Making a trade for Paul Goldschmidt instead of a signing via free agency to obtain a premier slugger was a risky gamble on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.
But it paid off big time, according to multiple reports that the slugger will sign a five-year contract extension with the club on extremely team-friendly terms.
Reports say Goldschmidt will sign for five additional years at a total of $130 million, $26 million a season. The last year of his Arizona Diamondbacks remains in place for a ridiculous bargain of $15 million for 2019.
Before the “no one is worth $26 million a year” comments start to flow, let’s look at the market. The going rate for the top power hitters is $30 million a year. Including this season, Goldschmidt will make $24.16 million a year for the life of his St. Louis stay. In my book, That’s a 20 percent discount off the going rate.
If Albert Pujols would have taken a 20 percent discount, he’d still be a Cardinal.
What the Redbirds got from Goldschmidt was a gift. They got a new franchise cornerstone for a scratch and dent price. What would have happened if Goldschmidt left? The team would have had no clear path to a middle of the order elite hitter — at least not one that didn’t include demands for Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks in trade.
I couldn’t believe Arizona was willing to part with their franchise icon for a deal that didn’t include at least one of those players. Still, the Cardinals made a similar move a few years ago to trade for Jason Heyward in the walk year of his contract at it blew up in the team’s face. The front office thought it would be a slam dunk to resign the right fielder after he was exposed to the wonderfulness that is playing in front of St. Louis Cardinals fans at Busch Stadium. But he said no, thanks to an offer from the Cardinals that was more money than the deal he got from the Chicago Cubs. Nevermind that Heyward’s deal has turned into a colossal bust. We’re talking about the player acquisition model, not the players themselves in this particular discussion, Goldschmidt is twice the player Heyward is. But that would be irrelevant if he walked away after one season. It was vital St. Louis capitalize on its good fortune in landing Goldschmidt by turning him into a chapter of Cardinals history, not just a footnote.
Keeping Goldschmidt is the difference between having a a foundation to build upon and having no direction for a franchise that could lose its leadoff, third and fourth hitters (Matt Carpenter has an option, Goldschmidt was set to be a free agent and Marcell Ozuna seems to be a long shot, at best, for a lucrative new deal) and two of its five starters next winter, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
I’m guessing if Goldschmidt was willing to lock himself up in a long term deal at a discount rate that he at least asked the Cardinals what their long term plans are. I know I would in those circumstances. He must be convinced he’s not going to be the only show in town. Hayward said he didn’t think the Cardinals could compete with the young core the Wee Bears had coming up. But things have changed and while Chicago is having trouble keeping its pitchers off the injured list and its shortstop out of jail, the Cardinals have a bumper crop of young hurlers, a young shortstop locked up in a long term deal, more outfielders than they can shake a stick at — and now an elite slugger to bring it all together.
In addition to keeping one of the best players in baseball for five more years, the Cardinals have a ton of financial flexibility because of their young, inexpensive pitching and their discount first baseman to add to the team in the future and give Goldschmidt a strong supporting cast. Hopefully his financial sacrifice will pay off in the form of a World Series ring or two before this deal is over.
I said before that the Goldschmidt deal was a wait and see trade because it was a mediocre deal for the Cardinals if he walked after one season in St. Louis. But by signing Goldschmidt to a team-friendly contract, the trade was the best move any team made last winter. I still think the Birds could have done more. But I’m a lot more optimistic about the next year, and the next five years, today than I was a couple of days ago.
The signing isn’t without its potential pitfalls. Goldschmidt will be 32 when it starts and 37 when it’s done. But it’s a no-brainer because of both price and circumstance. It was the move the team set itself up to make. It simply had no choice but to go through with it. It’s not hard to make a choice when there is really no decisions to be made.
Is it a coincidence that the slumbering bats of the Cardinals finally woke up Thursday, Ozuna hit a homer in a three-for-three day while Dexter Fowler hit TWO balls over the fence. The team’s 14-hit attack -- which didn’t include any safeties from Goldschmidt, himself -- accounted for as many hits as the team was getting in two or three days last week.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go order that number 46 Cardinals jersey I’ve been holding off on buying.