ST. LOUIS -- He was a high schooler then, standing alongside some buddies in center field as the city of Houston simmered toward an eruption. Paul Goldschmidt's beloved Houston Astros were one out away from advancing to the World Series for the first time.Poised to be a witness to franchise
ST. LOUIS -- He was a high schooler then, standing alongside some buddies in center field as the city of Houston simmered toward an eruption. Paul Goldschmidt's beloved Houston Astros were one out away from advancing to the World Series for the first time.
Poised to be a witness to franchise history, Goldschmidt instead found himself stunned to silence like the rest of the sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park, as he watched Jose Pujols famously delay the Astros' celebration. Pujols' home run off Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series remains among his most majestic, though the Astros wrapped up the series in Game 6.
Goldschmidt sulked out of the ballpark, ripping up his ticket as he left.
That future Hall of Famer who once broke his heart is the icon to which Goldschmidt now finds himself being compared. Goldschmidt arrived in St. Louis this week as the newest slugging first baseman in a long lineage of them, and he brings that combination of star quality, defensive prowess and feared offensive production that the Cards haven't boasted since Pujols' departure.
• Goldschmidt is perfect fit for the Cardinal way
"The Cardinals have had some impressive first basemen over the years: Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Bill White, Orlando Cepeda, Mark McGwire, Keith Hernandez, Albert Pujols and, of course, most recently, Matt Carpenter," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said to open Goldschmidt's introductory press conference on Friday. "Paul is a perfect fit for our club."
The Cardinals are a perfect fit for him, as well.
Though he grew up seeing the Cardinals as an irritating equal to his hometown club, Goldschmidt also developed an admiration for the organization because of its sustained success. As a player, that was only reaffirmed by the turnout and support he saw for the Cardinals as a visitor at Busch Stadium.
"I don't know of a player in baseball who doesn't want to play here," Goldschmidt said, donning a Cardinals jersey with his new No. 46. "There are certain organizations that are just known for greatness, and this is one of them."
Goldschmidt comes with a resume that speaks for him -- six consecutive All-Star Game appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Gloves and a reputation as a beloved teammate, disciplined worker and dedicated philanthropist. The Cardinals, as president of baseball operations John Mozeliak noted on Friday, could find no negatives to this pursuit.
That includes Goldschmidt's contract status.
Goldschmidt's current contract runs only through the 2019 season, but the Cardinals separated his pending free agency from their interest in the player. The organization has long prided itself on avoiding narrow competitive windows by prioritizing the long term, but St. Louis has deviated from that blueprint in constructing this 2019 roster.
Goldschmidt adds another name to a list of prominent contributors poised to be free agents after next season. Marcell Ozuna, Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright are among them.
There will be time to address those realities, Mozeliak acknowledged. But an uncertain roster wasn't going to preclude the Cardinals from going all-in on a championship push for 2019. Three years of being relegated to postseason spectatorship upped the urgency. It's the longest playoff drought for the organization since 1997-99.
"When you look at what this does for the club, it does say that 2019 matters," Mozeliak said. "I've always been one of those types of people that has always thought about the bigger picture; this was a different type of deal for us. It was clearly about trying to position the 2019 team to be more competitive. There are other ways to do that, right? But we felt like this made the biggest impact that we could do, so that's why we pursued it."
• With Goldschmidt on board, what's next for St. Louis?
Working with the D-backs to find common ground consumed Mozeliak's time over the past month. The organization entered the offseason prepared to address its offensive needs through other means and had the financial flexibility to do so. But once the D-backs made it known that they were serious about entertaining offers for the best homegrown player in their history, the Cardinals pivoted to a singular pursuit.
Mozeliak remained in contact with D-backs general manager Mike Hazen on an almost daily basis over the last month to maintain momentum toward a deal. They reached one this week that sent Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, Andy Young and a Draft pick to Arizona for the perennial MVP candidate.
"This was a deal that presented itself like it was almost like a unicorn," Mozeliak said. "We chased it. And we got it."
Whether the catch ultimately becomes a short-term boost or a long-term investment will be determined over the next year. Goldschmidt, who is entering his age-31 season, will be a free agent for the first time next fall. The Cardinals have already expressed interest in signing him to an extension, but also want to give St. Louis and the organization a chance to sell itself in the coming months.
Goldschmidt sidestepped those questions about his future, just as he did the comparisons that now shadow him.
"I'm not trying to live up to anything, but just trying to be part of a team and help us win," Goldschmidt said. "I think that's where my focus is: try to prepare, get ready for Spring Training, get ready for Opening Day, come in and learn from the guys that are here, learn from the coaching staff, find ways that I can get better, find ways that I can help the team.
"Honestly, it's not about me. It's just about trying to help us win, help this team. Not to speak out of turn because I don't know what the organization's goals are, but I'm sure everyone wants to win the World Series."
Mozeliak leaned in with a grin, adding:
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.