ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – John Mozeliak’s fear was that the entire double-A Springfield Cardinals outfield from 2017, would be stuck with no room for promotion going into this spring – that’s why Randal Grichuk needed to be traded. The St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations told our Mike Kelly, after offseason trades involving Stephen Piscotty and Magneuris Sierra, the outfield still had “too much depth.”
That’s what sparked Friday’s trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, which returned right-handed pitchers Dominic Leone, 26, and Conner Greene, 22.
Mozeliak decided last week to step up the search for a trade partner that was interested in Grichuk, to the benefit of both the player and the Cardinals. He said, based on conversations with Grichuk’s agent this offseason, the 26-year-old was looking for an opportunity to get more playing time. Grichuk knew he was viewed as a fourth outfielder at best in St. Louis this year.
Kelly’s conversation with Mozeliak can be heard at the 15:15 mark, below:
Now in Toronto, he will likely be the starting right fielder, with Kevin Pillar in center and Curtis Granderson in left. And after the season he will be arbitration eligible for the second year in a row.
“These guys understand that they have a small window to earn and he was hoping for more playing time but was never disgruntled,” Mozeliak says. “And I think he was grateful for his time here, but I do think he welcomes a new opportunity.”
The two Cardinals players who stand the most to gain from the move will be Harrison Bader, 23, and Tyler O’Neill, 22. Bader hit .235 with three home runs in 32 games with St. Louis last season. While O’Neill slugged 31 home runs in triple-A, which tied for fourth in the PCL, in his time with the Memphis Redbirds and Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle affiliate).
Mozeliak’s goal between the two outfield prospects will be to get them each as many at bats as possible. He says if one starts his season in St. Louis and other in Memphis, but MLB player isn’t getting enough at bats after a few weeks, the two could be swapped.
But just like the Piscotty trade wasn’t done for the sake of PR, Mozeliak says he and Girsch needed bullpen help in return. He says they were listening to trade proposals about Grichuk, back while Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna were still on the market. Then last week, they were the ones making calls to try and move Grichuk.
The Blue Jays, who the Cardinals had already traded short stop Aledmys Diaz to this offseason, came up with Greene and Leone.
“Leone is someone that we control for the next four years, which gives us a little flexibility. He also has options and so it just became the right move,” Mozeliaks says. “And then we were trying to see what kind of prospect we could get the deal and Greene is someone that looks very similar to Sandy Alcantara.”
Alcantara is currently the No. 70 ranked prospect by Baseball America. He was with St. Louis for part of last season, making his MLB debut and was the centerpiece of the trade to the Miami Marlins for Marcell Ozuna.
Greene, known to hit 100mph on the radar gun, was 5-10 last year in double-A with an ERA above five.
“He’s a power arm, obviously when you look at his performance it’s not something that you would say was stellar,” Mozeliak says. “I could imagine him having a role change to the bullpen. That’s something though before we go down that path, we want to see him, work with him and then decide what makes the most sense.
“But when you’re looking at raw material to work with, in a 22-year-old, it’s pretty exciting.”
As for Leone, Mozeliak says he expects him to compete for the closer role. He was 3-0 in 2017, with a 2.56 ERA and recorded 11 Holds in 65 games pitched.
“Definitely has some sway in this stuff when you’re looking at these types of profiles, the one thing that stood out to us is his ability to pitch in the seventh or eighth (innings),” Mozeliak says. “I do feel like when you’re looking at sort of the makeup of our bullpen there was a little bit of a divide between people we have confidence in the seventh, eighth or ninth, versus fifth or sixth.”