Cardinal sin? Not quite.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, in fielding reporters’ questions Wednesday, revealed that St. Louis would not be picking up the club’s $12.5 million option on second baseman Kolten Wong for 2021. Maybe more surprisingly, the longtime St. Louis head man admitted he’d like a do-over on the Randy Arozarena trade.
“I will own that. That’s on me,” Mozeliak said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold. “We will revisit how we rank our own players and make sure that we don’t have something like this happen again.”
Baseball executives don’t often admit fault, so this is something new (and slightly refreshing). It does, though, seem unfair to knock Mozeliak for the organization’s evaluation of Arozarena, who had a breakout year with Tampa Bay and, oh, will still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award in 2021. Arozarena popped off in the postseason, hitting .377 with 10 home runs and a 1.273 OPS over 20 games with Tampa Bay. There also was that whole Instagram Live issue from 2019.
The deal in question wasn’t necessarily unbalanced, though hindsight might deem it so: The Cardinals received left-hander Matthew Liberatore, one of baseball’s better pitching prospects, and Edgardo Rodriguez, a low-level catching prospect, from Tampa Bay in exchange for Arozarena and first baseman Jose Martinez. The teams also swapped competitive balance picks in the 2020 MLB Draft. The Rays eventually traded Martinez to the Cubs, while Liberatore is marinating in the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Still, the Cardinals shipped off Arozarena, who had a postseason for the ages, while the team has been trying to figure out its outfield situation. Harrison Bader has underperformed, Dexter Fowler has as well, and there aren’t many reinforcements coming in the immediate term. Dylan Carlson made his debut in 2020 after a solid but unspectacular minor league career and left room for questions about how good he’s really going to be at the major league level.
Going back a little further, the Cardinals traded Luke Voit to the Yankees in 2018, and he went on to become the 2020 American League home run leader and a solid everyday major leaguer. Understandably, this led to questions about the job Mozeliak has been doing. Couple that with the team’s general inconsistency since a 100-win season in 2016 and you get a full picture of why there are predictably salty feelings burgeoning among Cardinal fans.
A reminder: Prospects are suspects, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s unfair to pin successes or failures of players solely on a GM or executive. But at least Mozeliak is owning up to the questionable Arozarena deal. Just don’t expect it to happen again.
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