ST. LOUIS -- Following an industry trend designed to divide the growing number of duties that fall within the baseball operations department, the Cardinals announced the decision Friday to promote John Mozeliak into a new role as president of baseball operations. Taking over as general manager will be Michael Girsch, who has served as assistant GM under Mozeliak since 2011.
The changes take place immediately, and both men received contract extensions through 2020.
"The game has evolved quite a bit over the last 10 years, and the day-to-day demands can be difficult and hard to manage," said Mozeliak, who succeeded Walt Jocketty as GM in October 2007. "I think as the pressures of this game grow, you can see why it's required to have multiple people help handle that. I think that's something that, candidly, I look forward to."
In his new role, Mozeliak will take a step away from some of those day-to-day demands and take a more high-level view of the organization in which he focuses on strategic initiatives and long-range planning. That will entail trying to find new ways for the Cardinals to maintain a competitive advantage, something that Mozeliak acknowledged has waned in recent years.
"I think initially our competitive advantage was probably defined by the success we were having in the Draft and the success our analytical department was having," said Mozeliak, who had been the fifth-longest tenured GM in baseball. "All of those things seem to be getting more neutralized based on what 29 other organizations are doing. So when you're looking at what's that next frontier, what can we do to separate ourselves?"
The timing of this change is both interesting and critical. Though owner Bill DeWitt Jr. has considered these moves for a few years, they come in advance of what could be a key month of strategic decisions for the Cardinals, who are approaching the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline positioned to both buy and sell. Moves made over the next month could impact the organization for years.
While Mozeliak and DeWitt will remain integrally involved in any such decisions, Girsch's voice will now be louder. Girsch joined the organization in 2006 after quitting a job at a consulting firm in Chicago. His background was in economics and finance, but he always felt a pull toward baseball.
With the blessing of his wife, Kelly, Girsch wrote a research paper about how to value picks in the amateur Draft and sent it to various organizations, hoping one would consider him for a job.
"I always wanted to be a GM of a baseball team and no one had called me yet, so maybe I should try to do it on my own," Girsch said. "And so, yeah, it was sort of a chase-the-dream, see-what-happens, rent a house for the first year in case it became a disaster. Honestly, when I started, I didn't think it would result in a job opportunity. I thought it would maybe get me a phone call or two. But it's obviously worked out very well."
Mozeliak was the recipient of one of those emails, and he was intrigued enough by Girsch's ideas to write back. A relationship was formed, and Girsch was hired as the coordinator for amateur scouting in 2006. Two years later, Girsch was named director of baseball development. In 2011, he was promoted to assistant GM.
In recent years, Girsch drew interest from other clubs that had GM vacancies. One impetus behind promoting him now, DeWitt said, was to ensure that Girsch did not leave for an opportunity elsewhere.
"Good organizations, whether it's baseball or business, needs to develop good people underneath the top level and to keep giving them opportunity," DeWitt said. "We got picked over a little bit the last number of years. We need to be cognizant of that. I think we've done a very good job of hiring excellent people, but once they do their job and improve, we need to move them on."