Cardinals Bet Big on 2019 with Paul Goldschmidt Trade

After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be pushing some chips into the pot for next season by trading for Paul Goldschmidt. Derrick Goold reported the sides were closing in on a deal, while Jon Heyman first reported the deal as done. The Diamondbacks appear to be the first to report their return. Here’s the trade.

Cardinals Get:

  • Paul Goldschmidt

Diamondbacks Get:

We probably don’t need to talk a ton about Goldschmidt. He’s arguably been the best player in the National League since 2013, with a .301/.406/.541 hitting line good for a 149 wRC+ and 33 wins above replacement. Over the last three years, he’s put up a 140 wRC+ and five wins per season, and last year was no different. He struck out an unusually high amount the first two months of the season and had a terrible May (46 wRC+), but boasted a strong recovery on his way to typically excellent numbers. There’s nothing fluky in his Statcast numbers. He’s one of the top 10 hitters in baseball, and going into his age-31 season, he’s projected to be one of the top 15 hitters in baseball again. Steamer projects Golschmidt for 4.1 WAR while ZiPS puts him at 3.7. It’s pretty safe to say he’s a four-win player, which even with the higher expectations of offense at first base, makes him one of the top 25 or so players in the game, and the new best player on the Cardinals.

The downside to trading for Goldschmidt is his looming free agency at the end of this coming season. He’ll join fellow Cardinals Marcell Ozuna, Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha as pending free agents. The first three players make up roughly a quarter of St. Louis’ projected production in 2019. That would seem to create a greater sense of urgency to succeed entering the season, and shouldn’t preclude more additions to try to catch up to the Cubs, at least on paper. More moves seems almost assured, even they are largely to move some depth and redundancy.

As a practical matter, bringing in Goldschmidt likely means Matt Carpenter will play third base next season, pushing Jedd Gyorko to the bench or into a possible platoon role with Kolten Wong. The Cardinals are paying Gyorko $8 million this year, with $5 million more coming from San Diego. Gyorko has a $13 million option for 2020 with a one million dollar buyout. Moving Gyorko to another team, while adding Goldschmidt’s $14.5 million salary, would mean only $6.5 million in additional spending for next season. That would put the club at around $140 million in payroll, $20 million short of what they were a year ago and a full $60 million short of the competitive balance tax threshold, which is likely to serve as an artificial cap on their spending. Last week, I wrote that even with the potential addition of Goldschmidt, the club would still be well-served to chase Bryce Harper. I still think that’s true.

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. Holliday lived up to his deal and was a big part of one of the most successful runs in franchise history, with five playoff appearances in seven seasons along with two World Series appearances and one title. The team hasn’t been the same since his bat left two years ago. If the Cardinals don’t make Harper (or Machado) a reality, it’s difficult to see them breaking out of the cycle of good-but-not-good-enough they’ve found themselves in the past three seasons. The moderate move has hamstrung the Cardinals, so now they’re being pushed to make the risky one. It’s called the winner’s curse for good reason, but when the alternatives are lacking, putting all your eggs in a single basket may be the only way to carry them.

As for the players the Cardinals gave up, the team could be said to have moved excess pieces, yet they still gave up quality players who have the potential for success. In Luke Weaver, Arizona is gaining a pitcher who pitched very well for stretches in each of the past two seasons, but has faded as the season wore on each time. There were concerns when he was coming up that Weaver’s delivery might mean he would have to move into a bullpen role at some point, but his strong play in 2017 earned him a rotation spot last season. By the All-Star Break, he had pitched over 100 innings and his 4.72 ERA wasn’t as bad as it looked, with a more average 4.04 FIP. His velocity didn’t tick up in relief at the end of the season, further indicating he was a bit worn down. He still has five more years of team control and has starter potential but might also excel in a multi-inning relief role. He reached the majors just two years after he was drafted so at 25, he has room to grow and develop a third, useful pitch that would help him remain a starter.

Carson Kelly isn’t technically a prospect, having amassed just short of a full season in the big leagues over the last three years, but he’s still just 24 years old. He’s only had 131 PA in 63 games during that time so there isn’t much to make of his poor batting line given how little he played behind Yadier Molina. Eric Longenhagen indicated Kelly’s glove is still plus, but wondered if the bat would ever make an impact. He’s posted an above-average batting line in Memphis the last two seasons with a high walk rate, the latter of which could continue in the majors when hitting in front of the pitcher. He’s ready for the big leagues, and he’s got six more years before he reaches free agency.

The two principal players might be spare parts for the Cardinals, what with the club’s rotation depth, Yadier Molina having signed for another two years, and Andrew Kninzer being a good catching prospect in his own right, but they could also step in right away for the Diamondback and be average players. Andy Young, on the other hand, is more of a wild card. He was 12th on the recent Cardinals top 40 prospect list. Longenhagen said he was “[f]ine at 2B, above-average pull power, reasonable contact, knows to attack pitches he can drive.” He is a stereotypical Cardinals’ success story, having signed out of college as a senior for just $3,000 before putting up monster numbers in Double-A last year. As for the draft pick, it gives Arizona a slightly worse pick a year early compared to what they would have received had they kept Goldschmidt and made him a qualifying offer.

