Before the Cardinals packed their passports to finish the exhibition season in Montreal, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak sat down with MLB.com to discuss an array of topics relating to his team entering the 2018 season.The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity, and it occurred before the
Before the Cardinals packed their passports to finish the exhibition season in Montreal, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak sat down with MLB.com to discuss an array of topics relating to his team entering the 2018 season.
The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity, and it occurred before the club learned it would begin the season with Luke Gregerson and Adam Wainwright on the disabled list. Questions regarding those players have been omitted.
MLB.com: Let's start with a big theme. The Cardinals haven't reached the postseason in consecutive seasons, and to miss three would be unprecedented since the turn of the century. Do you anticipate that adding extra urgency to this season, especially when it comes to how on-field need and performance will dictate decisions?
Mozeliak: The urgency is always there. Just because we didn't get to the postseason the last two years, we're not going to become irrational overnight. The way you want to approach that is, our goal is to get to October. Our goal is to win October. But when you think of the ebb and flow of the year, and you talk about the personnel decisions you'll be making, you have to look at every one of those in a silo and say, "What is the right answer for him or us?"
MLB.com: I guess that can kind of apply to the club's late-inning situation right now. I won't ask you to name a closer, because the club's stance on that has been very clear. But is there a soft date where you'd want at least an alignment decided on? Something of a traditional plan on in place, instead of an open-ended competition?
Mozeliak: The short answer to whether we have a date in mind, is no.
What you don't want to do is feel like you're bullpen-by-committee and you're not having success. That phrase, "bullpen-by-committee," if you're winning and closing out games, is fine. But if you're not, it becomes a little bit frustrating. My hope is we don't go down that latter path. Eventually you hope the roles become defined and we have confidence in them.
MLB.com: How do you see Alex Reyes factoring in?
Mozeliak: The role is going to be based part on need and part on what makes sense for him. What we don't want to see happen is, regardless, say he ends up being someone we stick in the bullpen, and at the end of the year we wake up and he has 70 innings. What will he be next year? It's hard to envision him being a starter every fifth day, because the volume will put him back at a risk. At the end of the day, what do you hope Alex Reyes to looks like? And you hope somewhere around 100 innings.
MLB.com: His career high is 110 2/3 in 2016 (not counting 40 innings thrown in extended spring camp that year).
Mozeliak: I don't think we want to blow by that. That's in essence why we want to take some baby steps over the month of April.
MLB.com: Getting him 100 innings would seemingly require you to get creative. It's exceptionally high for a traditional reliever and oddly low for a full-time starter, even one who misses a month.
Mozeliak: It depends when you hit the start date, where you draw a line in the sand. If starter is his path, the start date might be delayed. If he's in the bullpen, it might be easier to do. If he's in the bullpen, I'd imagine it's more for multi-inning usage, not just three outs.
MLB.com: How much did you know about Yairo Munoz when you acquired him in the Stephen Piscotty trade? Obviously, Piscotty's situation grabbed a majority of the headlines.
Mozeliak: The offensive standpoint probably drew us to him, but what nobody understood is just how flexible he would be. That's been eye-opening. When you're making a trade of that magnitude, our expectations are to get something back. The negotiations are a lot of back and forth, but we're definitely happy about where it ended.
MLB.com: What would you say was the biggest disappointment of camp?
Mozeliak: I was hoping we'd get to see a little more of Tyler O'Neill. He was hampered by some minor injuries. Maybe a new environment had a little something to do with it. He didn't make the impression we were hoping for, but it's by no means the end of the day here.
MLB.com: What are your early impressions of Marcell Ozuna so far?
Mozeliak: He's energetic. Personable. Fun. And a great baseball player. When you look at our clubhouse, and you look for that person who might inject something other than just a middle-of-the-order hitter, he can do that. He's one of those guys, who from a front-office standpoint, I like what he brings. And from a baseball standpoint, he checks all the boxes.
MLB.com: How quickly was the pivot in negotiations with the Marlins after learning Giancarlo Stanton rejected the deal to St. Louis?
MLB.com: Was it within the same conversation?
Mozeliak: Yes. It was: "Let me get your thoughts on Ozuna."
Clearly, things picked up pace pretty quick after that.
MLB.com: You saw him a lot when he was a young player here, playing in the Florida State League (the Cardinals and Marlins share a Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, which harbors their Class A clubs).
Mozeliak: I remember him when he was coming up as one of those guys that had that buggy-whip swing. Some people can hit, and others can hit. And he would hit.
When you watch Ozuna hit, he hits it like a two-iron. Low, laser, into a gap. Not many people can do that. He has strength and quickness at the plate, and it shows.
MLB.com: Your role is different heading into this season, as well, as you begin your first full year in the new role of president of baseball operations after 10 years as general manager. How difficult has the adjustment been for you?
Mozeliak: I don't think I've been great at it, actually, over the last seven to eight months. But I hope I can relinquish some of the day-to-day responsibilities I've had and allow growth opportunity for [general manager] Michael Girsch and [assistant general manager] Moises Rodriguez and give them some autonomy to do that. In the end, I'm still responsible for the entire baseball operations, but I do need to understand where I am today is different from where I was a year ago.
MLB.com: What's different about your day now compared to your day a year ago?
Mozeliak: I would have been uncomfortable having this meeting so close to first pitch.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.