For the first time since Albert Pujols dug his feet in at Busch Stadium's home plate, the St. Louis Cardinals will have a hitter that other teams truly fear. Welcome to our town, Paul Goldschmidt.
Around 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, the Cardinals closed a deal for the former Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman, securing his services for at least the 2019 season. This was bold, beautiful, and daring. The risk and reward that should pull on heartstrings just enough for the next 365 days. Everything Cardinal Nation demanded after the team missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Bold action by the front office. Does it get much bolder than this? Well, yeah, but we'll talk about that later. For now, let's handle some questions.
Was this the biggest move? Can the team re-sign Goldschmidt? Those are questions without answers for the time being, so in the mean time, let's break this acquisition down properly.
What does Goldschmidt bring to the Cardinals at the plate?
A six-time All Star who has averaged 5.8 WAR over the past six seasons, and won three Silver Slugger awards. If you want consistency, Goldschmidt brings plenty of it. This is what his 162 game average looks like for his career:
40 doubles, 31 home runs, 105 RBI, 97 walks, and a slash line of .297/.398/.532. You haven't seen those numbers since Pujols played in St. Louis. A guy averaged a .900+ OPS every single year. With apologies to Matt Holliday, it simply hasn't existed since #5 left town. It has returned.
Goldschmidt can mash a double, crank a home run, and do damage in the coveted #3 hole in the lineup. What the team wanted Marcell Ozuna (and still hope) to be, Goldschmidt already is.
He also tears up the National League Central Division. Check this out.
How about the defense?
Goldschmidt owns three Gold Gloves at first base, bringing deft glove work to a position that cost the Cardinals in recent years. You won't see Jose Martinez use the wrong foot or someone that you hope can get to the bag or turn a double play. It will be done. Goldschmidt will form a deadly right side of the infield with Kolten Wong.
While his arm strength and range are full-season question marks, Matt Carpenter did save the Cardinals six runs at third base last year in 568.2 innings. Overall the past three years at the hot corner in over 1,000 innings, Carpenter has saved eight runs, so it's not all bad. Having a vacuum like Goldschmidt will surely help anyone throwing to him, so don't worry too much about the defense for now.
What did the Cardinals give up?
Little. Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, and Andy Young will go to Arizona along with an upcoming draft pick that will not be in the first round.
After coming into 2018 with high hopes, Weaver lost his spot in the rotation, accumulating a 4.95 ERA and getting smoked by the opposition way too often. The owner of two worthy pitches didn't have a sure return to the rotation in 2019, and would probably function as a swing man, which is expendable.
Kelly is blocked by a still-strong Yadier Molina, and was passed up on the depth chart by Andrew Knizner, who has a better bat. Kelly's offensive output, while limited by small sample size, didn't impress many in the organization and left a guy like Francisco Pena to take his backup job. The most telling outlook on Kelly's rep in the organization came when Molina missed a month and Pena made more starts. Once again, expendable.
Young will be 25 years old in May and showed some pop at Springfield in 2018 and is a switch hitter, but is blocked by Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Wong, and Yairo Munoz. He flourished in the Arizona Fall League recently, which helped him get dealt. See ya, pal.
Expendable assets. All of them. Worst case scenario and Goldschmidt walks after 2019, the Cardinals weren't crippled by this gamble.
What about the contract? Only one piece of cake??
Goldschmidt has one year left on his contract at a very moderate $14.5 million dollars. For the price of one damaged Greg Holland and less than incumbent right fielder Dexter Fowler, Goldschmidt will be a bargain in 2019. However, a year from now, he is free to walk away.
This instantly gives fans harsh nightmares of Jason Heyward shunning St. Louis and heading north to Chicago. I get it, but I also must mention a caveat in this point of view. Heyward was younger, didn't want to be the #1 under the huge spotlight, and spotted a team closer to contending in the Cubs. There's no telling Goldschmidt, 32 years old near the end of the upcoming season, will do what Heyward did. Two different men with unfiltered agendas.
No one knows what Goldschmidt will want to do next winter. The Cardinals track record, while not as shiny as it was a decade ago, is still capable of luring in Midwest virgins. There's a lot to like about this team, stuffed with raw young talent and assured veteran faces, and the city. What worked with Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Holliday can work with Goldschmidt. Show him the kingdom and let him pick his seat.
What do you offer a 32-year-old perennial MVP candidate next year? A lot of money presumably. There is money coming off the books in 2021 and beyond, so don't sweat the financials right now. John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt Jr. acquired this guy to re-sign him to a big extension. It's what they do. The Cardinals don't let rentals leave without taking a mighty swing. If Goldschmidt hauls off another 5.0 WAR season, will you really say he's suddenly old and unworthy? No. You won't.
Can the team still get Bryce Harper?
Yes. MLB.com reporter Jenifer Langosch didn't treat that idea kindly Wednesday evening in a tweet that stated the team no longer views the former Washington National outfielder as a target, but this could simply be what the team is putting out right now, so take it with a few grains of salt.
Do you expect Mozeliak to come out and go, "Well, at the end of the day, tomorrow I mean, we will also have Bryce Harper in uniform. Yes, we are getting Bryce!" Boom, cue the mic drop and bow tie tightening session! The Cardinals are far from done, and should still be in on Harper. Until he signs with another team, don't write a check that logic will simply bounce. The Cardinals aren't foolish enough to think one year of Goldschmidt is enough.
Just remember this...
With Goldschmidt, and some solid bullpen upgrades, the Cardinals sit near 95 wins right now. This should put them into the National League Central contention as well as the pennant. They pulled off a trade without losing any vital pieces. As you sip your morning coffee, are you really perturbed that Carson Kelly is no longer a Cardinal? Will you long for Luke Weaver to disappoint you again?
The Cardinals acquired an MVP candidate with a career OPS of .930 (.800 is pretty good by the way) without giving up a big piece. It's one year, but could be much more.
Here's the thing. The Cardinals woke up this morning a lot better than they were yesterday morning. Unlike certain players on the team, Goldschmidt isn't a maybe and doesn't carry an "if" on his jersey. He's a sure thing.
My two main reservations about a Goldschmidt trade revolved around the term and price. The one year left on his deal and the amount of players Arizona would ask for. I figured Dakota Hudson and Tyler O'Neill were going to the desert. I was wrong. The cost was lower, and the return was golden.
Mozeliak and the Cardinals should be wanted for theft. They stole something!