ACKERMAN: Cards' Mozeliak stays the course in slow offseason

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By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - When it comes to this particular baseball offseason, January is the new December. You've heard this for about two months now, right?

Well, John Mozeliak wasn't kidding.

Aside from the Padres (Blake Snell, Yu Darvish) and Mets (Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco) mega-trades -- and most recently the Nationals' acquisition of Kyle Schwarber -- the MLB Hot Stove has been rather cool.

"I would imagine on the player-agent front there is some frustration it's not moving quicker," Mozeliak, the Cardinals' president of baseball operations, told me on the phone this week. "I think there's so much uncertainty, teams are just concerned about when to think about committing, or what to commit. With that, I think that's created some level of a paralysis with the market."

But that doesn't mean the offseason will remain mostly dormant. There are transactions to be made, especially in the quiet NL Central.

"I think you're also going to start to see more activity," Mozeliak said. "Because spring training is approaching, teams are starting to make movements. Even where we stand, we understand we have got to put a team out there. We're looking at a lot of different options as we continue to pay attention to these multiple markets. Hopefully, as we inch closer to spring training, we're able to do something before we get down to Jupiter."

The South Florida home of the Cardinals' spring training complex is ready for business. But with the uncertainty and unknown that COVID-19 has created in sports, will MLB gets its workouts and exhibition games started on time?

"I'm sure many of your listeners read what's happening in baseball," Mozeliak said during his regular visit on KMOX's Sports on a Sunday Morning. "Some players that have come out and said baseball will be right on schedule. My fingers are crossed they're right, but I don't know that."

The Cardinals, like many teams, are learning from the experience of the shortened 2020 season, with the presence of the virus at every turn.

"We're operating right now with the assumption that in mid-February, we head down to Jupiter and begin camp," Mozeliak said. "Now, when you look at COVID-19 projections and where this pandemic is heading, it's a bit scary to think we're going to open camp and not have any delays or quarantines. Especially if we don't have access to the vaccine."

For that reason, Mozeliak will make sure his team is ready for whatever COVID throws their way.

"This week, there will be a part of me that's going to start focusing on logistics, on creating multiple plans for what our camp might look like," Mozeliak said. "I'll get with our manager and medical staff... and we will decide what those first couple weeks will look like. Those first couple of weeks are not going to look the same, if we're in the height of this pandemic and we're trying to avoid having an internal outbreak. So we'll have to create our own little bubble, create some ways of making sure we get the baseball work done but also remaining safe."

In the meantime, there is a roster to build. And it is possible we could see some movement this week, according to Mozeliak.

"Historically, this week is where you would focus on your arbitration cases," he said Sunday. "The exchange date is on Friday. But I don't think the industry will be solely limited to that, because of where the free agent market is. So I do think you might read or hear about some activity that's not solely related to arbitration."

Staying consistent with team policy, Mozeliak did not name any of the free agents out there currently. We know, of course, without him saying their names, that lifetime Cardinals Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Kolten Wong are among those on the market.

But Mozeliak and his staff also have their focus on another group: Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, Jordan Hicks and Harrison Bader.

"Come Friday, there will be a lot of players that agree to avoid going to a hearing," Mozeliak said. "A lot of work will lead up to that. For us, we have four players who are arbitration-eligible. Ultimately, we'll probably begin in earnest on Tuesday, really working on that."

It's another day in January.

I mean, "December."