Present or Future? Mozeliak's Decision Looms

Joel KochSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2008

On Monday, July 7, the Milwaukee Brewers landed themselves a big fish in CC (not C.C.) Sabathia. In Episode II, Attack of the Clones, the Chicago Cubs landed themselves Rich Harden (who, when you think about it, could be a clone of Mark Prior) on July 8. On July 9, the St. Louis Cardinals...pitched Mark Mulder?

That's right, the Cardinals retaliation was Mulder, a pitcher that hasn't won a Major League game in, get this, 755 days. Not really that big of an answer, is it?

What did John Mozeliak say about this? "I don't think there's one Band-Aid or one player (available in trade), who changes the dynamic of our club."

Ah, good news there, right? The general manager of the Cardinals doesn't think there's one name out there that could help us out. That is always comforting.

Now, I can see where Mozeliak is coming from. Seriously, I can. He was installed as GM after he told chairman Bill DeWitt that he believed in the future of the franchise. So, he doesn't want to go back on that promise and mortgage the future for a player that could or could not make a difference. After all, the Cardinals know all about bust moves (e.g. Mulder).

At the same time though, you know he has to be thinking about what he can do without going back on what he promised. Well, he certainly does have one person pushing him to do it. "I think the goal and the urgency should be there to help us as long as a lot of games are left on the schedule," Tony La Russa said.

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Well, there's the manager saying he wants something done. Now, that doesn't mean Mozeliak should go out to the bar and say, "To hell with it. I'm going to land all the bang for my buck for one year!" That's the philosophy that got Walt Jocketty fired.

This is what Mozeliak should do, and this could take a long time to do. He needs to get together with his top scouts, Vice President of Player Development Jeff Lunhow and Assistant GM John Abbamondi and layout a new game plan. They need to develop a big board, chuck-full of names.

They need to map out where every minor-league player is in their development and need to determine where each player will be in 2009 (as in, which level). Then, they need to set up their new depth chart.

They should look at each player in the organization and see how long they're signed for or how long they have control over the player. From there, they make their new depth chart and see where they can deal from.

We all know, in today's world, to land yourself a top prize is to deal away prospects or give up a crapton of cash. If you sit back and let things pass you by, then you'll become the Atlanta Braves. You sit still too long and everyone passes you by and you wonder why you can't keep pace.

Now, just looking around and not really dwelling too much, I've come up with a list of untouchables: RHP Jess Todd (AA), RHP Clay Mortenson (AAA), OF Colby Rasmus (AAA), LHP Jamie Garcia (AAA), OF Jon Jay (AA), RHP Chris Perez (MLB), INF Pete Kozma (A), INF Brett Wallace (A; not eligible to be traded, but still untouchable when he is eligible) and RHP Jason Motte (RHP).

Now, obviously, Rasmus, Garcia, Perez, Wallace and Kozma are 'duhs' on why they shouldn't be traded. They could make huge impacts (Perez already has) at the major-league level and be cornerstones.

Kozma still has a way to go, but if he can figure it out, he'll be solid. Todd, Mortenson, Jay and Motte are the names you don't hear about. Jay is top-flight outfielder that can play all three spots, hits for power and is a leadoff man.

Todd and Mortenson were drafted in 2007 and are flying through the system, while being can't-miss talents. Motte is a converted catcher and is a very valuable set-up man.

Now, that's only nine names. That means there are plenty of other players that you can involve in a deal. Some names that come to mind right away are Anthony Reyes, Bryan Anderson and Adam Ottavino. All three are good talents (Reyes needs a change of scenery) and could centerpiece any trade. Plus, the Cardinals have a surplus of outfield talents.

So why should Mozeliak sit around and not feel obligated to make a deal when he obviously has the pieces to do it?

The answer is this: He overvalues his prospects. This exert was taken from Bernie Miklasz's recent article "Mozeliak, La Russa should find compromise". "Lunhow and DeWitt must avoid the trap of overvaluing their own prospects. You can't fall in love with all of these young players. Already there are system surpluses in the outfield. And there are a lot of starting pitchers in the pipeline."

This is very true. You never want to overvalue your prospects. Now, outside of your list of untouchables, you shouldn't feel like one person is going to make the difference in the game. You should feel that you are able to deal them, but only for the right deal. So, where is that right deal?

Let's take a short look at the list.

A power bat to put behind Albert Pujols. This will be the hardest to do, as usual. This is where overvaluing comes into play. You don't want to give up a crop of talent for a rent-a-player, nor do you want to find the cheapest bargain that might not work out to your advantage. Plus, you don't want to over clog to stop players from coming up. So where to go?

There really isn't anywhere to go. You could try to pry away Adam Dunn from Cincinnati, though he may be too much of a strikeout guy to depend on, or Matt Holiday, who would command top prospects and isn't amazing away from Coors Field. So, some names the Cardinals should look into are: Xavier Nady (PIT), Orlando Hudson (ARI) and Jose Lopez (SEA).

Nady can rake and is under control for one more season. Plus, the Pirates are willing to deal him. It wouldn't take much to land Nady either, maybe just a Shane Robinson.

Hudson and Lopez are 2Bs that would be big upgrades over the Adam Kennedy/Aaron Miles/Brendan Ryan platoon. Hudson would be a rent-a-player, and Lopez is 24 and signed long term (building block, perhaps?).

Hudson would take two mid-level prospects to pry away and maybe Kennedy, a kind of a stopgap so the D-Backs can develop their own talent a little longer. Lopez would take the same kind of deal.

Second on the list, and maybe the most important, is a left-handed arm for the bullpen. This will be hard to do. Ron Mahay, Brian Fuentes and Damaso Marte are the only quality left-handed arms on the market.

Fuentes would take two, good prospects to pry him away, if the Rockies were willing to deal. Marte would take the same, but it's hard to convince the Pirates to deal him in their own division. Mahay would not only take two, good prospects, but he's also signed for another year, something the Cardinals don't need. That makes Fuentes (free agent at season's end) and Marte (club option) much more attractive.

The least important, which is something new, is the starting rotation. The Cardinals are getting Adam Wainwright and Chris Caprenter back in August. Match them up with Piniero, Lohse, and Looper/Wellemeyer, and we'll have a rotation. Plus, with both of the aces coming back, Looper or Wellemeyer (two converted relievers) become expendable to go to the 'pen.

Names on the market that the Cardinals should consider are Greg Maddux (as much as that kills me) and A.J. Burnett. Maddux is a true, top starter, and while it may take two good prospects to land him, he's a free agent at the end of the year.

Plus, he has a successful past in the postseason and stretch runs. Burnett can opt-out of his contract at the end of the season, but he, too, is a top arm. Add him into the mix, and suddenly the Cardinals have a formidable rotation. Plus, if he opts out, he'll land St. Louis two premium draft-picks as compensation.

Now, as I sit here sipping my Mountain Dew to stay awake, I look back at my ramble. I thank you readers for bearing with me. I know I've gone from arguing with myself, to agreeing with myself, to bringing in other people's opinions. So, again, thank you for reading this through the end. To do you great justice, I'll kind of sum up what I have said:

Dear John Mozeliak,

We have great depth in our minor-league system, but don't overvalue our prospects. We can make two deals (not big, Sabathia-like deals) and still be ok for the future. Please try to make deals to improve our club. Also remember, if you can trade two good prospects for a good rent-a-player, we'll receive two draft picks. We can get BETTER prospects!

Please run up the phone bill for the sake of 2008!

Sincerely yours,

Joel Koch


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