Bill DeWitt Jr., John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch speak with the media on Friday about the promotions for Mozeliak and Girsch with the Cardinals.

By Rob Rains

Michael Girsch is taking over as the Cardinals’ general manager on the cusp of what could be one of the more important months in the team’s recent history.

The Cardinals are just 31 days away from the major-league trading deadline, when Girsch – in consultations with John Mozeliak and owner Bill DeWitt Jr. – will have to decide if the team is going to be buying or selling players.

Those decisions will be dictated in part by what happens on the field during the coming month, a month that will begin with the Cardinals under .500 but still very much alive in a stagnant NL Central race.

Girsch was given the title of vice president and general manager, promoted from his position as assistant general manager, on Friday when Mozeliak, who has spent the last 10 years in the GM position, was given the new title of president of baseball operations for the Cardinals.

What the changes basically mean is that Mozeliak will be taking more of a “big picture” approach to the Cardinals organization, with his eyes more focused on DeWitt’s goal to keep a competitive advantage over other teams, while Girsch will assume more responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the team.

Among the decisions which Girsch will immediately have to face are whether to trade players eligible for free agency at the end of this season, such as pitchers Lance Lynn and Seung Hwan Oh, or if there are other moves that should be made not only to improve the roster for the rest of this season but for 2018 and beyond.

Girsch, 41, has worked in the Cardinals’ front office for the last 12 years, the last seven years as the assistant general manager, where he worked closely with Mozeliak. He has been actively involved in the operation and development of the team’s analytics department.

During a news conference on Friday at Busch Stadium, DeWitt said the timing of the promotions was intended to keep stability in the front office with the Cardinals believing Girsch might have become a candidate for a GM job with another organization in the coming months.

“We have a busy July coming,” Mozeliak said. “Our goals remain the same. We expect to win, we expect to compete and we expect to put a product on the field that all can be proud of. Even though the struggles of this season have been difficult, we’re going to continue to work hard to get back to where we want to be.”

Girsch said his view of the team’s performance as it nears the halfway point in the season is the same as Mozeliak, and what happens in the next couple of weeks on the field will influence what decisions are made before the July 31 trade deadline.

“We’re evaluating all of our options,” Girsch said. “The next few weeks obviously will figure in to how we look at things. As Mo said, our goal is to win. Our goal is always to win. What form that takes at this trade deadline is to be determined. What we are trying to do is set ourselves up to win.

“It’s a team that hasn’t performed to expectations. We’ve been playing better recently. I still think this is a team that can win. We are reaching a critical point in the season where it has to start soon.”

DeWitt said he didn’t really like the word “seller” when it comes to moves before the deadline.

“The word seller is really a misnomer,” DeWitt said. “We’re not selling to dump payroll, we’re looking to improve, both short term and long term. If we have a short-term asset and we can get a long-term asset I don’t view that as selling, I view that as investing. Those are the decisions that need to be made.

“It’s not like there is going to a wholesale overall. We’ve got a great young core on this club we think will be with us for a lot of years. We’re always looking to improve it.”

Improving the long-term future of the Cardinals is a challenge Mozeliak said has him energized and excited.

“One of Bill’s great challenges to the baseball operations department has always been very simple, what’s our competitive advantage,” Mozeliak said. “How do we separate ourselves from 29 other organizations? That’s something I do feel over the last four or five years I haven’t focused on.

“When you are looking at what’s that next frontier, what can we do to separate ourselves, that’s something I want to focus on moving forward. … I do feel like there’s work to be done and there’s places we can improve. It’s an opportunity to hit the refresh button.”

The promotion for Girsch came a dozen years after he had a “crazy idea” to quit his job in private business in Chicago to move to St. Louis and pursue a career in baseball. He joked Friday that he rented a house for the first year, just in case the job didn’t work out.

“I was working consulting and while I enjoyed my job I didn’t particularly care whether or not our client successfully integrated their Latin American operations,” Girsch said. “It wasn’t a passion, sorry to my client. I was sort of at a point where I was wondering what I was passionate about in life. I wandered off to that I always wanted to be a GM of a baseball team and nobody had called me yet so maybe I should try to do it on my own.

“It was just chase the dream, see what happens. When it started I didn’t honestly think it would result in a job opportunity. Obviously it worked out pretty well.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains