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Cardinals get Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks get value in win-win trade

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Both teams came out ahead in this trade.

Seattle Mariners v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Cardinals finally did it. With a trade for Paul Goldschmidt, they improved one of the few positions that they could realistically improve. They did something few fans though they would do. They lost a trade in order to improve the team.

Wait, stay with me here. I promise I’ll explain what I mean in less attention-grabbing terms. The trade for Goldschmidt makes sense and it makes sense without having to revert to “the Cardinals NEEDED a star player at any cost” arguments. But to return to my point, the Cardinals seem to have a reputation among Cards fans for needing to win trades. That their need to win trades has been detrimental to acquiring genuine upgrades, such as Christian Yelich or Chris Archer.

Well here’s a trade where the numbers would favor Arizona technically. Luke Weaver is projected for 0.5 WAR over 38 innings next year by Steamer, which is a 2 WAR season with 150 innings. Weaver is probably an average starter. It’s a pretty decent gamble. Carson Kelly is projected for an 86 wRC+ and has been touted as a great defensive catcher. If he’s merely a +5 defender with an 86 wRC+, he’s a 2.2 WAR player. Kelly has three more league minimum years and three years under arbitration. Weaver has two more league minimum years and three more under arbitration. I probably don’t need to do the math for you that those projections for the prices they’ll cost are unquestionably a greater value than Goldschmidt’s 3.7 ZiPS projection for one year at $14.4 million.

But that assumes two things that simply won’t be true in 2018. That Luke Weaver would throw 150 innings for the Cardinals and that Kelly would get 500 plate appearances. As of right now, Weaver would not be a member of the Cardinals starting rotation. With Alex Reyes figuring in there somewhere beyond the starting five, he likely wouldn’t even be the first man to replace an injured starter. Depending on how he starts his season, Ryan Helsley might even be higher on the depth chart than Weaver by the time another member is needed. Point is, Weaver was destined for the bullpen. Luke Weaver, bullpen pitcher, is simply not all that valuable.

Kelly is a different story. For the next two seasons, he would need Yadier Molina to get injured to have meaningful playing time. The Cardinals are simply unwilling to sit Molina at all. Francisco Pena came to the plate 142 times last year and Molina missed a whole month. To be fair, Pena is terrible. But there was little reason to believe Kelly would get much more playing time than that. Kelly was probably looking at about 300 plate appearances for the next two seasons. Carson Kelly, backup catcher with the playing time of a Yadier Molina backup, is simply not all that valuable.

Two other pieces were involved in the trade, but they aren’t worth a whole lot. Much as I love him, Andy Young is a lottery ticket. He’s been old for his level at every stage and while he has crushed the ball, he is still not expected to do much. He wouldn’t get much of a chance to break out with the Cardinals. Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong are blocking him for the next few years, not that he could play SS, it’s just another obstacle. At 3B, he would quickly be overtaken by better, younger prospects. Mostly due to necessity, but he wouldn’t have even been on the 40 man roster for the Cardinals in 2019. I’m glad he will get a chance elsewhere. The other piece, a Comp B draft pick, is worth essentially nothing. Last year the Comp B picks were between 69 and 74, which does not appear to be worth even $1 million.

I feel bad for Diamondbacks fans. I think they were completely unrealistic about the return Goldschmidt would bring. He’s projected for 3.7 WAR next year. He is under contract for one season. They got two major league ready players who project as average players over a full season with tons of team control. Goldschmidt has a surplus value of $18.9 million for 2019. That can get you a pitcher in the #51-79 range or a hitter in the #75-100 hitting prospect. That’s what he’s worth. They did better than that. Two major leaguers who should be average and are dirt cheap and under team control for 5+ years? Yeah that’s better than one prospect in the top 100. Ironically, it’s sort of a complaint lodged against the Cards. High floor option, low ceiling. Boring return for Goldschmidt? Maybe. But it’s good value.

If I had but one complaint about this deal, it’s what it says about the organization once they established this was the move. The Cardinals had very few options to upgrade and Goldschmidt was one. They are apparently content to let this be the big move. Most offseasons, that would be fine. Most offseasons don’t have a Bryce Harper on the market. It is shockingly easy to take on Harper’s contract, even with Goldschmidt. Trade Gyorko, sign Harper. With how much you just upgraded your offense, who even cares about the bullpen? It’s a freaking bullpen. They might go out and be a top 5 unit without making a single upgrade, because that’s what bullpens do. In that tweet, they also want a left-handed bench bat. BRYCE HARPER IS LEFT-HANDED. WHAT IS WITH THIS NEED FOR SPECIFIC HANDEDNESS BATTERS? “No, sorry Mike Trout. We want a left-handed guy for our team, not another righty.” I’m being intentionally absurd, but I’m absolutely mystified at this left-handed bat stuff. Good right-handed batters wouldn’t be in the league if they couldn’t hit righties. So just go get good hitters.

Now, it’s possible they are intentionally lowering expectations and are still trying to negotiate with Harper. I don’t think that’s particularly likely, but it’s possible. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong. There is reason to believe Goldschmidt is better than his projection and he certainly gives the Cardinals much higher upside. He’s about a 2 win upgrade on Gyorko in projections. The Cardinals are still an 88-90 win team. We have the chance and opportunity to vault into superteam status. I know someone in the Cardinals organization reads Viva El Birdos. Possibly John Mozeliak himself. So a personal letter to John Mozeliak:

Dear John, I feel like I can call you John because you and me are so alike. I’d like to meet you one day, it would be great to have a catch. I know I can’t GM as good as you but I think you’d be impressed with my smarts. I love your bowtie, you think fast. Did you have a good relationship with Mike Matheny? Me neither. These are all things we can talk about and more. I know you have no been getting my letters because I know you would write back if you did. I hope you write back this time, and we can become good friends. I am sure our relationship would be a real home run! Since we’re friends, you need to sign Bryce Harper

To get back on topic, the trade for Paul Goldschmidt is a win-win trade. The Cardinals win because they unloaded players who would simply not be used the way they need to be in order to be valuable. The Diamondbacks win because they received two players projected to be average RIGHT NOW, and two lottery tickets, one in the form of a player and one in the form of a draft pick. This is how trades should be. Paul Goldschmidt is a Cardinal. That still feels weird to say.