Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak did not sugarcoat the challenges facing his team in his latest appearance on the podcast of Dan McLaughlin of FOX Sports Midwest (audio link). The club must find a way to begin winning more consistently, said Mozeliak, though it remains unclear just what can be done to spur such a change.
The sense of frustration surrounding the Cards, who are sitting just above .500 on the year, seemingly extends from the fanbase to the front office. Mozeliak acknowledges that this club “hasn’t been the easiest team to sort of think through, in terms of how to get better, or what to do, or what changes need to be made.”
Mozeliak identified “outfield inconsistencies” and bullpen struggles as the two key concerns. Spurring the needed change won’t be easy. Mozeliak says the club needs to be open-minded and creative in all regards.
Bolstering the relief unit can be accomplished via trade, perhaps. Internal options for deepening the pitching staff are relatively sparse, Mozeliak suggested. He bemoaned the loss of Alex Reyes while noting that Dakota Hudson’s success at Triple-A does not necessarily portend an immediate impact in the majors.
Addressing the outfield concerns is a trickier business. Mozeliak wouldn’t rule out moving Jose Martinez to the outfield, saying that the slugger — who is as unpolished in the field as he has been excellent at the plate — is “putting a lot of stress on everyone” with his play at first base. But that seems like a somewhat dubious option when outfield defense is one of the areas of concern. Presumably, the club will look first at ways to get its existing options to play at the necessary levels.
Mozeliak addressed veteran Dexter Fowler, in particular. The top St. Louis baseball executive offered some rather surprisingly pointed words on the respected and highly-paid Fowler:
“I’ve also heard a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and his energy level. Those are things that I can’t defend. What I can defend is trying to create opportunities for him, but not if it’s at the expense of someone that’s out there hustling and playing hard.”
To an extent, Mozeliak seemingly tried to soften the meaning of his statement in ensuing comments to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He and Fowler have spoken since, says Mozeliak, who hinted that he was not trying to single out Fowler. “I would not make too much of this and really what I was trying to say is: I hear what our fan base is saying,” Mozeliak said.
Ultimately, mid-season trades can only do so much to boost the performance. And the Cards brass will need to take its cues from the existing roster. With less than a month’s worth of games left to go before the trade deadline, Mozeliak says that “everybody just needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide what they want that next chapter to look like.”