Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak spoke to reporters at the club’s Winter Warm-up fan event today about a variety of topics, including the future of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in St. Louis. Beyond those discussions, Mozeliak also addressed his own future as the head of the club’s baseball operations department as noted by Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat.
When asked if he still intended to step back from running baseball operations in St. Louis by the end of his current contract with the club in 2025 as he indicated last winter, Mozeliak stood by those previous comments. “I would imagine that’s going to stay pretty true,” he told Jones and other reporters. “I don’t want to sit up here on January 13 and retire, but I think having a succession plan and uncoupling some of the things I’ve been involved in at such a high level…it’s probably reasonable to think that having a different voice at some point would make a lot of sense.”
As Jones notes, the comments from Mozeliak serve to highlight the club’s recent hiring of former Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in an advisory role. While the hire was only announced earlier this week, Mozeliak indicated today that Bloom has been advising the several months and that the club’s acquisitions this offseason have been “bounce(d) off” the club’s new hire. Mozeliak went as far as to note that Bloom has factored into discussions with chairman Bill DeWitt III regarding the future of the baseball operations department following Mozeliak’s eventual move away from leading the club, though he went on to note GM Mike Girsch and scouting director Randy Flores as other potential candidates.
Mozeliak also discussed the club’s payroll in a way that seemingly leaves the door more widely open to the club making additional moves this winter than previously thought. Though DeWitt indicated recently that the club was close to reaching the limits of its budget, Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out that Mozeliak left the door open to further roster additions with comments to reporters earlier today.
“The budget question always comes up. Payroll question. It’s probably not as black and white as people would like to think it is,” Mozeliak said (as relayed by Frederickson), “Depending on what the type of investment might look like, it’s something we can always take to ownership if we feel like it’s important or a good value. But do I think there is some room in the payroll if we needed to? Yes.”
The comments largely track with those Mozeliak made early in the offseason, stating that the club needed to add “at least two” high-leverage relief arms to its bullpen mix this offseason. While the addition of veteran right-hander Andrew Kittredge surely accounts for one of those additions, the club’s other bullpen additions have been less impactful. Right-handers Nick Robertson, Wilking Rodriguez, Riley O’Brien and Ryan Fernandez all add depth to the St. Louis bullpen, the quartet has just 26 2/3 innings of combined big league experience. Plenty of quality bullpen arms who could bolster the Cardinals’ late-inning mix remain, though they’ve previously been connected to right-hander Phil Maton and left-hander Matt Moore.
In addition to those comments, Mozeliak provided updates on a trio of injured position players, noting (per Daniel Guerrero of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that shortstop Tommy Edman is recovering well from the wrist surgery he underwent back in October while also adding that both outfielder Dylan Carlson and utilityman Brendan Donovan are expected to be ready for Spring Training next month. Carlson underwent ankle surgery back in September, while Donovan underwent surgery on his elbow on August 2.
The healthy return of that trio of players figures to be crucial for the Cardinals as they look to rebound from a 71-91 record that saw them finish last in the NL Central last season. Edman provides the club with valuable versatility thanks to his ability to capably handle both shortstop and center field on an everyday basis, while Donovan’s .365 on-base percentage in 95 games last year trailed only Lars Nootbaar’s .367 figure among qualified Cardinals. Carlson, meanwhile, struggled badly in 2023 but could join Nootbaar and Jordan Walker as one of the club’s regular outfielders entering 2024 as he looks to recapture the form he flashed in 2021, when hit .266/.343/.437 in 619 trips to the plate while roving between all three outfield spots.