After the season was over, St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak was gracious enough to answer some questions emailed by various members of the UCB. While many bloggers have put up posts with the answers to their questions, here is a full transcript of the questions to Mo and his answers, edited only to remove questions that were duplicated.
Daniel Shoptaw (C70 At The Bat)
You’ve been the general manager of the Cardinals for seven years now. Where do you think you’ve improved the most over that time and where do you still feel you would like to improve?
In any career you always have opportunity to improve. When I think back over the last seven years, one thing I understand better today is there is always opportunity to improve your team. You don’t have to have your club set by the winter meetings, or by Opening Day. Being patient and opportunistic can be a very valuable asset.
How has your relationship with Mike Matheny changed from when he was an assistant to the GM to now, three years into his managerial career?
My relationship with Mike Matheny has only gotten stronger over time. As anyone would imagine, your relationship working on a day-to-day basis between a GM and manager is constant and time consuming, but it also allows you to get to know the person not only in the work environment but also on a personal level.
Are there moves that you regret making over the past seven years?
Yes. Not going into details on those as I’m guessing most people that follow the Cards could guess what those would be. But in fairness, our decisions are based on our process that we go through in evaluating talent and we have a lot of confidence in that process. When we go out and get a player it’s not for a lack of effort.
Are there times during games where you second-guess the manager just like the fans do? Do you talk with Matheny after games about those times, if so?
I never second guess decisions that are made on the field or in-game. I may, after a game, ask questions on something because I’m curious to understand how people think. But Mike is our manager and it’s his job to run the team. I am happy to ask questions, though, for his benefit and growth.
You said recently that you believe Matheny has improved as a strategist since he took over the club. Could you point to examples that lead you to that opinion?
Well, I feel when he first stepped into this role he recognized the game was going to be fast. He didn’t have managerial experience and that learning curve was only going to come with time. When you look at where he is today, after three years, he is much more comfortable in this role.
What did you expect to see in Justin Masterson that didn’t pan out once you acquired him?
I think the untold story of Justin Masterson was that he wasn’t 100% when we got him. Unfortunately it affected how he pitched and had a direct correlation to his performance. I will say in his defense, he gave us one huge game in Miami when things weren’t going well for our club. But in the end, I can see why people do not look at this as a positive deal.
Can you give us a sense of what general manager meetings, like the one you recently attended, are like? Are there presentations and such or is it more just a place to gather together to talk and lay groundwork?
A typical GM Meetings look like: 8:30-12:30 each day MLB would put on presentations that could be about rule discussions or rule changes and general topics that are being discussed throughout baseball. Afternoons and evenings are typically spent meeting with other clubs or agents, setting up groundwork for the offseason.
What would you say would be the expected role of Tyler Lyons in 2015?
Tyler gives us protection in the rotation as well as bullpen.
Mary Clausen (MLB Voice)
What do you expect Peter Bourjos’s role to be with the 2015 Cardinals, if he has any?
I think Peter will again compete for playing time in our outfield, whether it’s in center field or right field. I’m optimistic that his offseason surgery will allow him to have more of an offensive season, and I think his impact on the club would be positive.
Ben Chambers (The View From Here)
What is your general approach to an offseason?
Typically in August we build our offseason strategy, understanding we have to be flexible and subject to change. Then once we understand what our strategy looks like we try to execute. And what that means is we have to understand the trade market, free agent market and understand how to arbitrage each one to better position our club for the following year.
Jaime Garcia is owed $9.25 million next season. What do you expect from him in 2015?
Our expectations are TBD. He’s currently rehabbing from thoracic outlet surgery and right now we are encouraged on how that’s going. But until we see him on the mound and see him in spring training, we won’t know exactly what we have until he’s cleared to throw.
Yadier Molina is one of the team’s most valuable players. He’s starting to get older and has had spent significant time on the disabled list the last couple years. Some catchers around the league get a few starts at first base throughout the year and we’ve seen Molina play there before. Is there any chance he gets some starts in a semi-platoon with Adams and possibly save some wear on Molina’s lower body during the season?
