Dispelling A Narrative Through The What If Rabbit Hole

Have you ever heard Cardinals fans (or been the Cardinals fan) that contend John Mozeliak just isn't willing to make the moves like Walt Jocketty before him? I've heard that countless times and was almost starting to believe it until I looked back, yet again. I believe my thoughts are finally in order here enough to make this statement:

I think it's more that Jocketty's worked out for him than it is that Jocketty was willing to make them and that Mozeliak is unwilling.

When we think about the 3 big trades Jocketty made it is in the context of him acquiring Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire, and Scott Rolen - he made more of that ilk, but those were the big ones. What I'm going to do here is compare those to John Mozeliak's likely three largest trades, in his acquisitions of Jason Heyward, Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcell Ozuna.

We'll look at what the players were like when the arrived in STL and question what if those trades had similar outcomes to what happened with the Heyward, Goldschmidt, and Ozuna trades? Those are actually three very similar trades when it all comes down to it. Yes, I know diving down the "What If" rabbit hole is delving not into what actually happened, but what could have happened differently. That's the point.

Jim Edmonds and Jason Heyward were slick fielding outfielders with a bit of flair. Edmonds had won 2 gold gloves and had a 119 OPS+ at the time of the trade. Heyward had won 2 gold gloves and had a 114 OPS+ at the time of the trade. Heyward was actually 5 years younger at the time of the trade than Edmonds as well. You could almost say that Heyward was the better get in this situation. Even if he wasn't, what if Edmonds had signed here, had that career year of 147 OPS+ in 2000 and then left via free agency for the Cubs after the Cardinals had attempted to sign him to big money? Because that's what Heyward did. What if Heyward had stayed and put up 8 seasons of OPS+ 24 points higher than what he had done in Atlanta? Because that's what Edmonds did.

Mark McGwire and Paul Goldschmidt were unquestionably middle of the order hitters when we acquired them. McGwire was on a run for the ages in the middle of the 1997 season and had a 155 OPS+ throughout his career, but was already 33 years old. Goldschmidt was only 30 and had a 145 OPS+ instead, but was also a three-time gold glove first baseman as well. What if instead of having the best three-year stretch of his career as soon as he gets to St. Louis, he performs like Goldschmidt, at a 122 OPS+ (23 points of league average adjustment worse)? Because Goldy did (for 2 years at least). What if instead of having the worst two-year stretch of his career, Goldschmidt put up 2200+ PA of OPS+ 25 points higher than his previous career totals? Because McGwire did.

Scott Rolen v. Marcell Ozuna is obviously the stretch in this scenario. Both players were 27 years old at the time of the acquisition. Rolen had a career 126 OPS+ with multiple gold gloves before arriving in St. Louis in a mid-season trade. Marcell Ozuna had a career 115 OPS+ before arriving on the scene in St. Louis, but that had jumped by 11 points in the previous year when he had a 149 OPS+. That 149 OPS+ of Ozuna's was 10 points of league average adjustment higher than Rolen had ever performed as a Phillie (139 OPS+ as his best year). He also (somehow) had won a gold glove in LF. What if Rolen had come here and not only been worse than his 1 monster year (at that point) by OVER 40 points of league average adjustment, but also worse than his entire career prior to coming to St. Louis? Because that's what Ozuna did. What if instead, Ozuna had come in and put up two seasons of better than what I had expected and been about 20 points of OPS+ higher than in Miami? Because that's what Rolen did when he came over from Philadelphia.

NONE of those "bad" things happened to Jocketty's Cardinals and ALL 3 of those "bad" things happened to Mozeliak's Cardinals. Is that the fault of the GM/POBO? Of the players themselves? Of the coaching staffs? Of the ball park? Probably a bit of all of those things. I'm not saying this to fight for John Mozeliak's job. I'm not saying this to belittle Walt Jocketty.

I simply don't think that the problem is in the willingness to make big moves. I DO think that the snake bites from actually making the moves makes fans somehow think Mozeliak is not willing to make them.