Mozeliak Explains Leake Trade

Following the announcement of pitcher Mike Leake being traded to Seattle, St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak held a conference call to discuss the move and direction of the team moving forward.

“Many may find this a surprise move,” began Mozeliak. “But as we were looking at where we wanted our organization to go, we have two realities–one is we have a lot of young pitching coming and we felt like for us to start our off-season now made more sense than trying to wait. We had an opportunity to do this deal with Seattle and decided it was the right time to do it. Therefore, we felt the importance to start this younger track of pitching moving forward beginning today.

“Then the other component of this as we talk about our off-season is our outfield depth and at some point, we will have to cross that bridge as well. But as we look to continue to compete, look at the ways it gives us our best chance to win in 2017, also allowing us to focus a little bit on our future was what today was about.”

While not disclosing specifics, Mozeliak confirmed the Cardinals will “eat some money” from Leake’s contract in addition to the international signing money provided to Seattle. That said, there should still be a significant savings from the $55 million left on the deal. What kind of impact could that have on talks with Lance Lynn?

“I don’t think I would draw any conclusions by what we did today to determine what we’re going to do in the off-season on that regard,” answered Mozeliak. “Clearly when you look at our young pitching coming, we feel like that’s a strength and that’s our future. A name we forget a lot about because of Tommy John surgery is Alex Reyes. He’s progressing very well and ultimately we believe he’ll be part of our rotation next year.”

If not on Lance Lynn, how could this help St. Louis in other deals?

“Well, I think anytime you can re-deploy resources to best address what you’re trying to do, I think this is a team that’s difficult as far as like to put your exact thumb on what you want to see done in terms of how you think about future trades or future free agent market, but having said that, it will give us some more flexibility moving forward,” said Mozeliak.

In exchange from Seattle, the Cardinals received 21-year old shortstop Rayder Ascanio.

“He’s a defensive specialist that we feel has some upside as a switch-hitter,” said Mozeliak. “Sometimes you want to take chances on somebody that’s younger and we feel he has some upside. We look at it from a scouting standpoint. We had a lot of favorable reports on him and thought he was the right person to fit what we’re trying to do.”

The Cardinals will wait until tomorrow to announce an additional roster move as they need to fill Leake’s spot on the 25-man roster. Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson were mentioned more than once on the conference call in terms of being amongst the young pitching to be moving forward. However, Hudson is scheduled to pitch tonight for Memphis. Flaherty is slated for Thursday–as is Austin Gomber at Springfield. Both could be held back a day. Or the team could look in yet a different direction.

There should be clarity early next week on when Adam Wainwright will begin his throwing program, but how long that will be and what role he returns to has not yet been decided.

“I don’t think we’ve drawn any conclusions on that,” said Mozeliak. “I think we really have to just sort of wait and see. And see how he responds from where he was to where we hope he’s going. Then as far as role, it would be decided on what we think is best for him.”

As for the timeline of the deal, Mozeliak shared that Leake cleared waivers early in August. Seattle expressed an interest and Mo spoke with Leake’s agent this past weekend about waiving the no-trade clause and got the answer yesterday. Leake did not require any additional compensation.

“I still think we expect to compete,” stated Mozeliak. “We’re just going to do it with a different name and a different face. So ultimately, this is about creating that opportunity internally. And we’re excited about those options and what that looks like. We certainly feel like we’re still in this and we still expect to have success.”

photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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