ST. LOUIS (KSDK SPORTS) - The St. Louis Cardinals and general manager/vice president John Mozeliak agreed Saturday to a two-year contract extension that will keep him calling the shots in St. Louis for at least another four seasons.
Mozeliak has been with the club for a total of 19 seasons and has served as GM since 2008. He has been the architect of one of the most successful periods any team has had in big-league history, and his resume in just six seasons has become intimidating: four postseason berths, two national league pennants, a World Series ring, and executive of the year award, and two organization of the year awards from Baseball America.
Mozeliak rose quickly to his current post. A chance meeting with former Colorado Rockies pitcher Bryn Smith was the foot in the door he needed into the major leagues, and soon after the Rockies hired him as a batting practice pitcher due to his left-handedness. From there he became an assistant to then-Rockies GM Walt Jocketty, and when Jocketty headed for St. Louis he took Mo with him. 13 years later, Mozeliak became the heir to the throne when Jocketty left the team over "philosophical differences".
Since becoming GM in 2008, Mozeliak has shown both the ability to be patient and hold on to top prospects when big names have been dangled in front of him (Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, and Joe Kelly for Troy Tulowitzki) as well as the capacity to be aggressive and take chances at the right times (Colby Rasmus for a one year Edwin Jackson rental and some change). He has known when to give a quality player who is coming off of a down year a team-friendly contract (Lance Berkman), and also had the mental fortitude to let an aging franchise icon walk away scot-free rather than allow the organization to sit on the shoulders of one man (El Hombre). He had the audacity to make his first move be the trade of cornerstone player Jim Edmonds for a largely unknown David Freese, then do the same thing again this offseason when it became obvious that the team had squeezed every drop of production they could from their hometown third-sacker. While we have seen teams like the Phillies and Twins be doomed by a hesitancy to move on from their franchise player types, Mozeliak has constantly made sure the Cardinals are bigger, faster, and stronger.
He has also made the team sustainable, with the Cardinals consistently showing up in the bottom third of cost-per-WAR projections. This season, the Cardinals are projected to pay about $2.5 million for each WAR. That puts the Cardinals on pace to spend the same per win above replacement level as the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Kansas City Royals, teams with lower payrolls that have to get creative to find wins. Teams like the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers are spending upwards of $4MM per WAR while the Phillies top the list at a whopping $5.7MM per war. In a market that won't get $40-billion-dollar TV contracts like coastal juggernauts Los Angeles, Boston, and New York do, Mozeliak has to make sure he's getting the most bang for his buck, which is seems to be doing, year after year.
Some worried that when statistical whiz-kid/ assistant GM Jeff Lunhow left to take over the program in Houston, it would have an adverse effect on player development in St. Louis. However, it appears Lunhow was more of a product of his environment than vice-versa. Cardinal's chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. conceptualized Mozeliak's philosophy perfectly today, saying "By extending Mo's contract with the club, we look forward to continuing our approach which emphasizes excellence at the Major League level, supported by a strong player procurement and player development program."
Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.