John Mozeliak has used the term “comfort zone” on several occasions when describing the organizational approach to team improvement. The club has been hesitant to acquire players through trades that have short term contract commitments. This practice has allowed the Cardinals to keep a farm system focused on development and graduating drafted assets to the big league club. The organization has also taken a hard stance on money that ownership is willing to pay for free agents. More than twice, the Cardinals finished runner-up for talent looking for a long term place to play. Ownership has drawn a line in the sand and avoided stepping outside of the aforementioned comfort zone.
2017 may be the breaking point
The development process was put to the test this season. The club took a gamble with recently promoted prospects to take the next step in their big league careers. Unfortunately, those gambles haven’t paid off and the club is battling to play .500 baseball. While draft and development will always remain the focus as long as Mozeliak is calling the shots, it may be the season they alter the plans.
Mozeliak had given a time frame of 4-6 weeks to evaluate the team before making a determination on their approach at the trade deadline. The club has won six games, while also losing six after that statement was made. The level of play remained the same after the shuffling of coaches and release of Jhonny Peralta.
The biggest piece missing from the team in the first half has been the presence of a game-changing bat. They need a hitter in the middle of the order that forces teams to change a game plan on the fly. That hitter will most likely be a ghost during this seasons trade deadline. Mozelaik has mentioned that the organization is lacking a true 3-4 hitter in the lineup. Matt Carpenter was expected to be that lineup altering hitter, but has returned to the lead off spot and sparked the offense. The Cardinals aren’t going to pull from the prospect pool to grab a rental. Expect the fan base to be disappointed and loud about it when the club doesn’t acquire a big name bat.
Linking the Cardinals with any available player this deadline will be popular practice. The organization is in the unusual position to be buyers or sellers. Florida Marlins shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria is the most recent player attached to the Cardinals. This will not be a popular choice, but could show the path Mozeliak may choose to stay in the playoff hunt.
Starting pitching has been the strength of the team in the first half. That aspect has taken a hit in the last few weeks, but the rotation has a true ace in Carlos Martinez to presumably halt any losing skids. Expect Mozeliak to take a different approach from improving the offense, and build on pitching strength with a refortified defense. The Hechavarria rumors may not have any legs but the fit may make sense.
Thanks for reading!