Front Office: St. Louis Cardinals
At 68-39, the Cards, despite losing ace Adam Wainwright to a torn Achilles in April, boast MLB’s best record, to go with a 9.5 game lead in the NL Central division, the largest edge of any division winner. How a team loses an ace and pitcher who has finished in the top-3 in NL Cy Young voting four times and is still able to complete, let alone lead a division, is a testament to the work of general manager John Mozeliak and president of operations William O. DeWitt III, son of the team’s owner.
Despite losing three-time (twice with St. Louis) MLB Executive of the Year in general manager Walt Jocketty, fresh off a World Series win in 2006, the Cards plugged in Mozeliak into the position, and the GM, who once traded an icon in Jim Edmonds (for eventual World Series hero David Freese), pulled off one of the largest trades in recent memory, acquiring outfielder Matt Holliday from the Oakland Athletics in 2009. Holliday has been a constant on two NL champion teams, and a World Series title winner.
Mozeliak allowed a legend in Albert Pujols to leave (the St. Louis star was demanding a 10-year, $300 million deal), and despite winning a World Series with Pujols in 2011, five years after Jocketty’s departure, Mozeliak brought the Cardinals back to the Fall Classic again in 2013.
Mozeliak has made shrewd, efficient moves, landing Lance Berkman, thought to be washed-up at 34 after his worst season in 2010 (Berkman would later hit .301 with 31 home runs, 94 RBI, and a 164 OPS+, the best of his career, all at the cost of a one-year, $8 million deal, in 2011) and Carlos Beltran, who channeled Babe Ruth in leading the Cards to a World Series berth in 2013, all on a cheap two-year, $26 million contract.
During his time, Mozeliak catapulted St. Louis’s farm system to the top of ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus’s list as the number one minor league system in 2013. During his time, the Cardinals have drafted or acquired postseason hero Michael Wacha, Stephen Piscotty, the Cards’ number one prospect as of early 2014, third baseman Matt Carpenter, second baseman Kolten Wong, first baseman Matt Adams, pitcher Carlos Martinez, pitcher Lance Lynn, closer Trevor Rosenthal, reliever Kevin Siegrest, outfielder Randal Grichuk, and the late Oscar Taveras, all of whom, save for Taveras, are top flight players who have the Cardinals competing despite the club not having a top-ten payroll (the Cardinals’ payroll is eleventh in the majors, at $120,869,458). Additionally, Mozeliak, in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, brought in once highly touted outfield prospect Jason Heyward, enjoying a resurgence as the Cardinals’ right fielder (he leads the team in WAR at 3.7).
While teams like the Boston Red Sox, who tout a top farm system, but a massive payroll, have been up and down despite winning World Series championships, the St. Louis front office has their club competing every single year, even despite losing top names to free agency (Pujols) and injury (Wainwright in 2015, and one-time ace Chris Carpenter in previous years).