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Bill DeWitt Jr.: “We’re Not Buyers Or Sellers. We’re Dealers.”

Here are a couple of excerpts from my Friday-morning interview with Cards chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. on 101 ESPN.

DeWitt touched on a number of topics during our conversation and you’ll be able to listen to the audio here on our site.  Check back later at 101sports.com … as I write this, the audio should be available and posted soon. For now, here’s a sample from the interview … 

With the MLB non-waivers trade deadline approaching are the Cardinals poised to be sellers, buyers, or both? 

“We’re not buyers or sellers,” DeWitt said. “We’ve got a lot of young talent at the Major League level and in the higher levels of the minor leagues and in lower levels for that matter. We’re going to be opportunistic if we think we can improve the club for this year, we will do it in a value for value basis. Or if we think that it’s appropriate to improve the club maybe the balance of the year and maybe more next year, we’d consider doing it as well.

“I hope we get into a good run here where by the end of July were right there positioned to make a good run at winning the Central. But deals are hard now too, clubs are reluctant to give you really strong young players even if you decide to try and go that way, particularly those that are close to the Major League level.

“We’re opportunistic, if we think we can get talent where we need it whether it is young or  more veteran and we think that can help us this year, great. If it’s something that is maybe neutral this year bit maybe helps us next year, great too.

“We’re open for business. We’re not buyers or sellers, we’re dealers.  As always, I am prepared to invest, spend money and acquire players and invest short term and long term.”

On Thursday the Cubs gave up two elite prospects (plus two lesser prospects) to acquire LH starting pitcher Jose Quintana from the White Sox. To procure Quintana the Cubs were willing to part with the Eloy Jimenez, 20, a power-hitting outfielder who is rated as the No. 5 overall prospect in MLB. The Cubs also agreed to include RH power pitcher Dylan Cease, who throws 100 mph. Both prospects were in Class A at the time of the trade.

What did DeWitt think of the Cubs’ big move for Quintana?

“I think that was a good acquisition for them,” DeWitt said.

“It came at a cost. From what I gather (Jimenez) is an excellent prospect. They have a good system; over a three-to-five year period when their team wasn’t very good, they picked at top of the draft and built up a really good system, did well in International signings.

“They’ve got surplus to deal, they’re going for it this year to their credit, so are we, and he’ll help them.”

Touching on some other areas…. 

+ DeWitt said he feels good about the Cardinals as they enter the unofficial second half of the season.  He was encouraged by their 10-5 record going into the All-Star break and likes what he’s seeing from Memphis call-ups Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong and Luke Voit.

+ I’m paraphrasing here, but DeWitt said the Cardinals were  “hard to watch” at times during the season’s first half because of  frequent fundamental lapses. DeWitt takes pride in the organization’s longstanding reputation — established by the late George Kissell —  for teaching, instruction and sharp fundamentals.

+ As I’ve suggested repeatedly on my show and in my column, DeWitt firmly supports manager Mike Matheny — and that remains unchanged. As I’ve said, the idea of Matheny being at risk of losing his job if the Cardinals have a disappointing second half is disconnected from reality. DeWitt absolutely believes that Matheny is the right manager for this job. DeWitt said he believes Matheny has improved tactically.

“From a strategic standpoint I think he’s done a nice job, and sometimes things don’t work out for you,” DeWitt said. “We came in with high expectations with some guys who had tough starts. And he put them in a position to succeed and sometimes they didn’t. And you can’t blame the manager for that. I just thought it was one of those starts to the season where we didn’t perform up to expectations. But that’s why you play 162 games, and at the end of the year we hope we are where we want to be.”

Bernie

More: Are the Cardinals Buyers or Sellers? The Answer: They’re Both

  • William Thom

    Well, I’m not sure he really told us anything. I’ll accept his willingness to deal. We’ll see if it happens. I realize it’s so easy for we fans to get to antsy. I also think the logjams at different positions demand trades. Again, time will tell.

    • JDinSTL

      Logjams of mediocrity.

