Better late than never, I suppose. I mean that opening statement in a myriad ways.
The first is that the St. Louis Cardinals traded for former Arizona Diamondback Paul Goldschmidt on Wednesday, December 5th, 2018. It is now December 9th as I sit to write this. I have had no time this week nor did I attempt to create any time...but excuses , excuses. The second way in which this being better late than never is on the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been lacking that true middle of the order bat (which in the past couple of years they have attempted to band-aid over with Matt Carpenter by moving him to the three hole and then with trading for Marcell Ozuna after the one good season in his career) since Albert Pujols left after the 2011 season.
I find this truly fascinating. From 2001-2011, Albert Pujols was quite easily the pre-eminent first baseman in the National League (and all of baseball, but that’s beyond this point). Paul Goldschmidt did not enter the league until 2011 and since then has had an 8 year career thus far. In those 8 seasons, he has over 4,700 plate appearances. He has been a top 3 defensive first baseman. He has been the best base running first baseman. Oh, and he also has 40 doubles and 40+ homers per 162 games played to go along with 105 runs and 105 RBI per 162 as well. Not only that, but the dude averages 18 steals per 162 games and an OBP just shy of .400! His .930 OPS over the past 8 seasons has been 4th in baseball of active players over 4,500 PA.
Paul Goldschmidt has basically taken over for Albert Pujols as the humble, National League, first base ambassador (listen to Tara’s discussion with Gambo to understand that train of thought) to baseball and now he’s taking Albert’s place in St. Louis, several years too late. Better late than never, I suppose.
A little over a week ago, I took a look at what a big enough upgrade would look like to make it worth it to the St. Louis Cardinals. Well, this was definitely one. Chuck talked about the whys of getting Goldschmidt on that same day. He talked first about what it might take to get Goldschmidt. He ended up with Dakota Hudson and Carson Kelly. I believe that the actual trade of Kelly, Weaver, Young, and a Comp B pick is almost equivalent to that. The Cardinals probably gave up slightly more than what Chuck landed on, but not overly so. Chuck also lays out a great argument about getting both Goldschmidt and Harper - and I would be ecstatic if they were able to pull that off.
Speaking of the return to the Diamondbacks in that Wednesday deal, my initial thought was two-fold:
On one hand, 5 years of cost control on a pitcher as talented as Weaver (yes, last year was rough), 6 years of cost control on the best catching prospect (Kelly) in our system since Yadier Molina (he had a rough major league debut, but he’s a former top 40-60 prospect in all of baseball), 6 years of cost control on Andy Young (a prospect that Kyle Reis has lauded in the past), and a pick in the late 70s for ONE season of Goldschmidt? That’s about as much as I could handle giving up.
On the other hand, I looked at those names and I thought, “That’s it? I love it.” I was whole anticipating having to give up more than that. Carson Kelly is blocked for the foreseeable future, and the Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak duo at least (who knows what this year will bring with Shildt at the helm) preferred having a veteran MLB backstop behind Molina rather than Kelly. Luke Weaver is coming off of a rough year and while he could bounce back and be a top 4 pitcher in the rotation for the Cardinals, starting pitching is a place of strength from which to move players for the Birds. Andy Young hasn’t done anything yet at the minor league level to make him in-expendable, despite being more than solid at the plate and solid in the field. The pick is just a pick.
Looking forward, the Cardinals’ offseason is far from over with the Winter Meetings happening this week. Even if this is the only major move they make this offseason, the Cardinals have probably set themselves up to be in the playoffs again. However, this is not a move that makes you a division favorite, nor does it set you up for anything beyond 2019, as again (see Ozuna, Marcell) you pick up a guy whose contract is up after the 2019 season.
Derrick Goold has been hinting (or flat out saying) this for well over a year. The Cardinals are set up to compete through the 2019 season. After this year, the Cardinals potentially lose Miles Mikolas, Matt Carpenter (2020 option), Paul Goldschmidt, Jedd Gyorko (2020 option), Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha, and Adam Wainwright to free agency. Not only is that 28% of your opening day roster, but it’s likely 3 of your top 4 hitters in your order, one of your top power sources off of the bench, and two- to three-fifths of your rotation. Not only is it all of that, but it’s nearly $70M potentially off of the books for next year. Along with the uncertainty comes a ton of financial flexibility. That is very interesting to me as a Cardinals fan. The Cardinals always seem to have financial flexibility, but never so much as that to put towards whatever they want - especially when they’d have to fill so many holes. Furthermore, they typically attempt to curtail the uncertainty on the roster to the best of their abilities.
I suppose the Cardinals will do one or more of these things to alleviate the uncertainty:
The Cardinals will sign Bryce Harper to have the middle of the order hitter in his prime for years to come.
The Cardinals will re-sign at least one of those above 7 players in the spring - likely Miles Mikolas - and another one of those players - hopefully Paul Goldschmidt - during the course of the season not letting all 7 test free agency.
The Cardinals will pick up the option on one or both of Matt Carpenter (very likely) and/or Jedd Gyorko (less likely).
Two last things before I let you go (better late than never?):
I believe that this signing could have two more benefits than just Paul Goldschmidt as a player and as an ambassador. As much as I am adamant about lineup protection largely being a myth, I believe Goldschmidt’s presence can have a positive affect both in the lineup and on the infield. The Cardinals haven’t had this good of a 3-hitter or a defender at first base since Albert Pujols. Goldschmidt will provide some fear in a lineup that has had some imposing bats but not a “feared hitter” in the middle of the order and he will provide stability simply by saving throws from other fielders that haven’t been but knocked down at best in the past half-decade plus. Hopefully this allows others to relax and play good ball all year long.
Bryce Harper would fit in so nicely in the lineup if the Cardinals did this: Carpenter (L) - 3B Goldschmidt (R) - 1B Harper (L) - RF Ozuna/O’Neill (R) - LF DeJong (R) - SS Molina (R) - C Wong (L) - 2B P Bader (R) - CF For those of you that scoff at Goldy batting 2nd - see Trout’s 2,289 PA there, Donaldson’s 1,885 PA there, Altuve’s 1,720 PA there, Bryant’s 1,198 PA there, etc.
With that, I’ll let you get back to your regularly scheduled lives. I apologize this went on for so long. Thank you for reading. I do appreciate it.