The Negotiation: John Mozeliak

  • Season 1, Episode 2
  • June 29, 2021
  • 34 minute listen

The Negotiation: John Mozeliak

​“I knew we would be entering into the most difficult negotiation to date for this franchise.”


On October 28, 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals completed a comeback from a 2-3 deficit to win their 11th World Series championship. It was a thrilling series that twice saw Cardinal hitters score clutch runs with the team a single strike away from elimination.

Three days later, the reality of the team’s future resumed for John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations. Manager Tony La Russa, destined for baseball’s hall of fame, announced his retirement. And an off-the-field drama that had loomed over the entire season reappeared: star slugger Albert Pujols was a free agent. Negotiations to keep him with the team, put on hold for the season, had to begin anew.

In this episode, we explore how Mozeliak approached that process, what he had to keep in mind throughout and how it affected the team’s ability to make moves far into the future — keeping catcher Yadier Molina and pitcher Adam Wainwright, for example. Making a deal for Matt Holliday. Trading for Paul Goldschmidt. Even how the ripple effects of losing Pujols allowed the team to acquire Nolan Arenado a decade later for the 2021 season.

How much was Albert Pujols worth to the franchise — and what would have been the opportunity costs for keeping him? Is negotiating over a ballplayer the same as negotiating a car deal? And how do fans complicate the work? Mozeliak says, “the value of these deals won't be known for some time. When you close a deal, there's the euphoria that I got this done, but it's going to require patience. As you're building your company, there are still ups and downs.”

This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Contributors include:

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick and Judy Milanovits, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music, sound design and editing
  • Nate Sprehe, creative direction, production and editing
  • Angie Winschel, production assistance and project management
  • Olivia Hanford, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Mark P. Taylor, strategic support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support

Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred. Special thanks, also, to the St. Louis Cardinals and Major League Baseball for permission to use a clip from the final game of the 2011 World Series and credit to ESPN for a breaking news clip about Pujols.

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Download the podcast transcript (PDF)