      • JohnS

        Yes, they have oceans of players, but they are either young and unaccomplished or young and with an obvious flaw (Wacha, shoulder, Wong, injured all the time, Diaz, can’t field, inconsistent hitter, Voit, old rookie, DeJong, too early to tell but MiL history of poor contact, average fielder, etc, etc). Just too many questions and also very many questions surround our high paid vets….Fowler, can’t play center, hurt all the time, Carp can’t play anywhere, declining offensive skills, lousy base runner, Waino, gives up tons of hits and runs, Yadi, fine right now but will he be worth the contract the next couple of years, Gyrko, will he continue or is this and the prior year outliers, C Mart, will he ever gain needed consistency, I just don’t remember a Cards teams with so many issues for practically every one of their prospects and veterans, it appears to be an unholy mess of mass mediocrity. How this organization just sat around and piddled while this thing went to heck is beyond belief!

        • JDinSTL

          What really stinks is how the legions of soft St. Louis sports media types excused them the entire way. Everyone could see the core aging and stars being replaced on the roster by mediocre players. Yet, we’d hear… “It’s early”… “Let’s see how it plays out”…

          Well, now we KNOW how it plays out.

          And, they had a chance for a transformational talent in Luis Robert. Got outworked by the White Sox – of all teams.

          Oh, but they’re first in line to grab a CF that can’t field his position.

    • JohnS

      Too much mealy mouth in his speaking. Said of course Cards are going for it when referencing the Cubs going for it with their Quintana move. Whether they are truly going for it or not remains to be seen. I doubt it, just sounds like more of their cheap talk, if talking would buy WS championships this ownership group would have another 11 of them to hang up, but unfortunately it’s just cheep tawk…

  • JDinSTL

    From a strategic standpoint I think he’s done a nice job, and sometimes things don’t work out for you,” DeWitt said. “We came in with high expectations with some guys who had tough starts. And he put them in a position to succeed and sometimes they didn’t. And you can’t blame the manager for that.

    Mr. DeWitt…. what’s the name of that stuff? Can I have a hit?

  • Jody Wassmer

    DeWitt has done a great job with the Cards, but I firmly believe his unyielding loyalty to Mo and, to a greater extent, Matheny, is fool’s gold. Why you turn a contending team over to a guy with NO managerial experience so he can supposedly learn on the job is stupid.

    • JDinSTL

      Especially when he doesn’t prove capable of learning. THEN it’s time for extensions and promotions for everyone

  • David Dwyer

    The Cards need to be both. I disagree with you Bernie about MCarp. OPS is valuable, but a defensive liability should be a run producer and bat for some average. Regards his BABIP ‘bad luck”….it’s not bad luck when you don’t adjust to the shift. His baserunning, and excuses for it, are bush league. Besides, he’s worthless against Arrieta.
    Who should be available at the deadline??
    Lynn….Cards are not really interested in signing him.
    Carpenter….while the OPS and relatively low salary are appealing
    Diaz….DeJong is ready and showing it on the field
    Grichuk….How long will Cards let him live on ‘potential’? 2015 was the outlier!
    Oh or Rosenthal….Time to make the team ready to roll!!!
    Lyons, Gonzalez, Weaver…..Flaherty is the keeper

    After the deals…………..
    Voit at 1B; DeJong at SS; Wong at 2B; Sierra in CF; Fowler in LF; Piscotty in RF;
    if the right deal is made….Donaldson, Longoria or Machado at 3B
    Fryer (DFA)
    Bench: Gyorko; Garcia; Kelly (C); Martinez (or Bader, A. Garcia, Mercado)

    May the Force be with us for the next 74!!!!!!!!!

    • Dan Grossheider

      Where’s Pham? And why would you put Gyrko on the bench? Better off benching piscotty, get someone to replace him, and leave Pham and Gyrko alone, best hitters we got right now

      • David Dwyer

        You’re correct….replace Martinez with Pham. I still believe Sierra is better defensively and would be a catalyst for the offense than Tommy.
        If you look at the list I would have one of three players coming to Cards in a trade…Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, or Machado from Orioles. All much more capable than Jedd.

