Mozeliak: don’t expect COVID vaccine to restore baseball finances in 2021


The view from the penthouse at the new #1 Cardinal Way apartment building, offers a exquisite view of Busch Stadium, in St. Louis on Monday, October 26, 2020. The 29-story tower is part of a $360 million mixed-use neighborhood called Ballpark Village, with retail, restaurant and residential properties. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

ST. LOUIS, Mo—In his first extended comments to reporters in more than a month, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak discussed the state of the offseason Wednesday afternoon.

Normally, executives would be spending this time of year in a single city hotel, mingling with eachother and player agents, trying to swing trades and free agent signings. With the pandemic, like other in-person gatherings, that work is being done remotely and via ZOOM this year.

With uncertainty still hanging over issues like making the Designated Hitter universal in 2021, roster sizes and playoff makeup, it’s been a slow-moving offseason for clubs. Mozeliak said Wednesday that “January will be the new December” when it comes to knowing enough about what lies ahead economically and league rules-wise to promote more player transactions.

Among the key topics raised Wednesday:

  • On if vaccines give hope that baseball’s finances, particularly for teams like the Cardinals that rely more on gate revenue, would improve particularly for the second half of the season, Mozeliak said “Mathematically it’s not going to get to where we once were, probably for a couple years,” without offering specifics.
  • On Payroll: No hard number, but will be less than last season.
  • On Wainwright/Molina free agent talks: “I don’t feel extraordinary pressure to do something today.”
  • On a possible Kolten Wong return: the door is “still slightly ajar”
  • While there’s been plenty of speculation on how the club might improve offensively by bringing in a new outfielder, Mozeliak offered no hints on the positions he was targeting.

Taking a 2021 approach of “doing more with less,” Mozeliak was asked if he can bring back the same team and expect to be better. “I do think there is talent in this group that didn’t play to the level we expected,” he said, while adding it is hard to read much into anyone’s 2020 performance considering what the club faced getting through a season with a COVID shutdown and the assorted obstacles that came along with it. He compared it what football has faced, with teams playing without a real quarterback, or scheduling games just a few days out.

While the pandemic’s economic impact on baseball could have some teams thinking about planning to be competitive a few years from now, Mozeliak still sounded bullish on the present.

“We’re pretty excited about the team we have right now,” he said

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