In the culmination of weeks (months?) of speculation and hot stove rumors, the Cardinals acquired Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks today. The trade sends C Carson Kelly, RHP Luke Weaver, INF Andy Young, and a Competitive Balance B pick to the Diamondbacks. First things first- amazing! Second, this website will be having all the hot Goldschmidt content you can handle over the next few days- heck, A.E. Schafer wrote an article about him this morning, and Tyler Kinzy already has an article up announcing the trade.
A quick summary of Goldschmidt’s career and contract status: at age 31, the eight-year veteran has been a powerful presence in the Arizona lineup for his entire major league career. He’s paired a .297/.398/.532 triple slash line, good for a 144 wRC+, with above-average defense at first base and surprising speed. In fact, his 124 career stolen bases place him second among active Cardinals, just behind Dexter Fowler. In all, he’s been worth 36 WAR for the Diamondbacks, and Fangraphs’ Steamer projection system projects more of the same next year- a .277/.387/.499 line, good for a 135 wRC+ and about 4 WAR. He’ll likely be the Cardinals’ best player next year.
Next year is indeed the focus in this trade, because Goldschmidt’s contract expires at the end of 2019. He’ll earn $14.5 million on a team option in 2019, after which he’ll become a free agent. While the Cardinals have made noise in the media about negotiating an extension in a pre-trade window, nothing has yet been announced. This move signals that the Cardinals place a high value on wins in 2019, in keeping with recent communication from the front office.
The price of Goldschmidt was two major-league ready pieces in Weaver and Kelly, as well as an intriguing prospect in Andy Young. Kelly has exhausted his prospect status in cups of coffee across three major league seasons. While he’s performed quite poorly in those call-ups (a horrendous .154/.227/.188 line, good for a 15 wRC+), he’d likely be regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the minor leagues if he retained his prospect status. Former managing editor Craig Edwards recently updated Fangraphs’ estimate of prospect values, and at Kelly’s most recent prospect grade he would be worth $28 million dollars of surplus value. The actual number is probably somewhat lower than that, as Kelly has already burned major league playing time, but it’s a reasonable estimate.
Luke Weaver, the second piece in the deal, has flashed two premium pitches in the majors and put together an impressive season in 2017 before scuffling throughout 2018. The Cardinals used him in the starting rotation and the bullpen last year, and the Diamondbacks will likely attempt to move him back to the rotation, hoping for a return to his 2017 form. His outlook on the 2019 Cardinals was far from clear, however, as the team seems overloaded with pitchers of his rough caliber.
Andy Young, the last player included in the deal, falls below the threshold to be included in Craig’s valuation article. He absolutely raked across two minor league levels this year (high A and AA) before holding his own in the Arizona Fall League. While he has hit at every level in the minors, he spent his age 24 season at High A and AA, so the odds are stacked against his blossoming into a superstar. He projected as middle infield depth this year with a Paul DeJong-esque game- heavy on power, a little bit of swing-and-miss to his game. Young is certainly an intriguing prospect, but he absolutely falls into the throw-in category compared to the other two players the Cardinals are sending in the trade.
The last piece of the deal, a Competitive Balance B pick, is a draft pick between the second and third rounds in the 2019 MLB draft. The likely reason this pick was included in the deal is because the Diamondbacks stood to receive a competitive balance pick in the event that they extended Goldschmidt a qualifying offer next offseason. As the Cardinals will doubtless do the same, they will recoup this pick if Goldschmidt ends up being merely a rental. As much as this author hopes that’s not the case, it seems like a reasonable calculus for the front office.
Lastly, a quick take on this trade. Obviously, I love it, but I think it also signals that the Cardinals are doing what many of us have hoped they’d do for years. This is an asset consolidation trade, pure and simple. Kelly and Weaver project to provide more surplus value over the life of their contracts, but Goldschmidt concentrates that talent into a single roster position, easing the glut of just-below to just-above average players the Cardinals have found themselves with. The degree by which the Cardinals paid up is mild- Weaver’s star has fallen mightily in the past year, and Kelly’s continued poor performance in the majors has become concerning at this point. Indeed, early whispers about the trade among baseball insiders (as reported by Ken Rosenthal) like the Cardinals’ side more. This trade improves the 2019 Cardinals by a lot. Coupled with a Bryce Harper signing, it could well make them co-favorites in the NL Central next year. The cost is back-loaded and uncertain. In short, I think it’s the perfect trade for a Cardinals team that has been making noise about consolidating and competing. Other writers will do a far better job diving into the specifics of the deal- I just love the way the team is thinking.