        • WizardOfOz1982

          It would be better if Machado is the get to put him at SS, leave Jedd at third, and use DeJong as a super utility guy.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            DeJong or Gyorko could be the “super utility guy.” Both can play multiple positions. Which makes them really valuable.

        • geoff

          Are Donaldson Longoria and Machado on the market??? When you talked to the GMs from those three clubs, what did they want in return? Is anyone else interested in those guys, who is willing to offer a better package? Sometimes we armchair experts forget certain aspects of the trade process. I know I have my fantasy trade, and I know why it is a fantasy too. I would try to make a deal with the Reds involving Votto, Carpenter, a close to ML ready pitcher, maybe two, and any outfielder they want except Sierra. Now I know there are few intra-division trades made and what I would start off willing to trade may not be at all what the Reds would want in return. They may not want to unload that huge long contract of Votto’s but I can’t imagine why they would want to keep it. They are semi cash strapped, not that any MLB team is really cash strapped, they need pitching and Carpenter has a team friendly contract. All of the talk about what the Cards need could pretty well be solved with Joey Votto batting third and playing first base. Votto has what might be called a poison pill contract but he is one of those guys who might actually be able to fulfill the terms and the length and still be productive at its end. Lord knows the Cardinals can afford to pay him. Now, back in the real world… I know the Yankees are in a desperate situation at first base and on the mound, I don’t know what they have to give in return. I don’t know that I would just unload a player of Carpenter’s talent just because a know-it-all like Geoff doesn’t like the way he has changed his approach at the plate.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Like Votto. But Reds won’t do it.

          • geoff

            Like I said…fantasy…dreamworld trade that won’t happen for a variety of reasons.

    • geoff

      One of the best things about baseball is that we all get to be armchair GM’s, Managers, owners , and to some extent , players. We all know more than the guy who actually has or does the job. I know I can handle every one of their jobs better than they can. I just love baseball and summer…this whole thing is so entertaining.

    • LawrenceKScardsfan

      Where would you put Pham? OF – Fowler, Sierra, Pham is how I would stack it left to right. Agreed on Carp – time to move him. Agree on Lynn. Cards do not appear interested in signing him. So why not move him. If Diaz is already history after this year’s slump, trade him. Move Oh too and get a real closer.

  • Dan Grossheider

    We’re opportunistic, means cheapos, if cheap enough we’ll take it

  • JohnS

    Wish he had said “we’re traders” not “we’re dealers”. Makes him sound like he’s talking about selling drugs. Er, well, Cards baseball, maybe the fans ARE mindless addicts, lots of them….Freudian slip?

    • David Dwyer

      AHHH come on no cheap shots at the fans. We didn’t get caught on the basepaths, or bat about 50 points below our average..

      • JohnS

        Agreed, but you just keep on supporting the mess….is that smart??

        • David Dwyer

          It’s hardly a mess when last year they were 10 games over .500 and one game out of postseason. This year has not been great by any stretch. I’ve watched this team for 53 years….. would you rather be a Padres or Phillies fan??!!

        • Jake Luebbert

          Are we supposed to abandon the team when they aren’t playing well? That’s what’s called being a “fairweather fan”…

  • rightthinker4

    Interviews with DeWitt and Mozeliak are uninformative. They give the company line. You usually know their answer before they speak it. DeWitt thinks Matheny is doing a great job. Matheny puts the players in position to succeed, so its not the managers fault when players fail.

  • James R. Norvell

    Heard this before and it clarifies the growing problem of this team. I’ve always contended that the tone is set from the top. The top is now clearly shown to be satisfied with declining performance. How discouraging is that?
    New, even outstanding players, are not the answer, the answer is changing the trajectory of the organization. That means a top down reassessment. If Bill DeWitt, Jr. isn’t ready to do this, I’m ready for new ownership.

  • Gray Nash

    We need one more reliever and a BIG bat. or if DeJong and Voit are the real deal just the reliever

  • Christopher Toth

    I’m not a Matheny fan either and believe he’s part of the problem vis a vis too many promising minor league players eventually regressing while playing under his coaching staff in the big leagues.