Both sides did well in this trade. The Cardinals got a really good player without severely hurting their prospect depth or major league prospects. By doing so, they avoided overpaying for a player they will have for just one season. On the other hand, the Diamondbacks got two major league-ready starters, another decent prospect, and added another top-100 pick to their potential haul next season, where they will have eight picks in the top 100 so long as they don’t bring back A.J. Pollock. It has to hurt to see Paul Goldschmidt go, but this trade should accelerate the team’s window for contention even if they don’t go for it this year.

We hoped you liked reading Cardinals Bet Big on 2019 with Paul Goldschmidt Trade by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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115 Comments on "Cardinals Bet Big on 2019 with Paul Goldschmidt Trade"

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Michael
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Michael

Doesn’t seem like enough for Goldschmidt

Michael
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Member
Michael

One year of Goldschmidt?

Michael
Member
Michael

In that case, it was fine. I stand corrected.

CubFan
Member
CubFan

Don’t be surprised if the Cards sign Goldy to an extension either in-season or at the end of 2019. I don’t think this was a one-year rental. Especially if they don’t add another big bat. I look at prospects as trade chips as the success rate is relatively low. So, in that context I don’t think AZ got enough back.

david k
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david k

Cub Fan, you can’t look at it that way. The Dbacks aren’t going to get MORE in return just because the Cards MIGHT sign Goldschmidt to an extension. The marketplace just doesn’t work that way. As a Dback fan, I was hoping the team would have traded for one or two younger players with more upside, rather than prioritizing major league ready players, but perhaps this was the best offer they were given for a 31-year-old first baseman that may be starting to show signs of a decline (not sure if there was something wrong with him that led to the high strikeout rate earlier in the year that he recovered from, or if we will see more of that in the future). The Dbacks should next look to sell high on Peralta and Hirano, maybe even Bradley, even though he’s relatively young and can fit into a rebuild plan. Or hold the bullpen guys until the trade deadline, when teams are always desperate for bullpen arms, but you risk them getting hurt or performing worse than last year, so I think they should trade them now.

Moate
Member
Moate

Why would anyone trade for prospects if they only get viewed as trade chips? How would they have any actual value to a team? This isn’t a very good way of analyzing prospects.

You have to assign SOME value to the pieces, otherwise nobody has any value because “anything can happen tomorrow”. Mike trout could get hit buy a bus, probably best not to give him a contract at all!

As david k said, you also can’t say this deal changes for AZ if the Cards sign Goldy long term and pour MORE assets into him. That’s entirely unrelated to the value assigned today with this specific trade.

Turning 1 year of a superstar into a pile of MLB level supporting characters for the next several years is how most trades work involving superstars. This is basic Short Term vs Long Term valuation.

Spa City
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Member
Spa City

I dislike this comment.

Scoreboard
Member
Member
Scoreboard

Agreed, this haul feels very light.

I like that ARI got someone with upside (Weaver), but it honestly feels like he’s meant for the bullpen. If the STL org couldn’t close the gap between his FIP and ERA I’m skeptical someone else can.

Someone could make the argument that Goldschmidt’s 1-year contract lowers his value, but still.

Monsignor Martinez
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Monsignor Martinez

Assuming that Goldy puts up 5 WAR in 2019, at a cost of $14.5 million, he would net a value of $25.5 million.

Weaver has 4 more years left of control, if we conservatively assume 1.5 WAR per year, and he makes an average of $7 million a year, this yields a value of $48 million – $28 million = +$20 million.

The value of a competitive balance draft pick + the uncertainties in Andy Young, and Carson Kelly the Diamondbacks should net a value well above the value of Goldy. Not a perfect analysis, here, but roughly estimating, I think the Dbacks got a fair return.

#NYU42
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#NYU42

Weaver has five more years of control

Monsignor Martinez
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Monsignor Martinez

Didn’t realize that… Well that makes him all the more valuable for the Dbacks.

merizobeach
Member
merizobeach

BR had Weaver at -1.1 WAR this year, so your ‘conservative’ estimate for him at 1.5 WAR / year might be optimistic.

#NYU42
Member
#NYU42

Did you seriously just use BR WAR (and for pitchers!) while commenting on FanGraphs? LOL

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

Eh.

Maybe he should have used his 0.1 RA9WAR, but reasonable people can disagree on which version they prefer.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

The real issue is using BR war smallish samples to project forward. If you want to characterize value that way, fine. But it generally is not predictive compared to FIP.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

Yeah, you need at least 3 years (500-600 IP) of rWAR for starting pitchers – that’s when both BABIP and defensive stats stabilize.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

There’s nothing wrong with using bWAR on Fangraphs, specifically. It’s a more general problem: BR’s situation with adjusting runs allowed by DRS gets totally out of whack when they start estimating that Harrison Bader is winning games all by himself. As the defensive values get more extreme and less believable, so too does everything else.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

Quite fair – I’d be very interested in a response to DRC/DRA from FG and BR.

