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The Goldschmidt trade shouldn’t be the only big move of the offseason

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It’s a great start, but if the Cardinals want to solidify the NL Central in 2019 and beyond, they have to do more.

2011 XM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Hey, look! Another Paul Goldschmidt article.

It’s going to keep happening.

And it should—the Cardinals’ acquisition of the perennial MVP candidate is not only the biggest news out there for St. Louis fans, it’s the talk of Major League Baseball.

There already have been (and will continue to be) pieces discussing the excellent player Goldschmidt is, and the stability he brings not only to first base but to the Cardinals’ lineup as a whole. The same can be said about the players who were traded to Arizona.

The current, immediate truth is that Goldschmidt is a game-changer, a consistent 4+ win-player.

Even though it’s a good return from Arizona’s perspective, it wasn’t a painful package to surrender for the Cards.

Luke Weaver is, of course, a candidate for positive regression, but last year’s rough go could’ve been more indicative of true talent level. Either way, he was a pitcher who didn’t have a clear role—one who can be (and was) replaced by the depth within the organization.

Though Carson Kelly is one of the top defensive catching prospects in the game, sitting behind Molina for another two years was detrimental to both parties. The Cardinals continued to lose years of control while Kelly lost opportunities to play and develop.

Plus, Andrew Knizner is a promising prospect at the backstop, one with a stronger bat than Kelly and a timeline that better matches Molina’s anticipated exit.

Andy Young was a potential candidate for the Cardinals Devil Magicmidseason call-up in 2019 or 2020, but he’s easily worth surrendering in this deal.

Even looking at the lack of a 72-hour negotiation window for extension talks, it seems that was the preference of the organization. With Goldschmidt now 31 years old, a year with no additional obligations is helpful for both him and the Cardinals.

No, there’s really no reason at all to be upset here. It was an excellent deal by the Cardinal front office—one that greatly improved the team.

But it shouldn’t be the final big move from the team this offseason.

The Cardinals have a very carefully-crafted media image.

When I say that, I don’t mean the local media or MLB.com reporters subscribe to a St. Louis Cardinals brand guide or anything.

I just mean that they’re careful with the information they release. They’re cryptic. They’re intentionally vague. They downplay scenarios.

Yes, most teams do this to a degree, but the Cardinals are notorious for leaking information in a calculated manner. Management’s approach to PR is pretty incredible, honestly.

It also leads to some conflicting messages.

The headline of a Post-Dispatch article from Derrick Goold in early October had this quote from Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.: “We’re aggressive and we’ve got resources.”

DeWitt’s son and Cardinals’ president, Bill DeWitt III, acknowledged that the Cardinals could handle a contract above $300 million in total value:

Of course, both of these quotes come with the obligatory caveat—that it’s about making sure not to make a “bad decision that hurts down the road,” “considering putting all our eggs in one basket,” and “asking, ‘what’s the value?’”

Now, after adding Goldschmidt, the front office has moved to a more reserved message. Both the Post-Dispatch and MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch have been told Bryce Harper is no longer a target, with the focus now shifting to relief help and left-handed bench bats.

I’m not trying to be critical of the front office’s approach to media relations. They do what they’re supposed to do, and they do it well.

The issue comes when fans and media accept that they’ve done all they can do.

Goldschmidt is a huge add, but his 2019 salary is just $14.5 million. For reference, the Cardinals were willing to give relief pitcher (!!) Greg Holland $14 million on his one-year deal in 2018.

Even with Goldy’s contract on the books, the Cards are about $13 million short of last year’s payroll, about $53 million below the competitive balance tax threshold.

As former site manager and current FanGraphs writer Craig Edwards has noted, moving some current players on the roster to consolidate that payroll space (such as Jedd Gyorko) would create even more space to be big players on the market.

Edwards has been vocal in saying that the Cards need to push even further after adding Goldschmidt, and I don’t think I could put it any better than he has:

If the team were to add a rental like Goldschmidt, it becomes even more important to add the best player available to maximize the current window. Few expect the Cardinals will actually land Harper given their past and his other potential suitors, but the Cardinals’ president (and owner’s son) acknowledged the possibility to Derrick Goold. It’s worth noting the last time the Cardinals won the bidding war for a premier free agent, it was for a Scott Boras client four years older than Harper. Matt Holliday’s $17 million per year salary equates to $30 million when MLB’s payroll inflation is taken into account.

To elaborate on the final portion of that quote (and to again point to some of Edwards’ work), the Cardinals are not new to spending this amount of money when equated to its true value:

The dollar figure—the raw number—is what deters clubs. But the Cardinals have made signings where the values have matched what one would expect from a Bryce Harper deal in the past, and they’ve all been extremely beneficial to the club.

A large payroll has never really been a component of the St. Louis Cardinals. But at this point, it should be.

Even with the empty seats that were noted all throughout 2018, the team finished third in attendance behind the Dodgers and Yankees. Their $1 billion TV deal with Fox Sports Midwest went into effect this past year. The money is not a problem.

It really doesn’t seem like the commitment to large contracts is a problem, either.

They reportedly made huge offers to Jason Heyward and David Price following the 2015 season.

They were ready and willing to take on the remaining $200+ million of Giancarlo Stanton’s contract, one which was set to take him into his late 30s. To lock up Bryce Harper through the same years, it would take a 13-year contract.

Of course, I mention Harper because he’s the biggest fish on the market that makes sense for St. Louis. He’s a left-handed bat who’s shown he can be elite and handle all outfield positions; he’s also only 26.

That doesn’t mean he’s the only choice, though. He’d be another one-year rental without extension talks, but Nolan Arenado is an often-discussed trade target for the Cards, and they have the organizational depth to deal for him. With any depth traded, there are still starting pitchers on the market such as Dallas Keuchel and Yusei Kikuchi. Moreover, there are roster redundancies that could be resolved given the right player being added.

Now is the time to celebrate adding Paul Goldschmidt, but the Winter Meetings are just now in sight. FanGraphs’ 2019 projections have the Cardinals as an 87-win team. Even if the front office pitches it otherwise, this team needs to add more than relievers and bench bats to be ready to take back the NL Central. However they choose to do so, they have the resources to make it happen—through trades or free agency.