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This new corner infield is worth being excited about

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The combination of Carpenter and Goldschmidt looks to provide a performance we haven’t seen from the corners in over a decade.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In a vacuum, Paul Goldschmidt instantly improves a team.

If there were a crater at first base, where he was essentially replacing no one, he’s still the kind of player who can transform a roster.

That impact is felt even further when the team already has an excellent first baseman.

In 2018, Matt Carpenter was inside the top 20 position players in Major League Baseball, by fWAR. He was inside the top 10 in the National League.

Acquiring someone who creates a situation where you need to shift a player coming off of a 5-WAR season to another position is pretty impactful.

Moreover, it shores up another important position across the diamond—one that’s also had trouble finding a mainstay since it was last manned by an elite player.

The 2019 ZiPS projections for the Cardinals have both Goldschmidt and Carpenter regressing after a cumulative 10.1 fWAR between them in 2018. They’re still projected to be pretty great.

Goldschmidt’s projected fWAR is 4.5. Carpenter is close behind with 4.3. If they end up playing to at least that level, it’ll be the first time two Cardinals position players have logged at least 4-win seasons since Jason Heyward and Carpenter combined for 10.9 fWAR in 2015.

As far as the regular season goes, 2015 wasn’t too shabby.

Looking beyond a broad comparison to the roster, it’s been even longer since St. Louis has seen production expected of potential All-Stars at the corner infield positions.

FanGraphs has position-specific WAR totals for each season going back through 2002. Those values are telling to just how good this corner infield could be, and how rare it’s been to see in St. Louis over recent years.

Positional fWAR Totals, Corner Infield -- 2002-2018

YEAR 1B 3B TOTAL
YEAR 1B 3B TOTAL
2002 1.8 4.4 6.2
2003 3.9 5.5 9.4
2004 8.9 9.2 18.1
2005 7.8 2.4 10.2
2006 8.1 7.3 15.4
2007 7.1 3.3 10.4
2008 7.5 4.7 12.2
2009 7.9 -0.2 7.7
2010 6.8 0.8 7.6
2011 4.1 2.3 6.4
2012 2.3 4.9 7.2
2013 2.0 1.0 3.0
2014 1.8 3.4 5.2
2015 0.5 4.0 4.5
2016 0.6 2.6 3.2
2017 3.7 2.2 5.9
2018 3.3 5.0 8.3
2019 (projected) 4.5 4.3 8.8

Carpenter and Goldschmidt along are projected at this point to put up the best value at the corners since 2008, which featured prime Pujols and the swan song of Troy Glaus.

Granted, totals for 2018 and earlier include at-bats from all players, including some negative WAR from poor performances. We’re just looking at projections of starters, not taking into account rest days and the reps that could come from players like Yairo Muñoz, who put up negative value in his appearances at third last season.

On the other hand, the bench is stronger than it was last year. Jedd Gyorko has been a solid third baseman while in St. Louis and he now looks like a steady backup. Carpenter can still take reps at first if necessary. José Martínez was a net value at first, despite his defense.

Ultimately, it looks like the Cardinals are going to have consistently great production at first and third for the first time since MV3 still ran the show.

I think that’s pretty exciting.