As much as I would like to know if the Cardinals are seriously pursuing any players via waivers, I know no one will admit it even if there is something going. So, when I sat down with Assistant General Manager John Mozeliak last weekend, I focused on the process – how the team evaluates potential player acquisitions. We discussed scouting reports, stats, agents, personalities, health and of course, contracts.
Mozeliak joined the Cardinals' organization in 1995, one year after Walt Jocketty was hired. The two had previously worked together for the Colorado Rockies. With the Cards, "Mo" has played a number of roles, including scouting director for two different stretches - in 1999 and 2000 and again in 2003 and 2004. He became Director of Baseball Operations in 2001 and was promoted into his current position in January, 2003.
The 36-year-old's current responsibilities are broad and deep. He assists General Manager Walt Jocketty with day-to-day club operations, in professional scouting and has involvement with both the scouting and player development staffs.
The second part of this interview will run here tomorrow.
What are the factors when considering a player deal?
The components that go into any kind of trade or free agent market – anytime you are looking at bringing a player into the organization – first you want to determine talent evaluation. And that takes multiple forms.
One is a scouting report, or multiple scouting reports, for that matter. Secondly, you have your statistical analysis. Third you will look at any analysis that will have predictors in what the player may do in his performance later. And then, you have to look at the value of the player and how that equates to the current market, in terms of either the contract you are going to assume and how that fits into your current budget constraints, or criteria, if you will, and if it is the free agent market, you're looking at it in terms of ‘can you put a deal together that makes sense for you as a club?'.
You obviously have scouting reports and statistics on every player in every organization. But, when you are narrowing it down to a certain position or small group of players, do you do deeper analysis?
I think any time you start to narrow your list of what you may be trying to acquire, you always continue to go deeper. You always feel like you are doing your due diligence in terms of what you are trying to accomplish, but you always wish you could have more in this business. But, in the end, you have to go with what you are confident in doing.
In our case, we rely heavily on Walt and Tony on the direction they want to go with particular players.
With all these inputs, how to you weight or balance them all to come to a conclusion?
I don't think there is only one Holy Grail formula in weighting scouting reports versus statistical analysis. But, I do think the more confidence you have in the statistical side is at the major league level. Because, obviously, your sample is large, you have a long history…
And at the same skill level…
Exactly. There are no unknowns. Like in college, you've got the aluminum bat, park factors and that, that go into this equation. You will have a lot higher comfort zone (in the majors).
However, with that said, there are some players that may perform very well that aren't really gifted on the talent side but maybe are very limited. What you see, is what you get. And there is very limited upside. Depending on the acquisition or the type of deal that you are trying to make, you still may want to rely on what a scout may say or predict in future years.
To tell you it is a 70-30 split, that is not fair. It doesn't work that way. There really is no perfect scenario as far as percentages are concerned. Every deal or every player is unique. So, to have one blanket statement, I could not do that.
When you are looking at a player under contract to another team, how readily do you have access all the details of those contracts?
We have access to all that. There are two systems that allow us to evaluate contracts. That is the PIA system and there is also a new system used by Major League Baseball called EBIS.
So, does that mean that everyone has access to all information?
In my experience, you really need to read the fine print of every contract and understand exactly what you may be acquiring.
Are other clubs totally open in terms of calling attention to these idiosyncrasies or do they leave it up to you to sort through the fine print yourself?
I don't think anybody is trying to hide anything. But, with that said, I don't think they are necessarily revealing everything.
How do the agents and player representatives get involved in a deal and how early are they engaged?
Their involvement should be minimal. But, there are times when an agent may find out that Team A has an interest in their player. The agent may call and basically sell his wares to the club, if he thinks it is a better fit for his player.
It is not something that is typical. But, is it done in the business? It probably is, as these guys want to try to help players get better situations.
How about the players? When considering a deal, do you consult with team leaders to get their take on the potential impact to the club?
Not really. But, obviously, taking a team like the Cardinals in 2005, we're having a lot of success. So, based on success, the common thing to say would be that there is good chemistry. With that in mind, do we want to jeopardize that chemistry to bring in a new face? Again, it depends on the player and the benefit of what that player could bring to the team when we factor into that equation whether it is a good time to make a move or not.
Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.