A perfect question for the manager. I would say that is a good idea.
Daniel Solzman (Redbird Rants)
What does the tragic news about Oscar Taveras mean for the Cardinals’ off-season plans and does it speed up the timetable for Stephen Piscotty to be playing in the big leagues?
After learning of Oscar’s tragic death we did have to change our offseason strategy. As all of you know by now, we made the deal for Jason Heyward. The reason we had to do that was we wanted to be sure we could be patient with both Grichuk and Piscotty so they could continue to develop – whether at the Major League level or Triple-A.
Doug Vollet (Baseball Geek In Galveston)
How does the Oscar Taveras tragedy affect your drafting strategy going forward? While it is a very sad incident, baseball is still a business, whether we like it or not, so you obviously have to adapt in situations like this. Do you look for another OF bat or just another special bat, period? Or does it not affect the draft strategy at all?
Our draft strategy is always to draft the best players we can, whether it’s hitters or pitchers. One thing I know is Oscar is not replaceable and to try to chase that – we would end up being disappointed.
Do you consult with Matheny on both possible draftees and trade targets, is it more “here’s what you have Mike”, or is it somewhere in between?
Our draft is run by Dan Kantrovitz, and Mike Matheny is consulted on potential trade targets or potential trades, as well as free agents.
Without naming any names, are you targeting any big name free agents with intention to sign and not just putting feelers out?
I never comment on the free agent market, but clearly if we feel there is an opportunity to improve the club we will certainly engage.
What do you consider your biggest need this off-season?
I feel we’ve addressed it already with the addition of Heyward. Now I think it’s still looking at bullpen depth and potentially a right-handed bat off the bench.
Jon Doble (Redbird Dugout)
How is the hiring and assignment of coaches at the Major League level handled? Who gets more weight in the decision making process when it comes to retaining, replacing, or hiring a new uniformed coach, the manager or the front office? What are the particular skill sets or backgrounds that are desired for candidates for a position like bench coach?
Mike Matheny as the manager has authority to determine who is on his staff, what he’s looking for in those staff members and how they complement his team. The front office will assist in creating a list of names and can also be a valuable tool during the interview process. But ultimately it’s Mike’s decision.
Bench coach is a manger’s right-hand man and has to be someone that has his own opinion and can assist in in-game strategy.
Guys with backgrounds in statistical analytics have now successfully infiltrated front offices across Major League Baseball. Do you feel there will ever come a time where Major League teams start putting guys with heavy backgrounds in analytics into uniformed positions or will those really remain positions for guys who have professional baseball playing experience?
I would not rule that out, and I frankly think it’s a good idea at some point. The game is changing and teams that stay ahead of that curve seem to have more success.
Dan Buffa (Cardinals Nerve Center)
After such an amazing season out of nowhere, what kind of contract do you approach Pat Neshek with that is fair to him and the team?
We don’t comment on free agent players.
Do you still view Matt Adams as a full time first baseman heading into the future?
I do. I think he is going to be given every opportunity to do that, and you look at some of his late-season success against left-handed pitching, it was encouraging.
In a time of tragic circumstances, is there any better manager to guide this team into the future than Mike Matheny, a player who has experienced loss on a baseball field in 2002 with Darryl Kile?
When you have a tragedy in an organization, leadership does matter. And anyone who had the opportunity to read what Mike wrote upon Oscar’s passing should realize that Mike has the compassion and understanding to assist our club to get through this.
Is Jason Motte a pitcher on your radar at the moment?
No comment on free agents.
Bill Ivie (I70 Baseball)
It’s a tough question, I’m sure, but can you give fans a peek inside the mindset of a General Manager when dealing with a tragedy like that of Oscar Taveras? Give us some thoughts on how you personally handle the situation (I know from many articles that you had known him a long time) and how do you handle it professionally moving forward?
My initial reaction was I was shocked, saddened and in disbelief. Once I validated that this was true, I didn’t take time to reflect. At that moment all I could do was react and respond to where we needed to be and what we needed to do from Oscar’s perspective. After returning from the Dominican Republic I did have to start thinking about what was next. I debated in my mind what the right timing of that was, but I still privately could think about it.
