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Full transcript – John Mozeliak’s comments to the media, 7.31.18

Jeff Jones

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What follows is a transcription of John Mozeliak’s press conference with the media in St. Louis following the 2018 MLB trade deadline. Questions and comments from reporters are in parentheses and paraphrased.

(Why does the Pham move make sense?)
I think we stated all along that we were looking to create some opening in our outfield and when you look at it, I think where we were, I think staying status quo was not going to get it done. Obviously, trying to create opportunity also for O’Neill and Bader was something that we thought we needed to do. And so when we were looking at all of our options, the one thing that we felt gave us some future hope was to try to move Tommy Pham.

(O’Neill/Bader playing time)
I don’t think we have it exactly mapped out but I would imagine you would see like three games a week for one, four for another. Also you know, whenever we can give Ozuna a day off and have that opportunity in left, and also you have right with Fowler, so, I think just trying to find a balance. But I mean, when you have five guys for three spots it’s a lot harder versus four for three.

(Pham’s comments involved?)
No, I mean, no, nothing. It had to do with, again, creating some opportunity for others. And look, performance matters here. Tommy was someone that really, I think, the sort of the interesting thing is, I think as a front office we were always one of his biggest advocates. He’s been in the organization for twelve years. He was injured a lot, a lot of ups and downs, but in the end we were the ones who believed in him. And most people that have a track record won’t make it. And, I think it’s a lot of his perseverance for sure, and his talent, but, you know, I do feel like a lot of people have asked about what was said earlier in the year, if we were offended. If you were to ask Tommy, I spoke to him two or three days after that article came out and he asked me if I was mad at him. I was actually, I told him, I think, it’s a good thing we didn’t give up on you. What if we had? And so, you know, for that, I think people were just reading into it. I wish him well, and these kind of days are never fun. We certainly want to be in a position where we were putting the club in a place that we thought was going to be competitive, and I think, you know, if you look over the course of the last two and a half weeks, change has been made at the managerial level, the coaching level, and how in shaking up the bullpen, we feel this is what’s going to bring some life into this team and hopefully go on a run.

(Other objectives?)
You, I think we said we felt like we were pretty right handed, we’re hoping to add some left handed bats to our system. I feel we did that. In terms of doing what was the strategy going in to this, it really hasn’t changed from whatever we said two weeks ago, and that was we said we’re going to give some of our younger players a chance. And that’s what we thought we could change last week in our bullpen, and now you’re going to see an opportunity to give some of our outfielders a chance.

(Carlos Martinez?)
Carlos did have an MRI, I think I stated its his shoulder strain is mild, and we’re hoping it’s no longer than 2 or 3 starts.

(Injuries related?)
Um, I mean obviously there’s sort of this flow of how you think about the body. And I’m sure there’s a reason for that. But I think what we’ll use the next couple of weeks for is to get him in a position where hopefully we can decrease those odds moving forward.

(Is there a way to decrease in the first place?)
Of course. Player preparation is something we take seriously and we try to take him down the right path.

(Why Mercado?)
Again, very right handed in the outfield and when looking at our depth at Triple-A, we just felt like it was getting very crowded. And so when you’re able to move him for two younger outfielders that, when you’re looking at sort of spacing your projection, you feel better with that.

(40 man concerns?)
Y-yes. It-that helped. Don’t want to state that as an overvalue but it was ultimately looking at, when you’re looking at that Triple-A and Double-A depth, it was a way to get it younger.

(Rest of the division?)
Look, it’s a competitive division. When we look at our season, if we play well, we’ll be ok. We’ll be in there. But, you know, it comes down to creating that environment. And I think right now we’re in a good spot. I think the feeling in the clubhouse is very positive, and let’s go see how we play.

(Playoffs this year?)
Yeah, I mean, in this division, and in the here and now. I mean, we’re 4 games out in the wild card. That doesn’t mean you’re *right* there, because that’s- you’ve got to catch some people. But I do feel like where this vibe is in this clubhouse I would say that it feels good.