    That said, what I can’t understand is how anyone could trash Bill DeWitt given the team’s sustained success, winning record, NL Pennants and World Series titles under his ownership tenure.

    Never mind he largely footed the bill for the new Busch Stadium, something a much richer Stan Kroenke was unwilling to do for St. Louis and the region.

    Bill DeWitt – and his family – are to St. Louis and baseball what the late Dan Rooney and his family were to Pittsburgh and the Steelers.

    We can’t forget – me too – that a mainstay of Rooney’s success was a strongly held belief that head coaches shouldn’t be hired and fired on a carousel basis and whether we like it or not, DeWitt as the owner has followed the same approach.

    Lastly, for those calling for an ownership change, be careful what you ask for. Stan Kroenke is more the norm than the exception and St. Louis was fortunate enough to strike gold when Mr. DeWitt acquired the Cardinals.

    • James Berry

      Spot on.

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    • George Belt

      excellent post

      • Christopher Toth

        Thanks.

    • JDinSTL
      • Christopher Toth

        When you prove the correlation that simply spending more – even if unwarranted – equals wins, then I will pay attention.

        The issue as I see it is the team bet on its development system and has set aside dollars to be able to sign them along the lines of a Piscotty.

        Thus far, the monster contracts of a Heyward, Pujols, David Price, etc., haven’t been cost justified.

        We are at a point where either its the system that’s failed or the big league coaching.

        My view is its the latter. It is also a lot easier to rid yourself of a coaching staff than years worth of players you’ve been developing. The smart move is to change coaching staffs – won’t happen – and if that doesn’t work, admit the system failed.

        • JDinSTL

          The objective of the organization is clear. DeWitt’s justification of blowing off the Luis Robert opportunity is telling. The Cardinals simply don’t have enough transformational talent. And, they’re in denial about it – likely because they think it costs too much money.

          • Christopher Toth

            Not sure we are in a position to fully assess the Cards current biz model given how Matheny has undermined the development of new talent by favoring veterans over rookies (e.g., sitting Taveres instead of Craig, his mind games with Kolten Wong, allowing Mabry to “fix” Matt Adams’ swing with the same disastrous results he inflicted upon Craig or just yesterday his getting into Sierra’s head he has to drive the ball despite his then .444 batting average; Matheny seemingly prefers mentoring – tough love and all – over managing at times; his job is to win games now, not 5 years from now), blown quite a few bullpen arms by mindless over use (e.g., Maness, Rosenthal, Siegrist), decimates his lineups early by incessant double switches, and six years into his reign still can’t figure out optimal bullpen match-ups; the guy loses a ton of games by 1 run.

            It isn’t that I think DeWitt and Mo never make mistakes, but rather that you have to judge them in the totality of their stewardship of the Cards. The Cards have been in 19% of the World Series since 1996 when DeWitt bought the team. Only the Yankees have been to more. Only 6 NL teams have won WS championships since 1996. And only one other NL has more WS titles in that same period: the Giants.

            My own view is they are taking the same approach the Patriots do when because of consistent success are forced to draft low. In that regard, the Cards approach is also similar to soccer’s European transfers market wherein the really money and chips to be made are in developing solid players to sell (trade) and using those funds to acquire transformational players when the timing is right.

            I don’t think at the beginning of this season or last season was the right timing to chase a transformational player. One, the younger talent was unproven. Two, there was a ton of uncertainty over just how many 1st round picks the Cards would lose because of the Astros. And three, realistically it was difficult to see how the Cards could overtake the Cubs to win the central and as such, it was far better to look at capturing a wild card spot as they transitioned through the Waino-Molina era into an era of home grown talent.

            I come from a family of generations of fighter pilots and look at it this way. You always can go afterburner – meaning sign high $ transformational players – but if you do so prematurely, you simply won’t have enough fuel for the fight.

