2022 MLB front office rankings: The National League Central

Aug 25, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington looks on during batting practice before the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington looks on during batting practice before the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike Girsch. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Girsch. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

John Mozeliak and  Mike Girsch, St. Louis Cardinals

Impact: -5.1.

Division rank: third

MLB rank: 20th

The Cardinals were the third of five postseason qualifiers this year to survive a negative front office performance — and the numbers in St. Louis were the worst of the five.

Mozeliak and Girsch probably sensed they were sitting on a holdover talent gold mine, one that amounted to +20.6 WAA. With that as a base, they approached improvement conservatively. The Cardinals’ moves affected only 39 MLB players, the division’s fewest.

The two moves Cardinal fans will remember were the midseason trades to bolster the pitching staff. Jose Quintana came in from Pittsburgh and went 3-2 with a 2.01 ERA in a dozen starts. Jordan Montgomery was acquired from the Bronx and, in 11 starts, he was 6-3 with a 3.11 ERA.

Those certainly were two of the more productive moves, as were the signing of free agent Albert Pujols and the callup of rookie Brendan Donovan. Collectively those four changes improved the Cardinals by 4.8 WAA.

The problems lay in the remaining 35 moves, all the nickel-dime stuff nobody paid attention to. Reliever T.J. McFarland is one example. He signed as a free agent over the winter and only worked 33 innings before being released, but those 33 innings cost his team -1.4 WAA.

In sum, only a dozen of the team’s 39 personnel moves impacted the team positively, while fully two dozen brought a negative return. Almost all those negatives were small, but they added up.

Mozeliak and Girsch had an especially ordinary year dealing with free agents, and there were a lot of them. The front office signed 10 of them and released two others to competitors. But only three of those 12 moves impacted St. Louis positively, Pujols being the notable exception. Nine, meanwhile, hurt, and the composite pain left the St. Louis front office in 29th place among the 30 teams for net free agent impact.

Donovan’s stellar debut was a major reason why the farm system impact rated sixth overall. The Cardinals were 12th in net trade impact.