(Traded your best hitter from last year and two innings guys on DL. How are you better today?)
How are we better today? Than when? (24 hours ago) Well I mean, certainly losing Carlos is a hit but we don’t think it’s season-ending, and ultimately, when you look at our rotation, I feel like we have some depth there. And to just go out and make a knee-jerk reaction to appease you, I don’t think that’s the right strategy. (It’s not appeasing me.) Well you’re asking the question. (I am). So, I’m appeasing you. And my answer, I feel like our goal of this trading deadline was to move some pieces to give us opportunities to play other people. I feel that we’ve accomplished that.

(Out to salvage the season)
We still feel like we’re in a place where we can be competitive.

(Jose Martinez, what value?)
I mean obviously it’s tough to discuss the potential trade of a player that either was or was not traded on a day like today, but certainly you would be fair to say we did listen on him, but we didn’t get to a point where we felt it made sense. And, uh, there’s a couple names that fell in the same category. But, you know, ultimately, you look at where this club is, we still feel like the vibe in this clubhouse is positive and we feel, like you, we feel we’re in an ok spot.

(Taking Carlos’s starts?)
I would imagine we understand who that’s going to be. I have not had time to talk to Mike as of today.

(Looking at a starter?)
I don’t know of that and I’m not going to comment on…

(Comfortable with innings?)
Absolutely. Otherwise we’d be aggressive.

(Bud Norris?)
Well, sort of touching on the theme of where we are today versus yesterday, you know, he is our closer. We certainly could’ve realigned the bullpen if we wanted to trade him and do so, but would we have weakened it? And if we had moved him, we felt like we were weakening it.

(Extension?)
Oh, I’m not going to get in to extensions and all of that. That’s not appropriate at this time. What is appropriate is to say that he hasn’t been traded.

(Bader/O’Neill every day CF?)
Well I don’t think you can sort of answer that just in a vacuum. I think they’re a little bit different players. I certainly think Bader is, from a defensive standpoint, could easily be an every day centerfielder. I think from an offensive standpoint he has some things he has to show. I think when you look at O’Neill, he’s someone that has played centerfield, but I don’t think defensively he’s as accomplished as Bader. And I think, you know, we got a glimpse of what he’s capable of doing offensively. I don’t-I would agree that there’s not a whole lot for him to prove at Triple-A. So, giving him a chance to get some at bats up here I think’s important.

(Players from Tampa?)
Um, well, starting with Williams as the bat and outfielder, one of the things that we were just trying to do is get someone that we have a left handed option in the outfield. So that was something that we felt was important. And when you look at what he’s done at the minor leagues, these are projections, right? And he’s been a solid player. And when you’re looking at- like, one of the things we were trying to do is not get too heavily involved in outfielders, but in talking with Tampa, that was sort of like a place we felt comfortable with. And we talk about the lefthander, it’s an electric arm. And, a lot of our pitching depth right now is on the right side. So having someone that we feel can start and be on the left side makes sense. And the other guy that we got in the deal just is a power arm, younger pitcher, but we try to take a chance. We feel good about that.

(For Mercado?)
Yeah, the difference there in looking at that was, again, you sort of like, you track your system, we felt like we have a lot of outfielders on the upper levels. And so getting a couple guys that are, you know, a year behind them, and in this case, a couple years younger just made sense.

(Window to see this team go out and play?)
Not really, no, I mean, I feel like this team is the team we’re comfortable with at this point, and it’s, I think a lot of time the trading deadline it just allows some people to breathe, right? Because they weren’t traded or they’re still here, and you hope that they’re still happy that they’re here. And I think in this particular case there are a few individuals that would say yes to that. And so now, there’s still the ability to trade. It’s just, it’s a little trickier and it has to be handled appropriately with waivers, but I mean for us, again, I feel like where this club is and the energy that you’re seeing in this clubhouse is a positive.

(Martinez on the bench?)
You know, I think Mike will try to get him at-bats wherever he can but you know, certainly, he’s a weapon off the bench, and so obviously we want to be able to take advantage of that. And, you know, trying to keep guys fresh, trying to keep guys engaged, that’s the hard part about managing. And, you know, that’s always the challenge.

(Pham in the works?)
Yes, I, I would say for the last two weeks we’ve been in touch with many teams and they were certainly one of them and we kicked the tires on a lot of different ideas.

(Wong coming off Wednesday?)
Yeah, I think though that we’re pointing toward Thursday or Friday.