How closely do you follow a player after he leaves the organization? Do you keep tabs on guys like David Freese and/or Colby Rasmus and see how they are performing with their new clubs?
I do follow them. Somebody like David I was very fond of and had a good relationship with and was happy to see he had a good season. Colby, there was a lot of risk in that deal, and certainly paid attention to how things were evolving for him. As you can imagine all of these guys you get to know and work with you pay attention to their careers.
Tell me, based on your experiences since joining the Cardinals, do you feel like you do not know the players as well now that you are in your current position vs. when you were in the scouting department? Is that a good thing or a bad thing in your opinion?
When you are running a scouting department, you get to know players from the day they arrive and you see them grow up in the organization and you almost lose more touch with them when they become big leaguers. When you become a GM, you tend to have a better relationship with players that are older and at the Major League level. But I do try to visit every minor league city at least once, sometimes twice a year. And I do want players to feel I am approachable and if they have questions they should ask.
Diane Schultz (Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball)
What will the Cardinals management do to prevent another tragedy like Oscar Tavares’ death? Could they start their own baseball school like Carlos Beltran’s school where not only baseball is taught, but life skills as well? It would probably be a major investment, but since most future prospects are now coming from the Caribbean islands, it would pay off in the end.
We currently try to educate our players in our Dominican Academy. We spend a lot of time and money having players realize the risks they take on and off the field. Alcohol and drug awareness is one of our more common and spoken about topics. But unfortunately in this most recent tragedy, a player had just finished a long season, was spending a week at home and unfortunately made a mistake. And it cost him his life.
Christine Coleman (Aaron Miles’ Fastball)
With Mike Aldrete’s departure as bench coach, it seemed like there was a great opportunity to hire a bench coach with more experience who could serve in a real advisory/mentoring capacity for Mike Matheny, yet David Bell was quickly promoted from within. (I do realize it’s obviously subjective on my part that a bench coach to serve as an advisor/mentor more than Mike Aldrete did was needed.)
David Bell has managed in the minor leagues for many years and has managerial ambition and has a very strong and open relationship with Mike. He will be a very good asset with Mike moving forward.
Eugene Tierney (Examiner.com)
Theo Epstein seemed unhappy about the Cardinals gaining a competitive balance pick; what are your thoughts on the system? Should a smaller market team be penalized for being well-run?
Of course not. I do think there are some frustrations in our current CBA [collective bargaining agreement], but I will say we are a mid-to-small market club and we do maximize our revenues to allow us to be more competitive on major league payroll. Having said that, you are limited to what you can do in the draft and international signing pools, so any help you can get in that regard is a benefit to our club.
Will the team wear a patch to memorialize Oscar Taveras in 2015?
We have not determined how we are going to honor Oscar, but hopefully by the time we get to Winter Warm-Up we will be able to unroll our plans.
Do you play fantasy football? If so, what is your team name and will you be making the playoffs?
I do not. Some people think I play fantasy baseball….but in all honesty, my focus is strictly on Major League Baseball.
Dathan Brooks (Go Crazy, Big Boy)
Are you aware of any consensus among the various organizations concerning further rule modifications? The “experimental” pitch clock, requiring a batter to stay in/close to the batter’s box and other tweaks have been widely discussed and speculated about. What’s the sentiment on such things from those, like you, closer to the situation?
Pace of game: the idea of pace of game is to broaden the fan base. We understand that the die-hard baseball fan isn’t overly concerned with how long a game takes. But if we can have more people interested because it’s easy to watch and more enjoyable, then the game of baseball will enhance their experience.
I am in favor of looking at ways to speed up the game. I think initiatives like pitch clocks are going to be very difficult to see happen at the Major League level. But from a more organic approach you could see initiatives happen at the minor league level.
Great questions. Really enjoyed taking the time to answer. Look forward to doing it again and wish everybody a great offseason. See you at the ballpark.