            To be objective, here are two areas I think DeWitt and Mo errored:

            1. 2015 was the year to bring in a transformational player. It was a 100 game winning team but a team that limped into the playoffs due to injuries.

            2. Hiring Matheny in the first place. The easy rationale is because he hasn’t delivered on the number one reason he was hired for: developing home grown talent. But another one is I believe it cost the Cards a WS title in 2014 wherein Bruce Bochey outfoxed Matheny in every way possible. Given the state of the team then, an experienced manager should have been hired.

            My last thought on the subject is twofold:

            One, No one could have forseen Taveres’ death. Most scouts thought he was the transformational player the Cards are missing in the clean up scout. Ditto Reyes arm injury. Those are two big losses.

            Two, given the Cubs struggles this year, I do think it would be wise to try and pull off a trade for a transformational player like Stanton because given the strength of starting pitching and the surging of younger players like Dejong and Voit in addition to an older Pham, the Central title is now unexpectedly within reach. And even if it doesn’t result in a win, strategically it would cause the Cubs to have to spend a lot more dollars eventually on their young core because of Stanton’s long term presence in a Cards lineup. Will that happen? Most likely not.

        • JDinSTL

          Then what?

    • JeremyR

      He was essentially given the team. He paid a very low price for the team and parking garage and then flipped the parking garage for almost as much as he paid for the team.

      He’s been printing money since. So excuse me if I don’t give him much credit

      • Christopher Toth

        It is your decision whether or not to expend tears but when you proffer misleading commentary as a retort, you risk coming off as envious at best and a querulous sot at worst …

        … okay, joking aside, here’s why you are wrong.

        First a qualifier.

        Yes, as a fan I’d like to see DeWitt step it up and do something big such as a whopper of a deal to bag a Stanton from the Marlins.

        Do I think he will?

        No.

        But that doesn’t mean he’s cheap. His business approach since he acquired the Cardinals in 1995 is pretty clear: prudence over emotion.

        And how has his business model compared competitively to his baseball peers?

        In the 21 seasons – 1996 through 2016 – since DeWitt acquired the Cards in December 1995, only 6 NL teams have won World Series championships: Giants (3 titles out of 4 appearances), Cardinals (2 out of 4), Marlins (2 for 2), Phillies (1 for 2) & Diamondbacks (1 for 1).

        Only three teams – the Yankees, Giants, & Red Sox – has won more WS titles; 5, 3, & 3, respectively.

        Only one team – the Yankees – has appeared in more WS championships in those 21 years; 7 times (Cards are tied for second with Giants; 4 times).

        Likewise during those 21 years, 10 teams have failed to even reach World Series while 9 others who did came up empty.

        And you want to complain as though reaching the World Series 19% of the time during his ownership of the Cardinals was somehow a bad thing?

        As for buying the Cardinals on the cheap, no, he didn’t. Not even close.

        DeWitt – and his partners – paid $150MM for the team, the stadium, four parking garages and some additional adjacent land parcels.

        Forbes estimated the Yankees 1995 value – stadium and land included – to be $200MM.

        Quite the opposite of your assertion, DeWitt and his group paid top dollar in 1995 and chose to forgo the $8MM or so in annual parking fees in order to pay down $90MM of acquisition debt borrowed from multiple banks at the time of purchase.

        Forbes has consistently ranked the Cardinals value in a 2X basis. As of today, they estimate the value of the team at $1.8 billion with the Yankees coming in at $3.7 billion.

        If you are looking to vilify a sports owner, then Kroenke’s your guy.

        If you think owners can be had either on the cheap or free, please let me know because I’d love to borrow money from them if they are giving it away for free.

        DeWitt could have pulled a Kroenke but didn’t. Per state and city records, he funded 90% of the stadium’s $365MM final cost.

        He would have had no problem finding a city willing to front the cost almost entirely in and around 2000, but he didn’t.

        IMO, since we are only one of six national league cities to hoist a World Series flag since 1996 and are tied with World Series appearances during that same timeframe with the Giants, I am more than happy with DeWitt’s stewardship of the teamand the roughly $300MM in state and local taxes paid by the team during his ownership tenure.