Roger21
Member
Roger21

Case in point: Bryce Harper was worth 1.3 bWAR last year. That’s less than, say, Robinson Chirinos, and yet I expect Harper will get more than 1 year, 5.75 million.

dbminn
Member
Member
dbminn

TKDC, Cool Lester and Sad-T: You’ve written a fine tag-team explanation of bWAR. I can’t wait for your alternating paragraph blog.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

CLS and I apparently have different opinions of bWAR (something that I wasn’t aware of until a few days ago).

If I am representing his position well (which I might not be), it’s that over big samples (like a whole career) you start to see bWAR correlating from year to year (an argument that I have not heard before, and would like some references on).

My argument is that from a measurement perspective, it is better to isolate casual mechanisms (what the pitcher can control) from spurious error than adjusting for it in an equation afterwards. This is a better way to handle things in nearly every area of statistics, which is also why FIP predicts future performance well (better predictive validity).

If you forced me to adjudicate between these two perspectives, I would say that bWAR tends to do a lot worse when you get unrealistic DRS numbers because it is only as good as the measurement inputs, but might predict pitcher performance better in the middle of the DRS range. That said, I’m not sure how useful bWAR is when its main advantage (adjusting for defense) gets so out of whack so quickly.

If you’re into this sort of thing, I should mention I’m intrigued by BP’s DRA since it’s basically a more sophisticated (and unfortunately computationally-intensive) version of bWAR. I’d probably prefer that over bWAR if I had to pick an alternative to fWAR. FWIW, BP’s WARP puts Weaver at 1.1 for the year and 1.6 the year before–a little higher than Weaver’s fWAR last year but a little less this one.

Cool Lester Smooth
Member
Cool Lester Smooth

It more goes to the fact that past ERA- correlates just as well to future ERA- as past FIP-, or any other estimator, after 500 IP:

https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/12844/between-the-numbers-better-with-less-era-estimators/

Non-coincidentally, this is also when BABIP stabilizes for pitchers:

https://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/babip/

So, one a pitcher hits that threshold, I just go with past-RA9 to estimate their true talent, rather than pretending that the only thing separating Mark Buerhle from guys like Ricky Nolasco, Francisco Liriano and Justin Masterson over 1000 innings from 2009-13 was “BIP luck.”

That said – I understand your concern with DRS/defensive adjustments in general.

The question is whether jury-rigging an imperfect solution is better or worse than throwing your hands up in the air and saying “let’s just ignore the impact that the Royals OF defense had on their pitchers’ overperforming ERA estimators.”

DiscoJer
Member
DiscoJer

Yeah, but if Weaver puts up 1.5 WAR per year, is he actually helping the Diamondbacks, or making them worse? Because 2 WAR is average (an 81 team).

rosen380
Member

With that logic, no player projected for less than 2 wins should get a MLB contract. Wait, they often do and for as much as 20-30x the league minimum…?

Roger21
Member
Roger21

You’re confusing “replacement-level” and “average.” The idea behind the Wins Above Replacement metric is that a player would be replaced not by an average Major Leaguer, but by a “replacement-level” player who, by definition, is worth 0 WAR (but who can also be acquired at 0 marginal cost). By putting up 1.5 WAR per year, Weaver would be making the Diamondbacks 1.5 wins better than if he were replaced by the 0-WAR player.

Now, perhaps in theory, the Diamondbacks *could* acquire an average MLB player in lieu of Weaver, but doing so–as opposed to relying the replacement-level player–would impose a marginal cost that the team might not be able or willing to pay.

xeifrank
Member

Sorry but 1.5 WAR is WAY too high of a number to use for Weaver. Due to the bust portion of possible distributions I would put the number closer to 0.5 but definitely less than 1.0

CubFan
Member
CubFan

You’re also making an assumption that Weaver will be that good going forward and thus worth those projections. Maybe he will be and maybe he won’t. Many a failed projection has littered the road along the way. What we do have a good feel for is that Goldy will likely put up very good numbers in STL. And I won’t be surprised if the Cards sign him to an extension.

Moate
Member
Moate

But you can’t KNOW they will sign that extension! They might want to, but he’s unwilling. He might want to, but they’re unwilling. They might sign him to an albatross contract that make Pujols look like a great use of cash. You can’t evaluate deals based on what happens outside/after the deal.

By the same logic, I could say that Weaver is the missing piece of a package deal that the Cards will use to entice the Blue Jays into shipping Vlad jr. There’s nothing substantiating either of these things other than a baseless sense of what we think these teams might do.

AJS
Member
AJS

Wins are worth quite a bit more than $8M per right now, aren’t they? You probably understated Goldy’s net value to the Cards (although if he’s more like a 4-win player you have it right).

esbee
Member
esbee

I actually agree. As teams increasingly reject spending in free agency on fungible players, the value of a cost-controlled average-ish starter declines. In the current market it’s not unreasonable to bet on eschewing this type of return in favor of signing, say, Fiers on a one year deal, and then next year’s Fiers and so on. Any team would be over the moon to get Goldschmidt on a reasonable one year deal, and seems surprising no one would pay more to make it a reality.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh

Wow torches and pitchforks are out today. Watch what you say, folks.