziegler tweeted the following after the Cardinals signed Peralta:
Brad Ziegler (@BradZiegler) November 24, 2013
Albeit, some may believe Peralta shouldn't have been given another chance.
My question: Why? This is professional sports, a spectrum full of second chances.
Peralta served his suspension. He was reprimanded for his illicit and dumbfounded actions.
Mozeliak defended the addition of Peralta by saying the Cardinals aren't the "morality police." Per R.B. Fallstrom of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Character and makeup are something we weigh into our decision-making," said Mozeliak. "In his case, he admitted what he did, he took responsibility for it. I feel like he has paid for his mistakes, and obviously if her to make another one, then it would be a huge disappointment."
For now, the Peralta signing upgrades the shortstop position for the Cardinals both offensively and defensively. The 31-year-old hit .303 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI in 2013. Moreover, he only committed four errors in 103 starts at shortstop for Detroit last season.
If you want to label the Peralta signing as the "dumbest" offseason move by Mozeliak, be my guest.
But I have a hunch that Cardinals fans are ecstatic about their new shortstop.