        • Good post, and good numbers. I am not going to take the time to check your numbers, but will simply assume they are accurate for the reason that I have no reason NOT to believe them, and I agree with you that DeWitt is not cheap and that it is idiotic for commenters here to say he is cheap simply because he doesn’t outbid everybody EVERY time, or even MUCH of the time. There are 29 other MLB teams and presumably most of them are as interested in winning a championship as the Cardinals are.

          • Christopher Toth

            Thanks.

  • geoff

    If Piscotty goes on the DL, the logical call-up would be Sierra. He is already on the 40 man and adding Bader would force them to drop someone because Duke is due to come off of the 60 day DL. It should be interesting to see what they do. It will be even more interesting if Sierra comes up and plays as well as he did before. This team has a need for speed and this kid is really fast. He puts pressure on the opposition and he can flat go get it in the outfield. Stretch run is coming now and it is time for Rosenthal to step up his game as well.

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    What is this – the DeWitt straddle?

    The guy says – “We’re going to be opportunistic if we think we can improve the club for
    this year, we will do it in a value for value basis. Or if we think that
    it’s appropriate to improve the club maybe the balance of the year and
    maybe more next year, we’d consider doing it as well.”

    But later on he says – ““They’ve (the Cubs) got surplus to deal, they’re going for it this year to their credit, so are we, and he’ll help them.”

    So are we “going for it” or not? Hard to tell from these evasive answers. Clearly DeWitt is straddling.

    Since the big trade prospects are Reyes and Kelly (neither one of which I’d consider trading), I can understand DeWitt’s predicament.

    And this is why I wanted the Cards to make moves in the off season of of 2015 and 2016 when there were FAs available to help the team. If you’re unsuccessful, at least you could’ve tried. But the Cards did not make an offer for Cespedes, Chris Davis, Chapman or Turner. So it is disappointing to hear DeWitt complain – “But deals are hard now too, clubs are reluctant to give you really
    strong young players even if you decide to try and go that way,
    particularly those that are close to the Major League level.”

    Yes deals are hard to come by. That’s why they have Free Agents and that’s why you have the wallet.

    • Realist50

      “But the Cards did not make an offer for Cespedes, Chris Davis, Chapman or Turner.”

      Taking those in order:

      The team basically signed Fowler instead of Cespedes, at an overall lesser price (5 years / $82.5 million vs. 4 years / $110 million). We’ll see how each of them performs over the contract, but FWIW this year Fowler has been more valuable than Cespedes as they’ve both missed some time with injuries (Fowler 1.1 fWAR in 309 PA’s, Cespedes 0.3 fWAR in 184 PA’s).

      The Chris Davis contract currently looks terrible. He hasn’t hit much for a 1B ( 111 wRC+ last year, 104 wRC+ this year – http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9272&position=1B ) and still has 5 years / $115 million left after this year.

      There’s a good chance that the Cardinals – like some number of teams – weren’t ever going to be in on Chapman due to his off-field issues. Agree or disagree with that, it’s a defensible position to not want to hand out a premium contract for a closer (5 years / $86 million) to someone with his character issues.

      Justin Turner looks like he would have been a good signing, particularly with how he’s played so far this year. I don’t know the basis for claiming that the Cardinals never made an offer – SI reported that they “expressed interest” in Turner ( https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/12/13/justin-turner-los-angeles-dodgers-free-agency-bargain-hot-stove ) – but there’s a fair amount of speculation that Turner wasn’t going to leave L.A. if he received a serious offer from the Dodgers. He was born and raised in the L.A. area and went to Cal State-Fullerton.

  • Bill Jorgensen

    better be in the market for a ‘closer’ 🙂

  • Scott Warren

    Dealers? Laughable. Then why year after year after year when there is a real need on this team, you sit on the sideline and DO NOTHING? Keeping the powder dry and scrounging for low hanging fruit are your specialty. Sad but true.

  • JeremyR

    Got to give DeWitt credit, he knows how to work the gullible Cardinals fans.