(Strike a balance between now and future with moves?)
I think so. I feel like what we’re trying to do is put ourselves in a position to get a peek at the future. And as we stated, we were gonna give some of our younger arms a chance, and in the last week or two I’ve said that if we can find a way to try to clean up some of the outfield, we would try to do that too and, you know, again, they’re probably not the most exciting moves to all the people out there watching or hearing but for us, we did feel like we accomplished some things.

(Wong rehab assignment?)
He’ll probably just be activated.

(Leone to Memphis?)
He is, and I believe he starts tomorrow.

(Wainwright?)
I still think he has another bullpen or two.

(Wacha?)
Has not been cleared for that.

(Discuss baseball in general, Pham last year, traded now)
Look, I think like everybody would agree, there’s a different level of patience depending on where you are in your career curve. And also where you are from a team standpoint. You know, we have created a lot of depth in the outfield at the upper levels. And so ultimately, timing matters. And for us, it was really about trying to create some openings and some space and we could’ve done it many different ways but this is the direction we went and, you know, hopefully we made the right one.

(Signs from Ozuna?)
Well obviously in the last week he’s been an impact hitter and if you recall back in December when we traded for him, that’s what we were hoping for. So if that past week is a good sign, then the answer’s yes. And I think it has been.

(Retooling of roster will continue in offseason?)
Well I think why do it now vs. do nothing until the offseason is, it gives you a better idea of what you truly have. And so getting a glimpse or getting to see what that future might look like, the timing did feel right. I think everybody would agree that the path we were on wasn’t working out, so change was a good thing.

(Judged beyond wins and losses?)
Well right, I think if you’re that individual, you’re being looked at at your performance. And certainly wins and losses matter and we get that, but from an evaluating standpoint, we should have a better idea of some of these younger arms. Like who can we count on next year and are they in the right roles? Do they adjust to the bullpen? Are they better off as a starter? And so for us, getting to answer that now versus maybe guessing or looking at it solely in the offseason set of lenses, I think this gives us a better opportunity.

(Unfair to say different tone?)
Well we haven’t had the kind of first three months that have been normal. You don’t make the changes we’ve made from a managerial standpoint, a hitting coach standpoint, if status quo’s good. And really, when you look at where we were a year ago and where we were today, it seemed very, eerily similar. And so trying to make some dramatic changes whether it’s with a player standpoint or a coaching standpoint, it felt like we needed to do so.

(Playing new guys but you’re in it?)
We believe that. I mean yes, absolutely. We’re not like trying some unique experiment. We’re taking guys that we feel that were ready to perform up here. Now their roles might be a little different from what they were being used down in Memphis but they were having a lot of success down there and now we’re hoping to have that same success up here.

(Different approach to see some trade minor leaguers?)
I think when you look back at the history of how we’ve utilized our minor league system, that tends to be our more successful recipe. And so when we look at where these guys were, we felt like it was better to give them a chance then simply just trying to flip them for something else.

(Memphis success drive that?)
Um, I don’t think purely in the sense of like their wins and losses but when you look at individuals and how much success they’ve had down there- I mean, use O’Neill as my example. He’s hit 26 home runs. Is it his goal to hit 40 at Memphis? Like, for us, I think at some point you’ve gotta find out.

(Talk to Matheny about a role going forward?)
I have not. We had a short text message exchange shortly after but I’ve not spoken to him since.

(Would you?)
You know, I think, these things are fresh and we’ve all had things to focus on. You know, maybe in due time I can reflect on that.

(These deals not about future trade chips?)
No, it’s, we look at our system and we’re just trying to add to it as well as create opportunity at the major league level. I mean, not everybody is gonna agree with this philosophy, clearly. I mean, that’s why you guys are asking questions. But that’s our roadmap and we’re hopeful that it’s successful.

(What would be a fair question? What are we not asking?)
No, I’m not here to ask myself questions. I’m here just to answer.

(What are we missing about what you’re describing? The silver bullet?)
I don’t know if there is a silver bullet. I think that’s what you’re looking for. And I don’t know if that’s fair. I think we approached this trading deadline with a strategy and I think I’ve been very clear on what we tried to do. I don’t think necessarily it’s what you wanted to hear or why, and that’s fine. But, you know, my point of how we attack this or how we addressed it was, we wanted to create some flexibility out here, create some opportunity, and, you know, that’s what we did. Now, is that the perfect solution? I’m not saying it is. I’m saying it’s the path we went down. To Jen’s point, we could’ve just taken the prospects we were talking about down below and tried to aggregate that into something either as a rental or maybe as a long term investment somehow. But those were not things that we felt were going to be our best chance of long term success, so we didn’t do it. And if that’s wrong, well, then time will tell.

(The idea is to continue homegrown players?)
Well when you look at some of the decisions we’ve made over the last few years, we’ve sort of diverted from that. We’ve been more aggressive in the free agent market. And, you know, you could argue that that maybe hasn’t been as successful as the other way. And, you know, when you look back over the last few years, sometimes the trade market has provided that. We did not feel that we were in a place where what the ask was for what the return was made sense for us and so as we looked at all the different options out there, if you will, over the last two weeks, we ended up going down this path. And, again, we feel good about it. Do I come here telling you we hit a home run over the last 24 hours? No. But, we still were able to successfully go down the path we felt we needed to.

(Baseball analogy: advanced the runner?)
Yeahhhh, I’d say at least a single. [laugh]

(I don’t know, kind of having a barbed exchange)
But I mean I feel like that’s- again, I’m not claiming this was a home run. I’m claiming that it was an incremental strategy that we feel in the end will have long term benefits.

(Was proximity in the standings part of this?)
Oh you mean like all in to chase or all in to give up?

(To focus on 2019.)
Well, look, if we were completely waving the white flag, wouldn’t it have been where we would have taken either free agents to be or pieces we just didn’t feel fit in that have control for 4 or 5 years and just put them to market? Right. We could’ve done that. But where we are in the standings, we just didn’t feel like that timing was right because again, we still feel like we can be competitive.

(So was it a mix between return and standings?)
Yeah I don’t want to be naïve and tell you guys we didn’t like shop people. I mean, that happened. But, the return was not to where we felt like we were willing to do that. You know, an example just out of candid conversation is Bud Norris. Could you move Hicks into the closer role? And people would say ok, you could do that. But we finally have sort of this nice balance in the back end of the bullpen which has been a big struggle for us leading up to most of this season. And so if we can get that 6th and 7th right, then all of the sudden we have a lot more confidence in our bullpen and I think it makes everything else better. And that’s what we feel like we’ve addressed. Now, we’ve done it internally, not externally, but we’ll find out if we’re right.

(All in to chase? Did you explore?)
Um…none of that sort fit like, long term plan and, you know, just having short term gratification was not our goal. We’ve been in this for the long haul since the day I joined here, and that’s going to be what we continue to try to be.

(You have a phrase?)
I do think like the written narrative of always buying and selling is not sort of- it doesn’t necessarily fit us. But yet that seems to be what gets talked about a lot. And for us, we were looking at it as, you know, were there things we could do internally that made us stronger? And we hope we did that. Why trade someone off your major league club that was your starting center fielder? It seems like that we’re selling. And for us, it really wasn’t. It was about adding depth to our organization as well as creating opportunity for someone else.

(Is it worth trying a thing that hasn’t fit?)
Yeah, I mean, come in and do my job. You tell me. (Ok.) If you get it, good luck.

(The internal expectations the same today as a month ago?)
Yeah, again, I feel like they’re different in that they’re more positive. I really feel like what you’re feeling in the clubhouse and what you’re seeing is refreshing. I can imagine if you’re one of those younger players and you’re getting this chance, you’re excited. Again, it boils down to wins, losses, and performance, so, in the end, that’s how they’ll be judged.

(Production in CF has been low since May)
Yeah, I suppose that’s a simple way of saying it. The idea of, we hit this refresh button when you’re trying to hit the reset button, part of that is to create chances or opportunities for others. And to what I said to Jen earlier, that the way it was going wasn’t working. You try to do something different. Here’s our approach.

(Message for the young kids resonate with vets too?)
Um, I hope so. Everybody kind of looks through the world with a different set of lenses depending on where they are in the world, right? Um, but, yeah, I hope people understand that for the most part we’re still committed to trying to win.

Jeff Jones is the host of Locked On Cardinals. He covers the Cardinals and St. Louis Blues for St. Louis Game Time and 920 AM WGNU. He got a high five from Lou Brock after Dmitri Young’s triple in game four of the 1996 NLCS. He probably doesn’t hate the Cubs as much as you do.

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