ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals appear to be done downplaying their interest in inking Paul Goldschmidt to an extension that would keep the perennial All-Star first baseman in St. Louis beyond one season.
Six weeks after president of baseball operations John Mozeliak dodged a question about Goldschmidt's future fit by stating that "what I'm thinking about today is 2019," the tone has clearly changed. The organization used this weekend's Winter Warm-Up event as the start of a sales pitch that could continue through the season.
• Mikolas open to extension talks | Wainwright ready to compete
Manager Mike Shildt hosted Goldschmidt and his wife Amy at dinner on Saturday. Fans did their part in showing up despite frigid temperatures. And on Monday, owner Bill DeWitt Jr. laid out the long-term vision.
"Whenever a good player comes to the Cardinals, if they have a year left on their contract, we always think down the road," DeWitt said. "We'd love to have him here longer than one year, and we'll just see how that plays out."
Goldschmidt, 31, is due to hit free agency next winter after reaching the end of a contract that will have paid him $44 million over six years. The Cardinals understood the gamble of dealing away three young players -- Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly and Andy Young -- for the assurance of only one season with Goldschmidt. But their move was calculated.
Not only did it improve the club for 2019, but the acquisition also offers the Cardinals an opportunity to spend the next several months pitching Goldschmidt on the idea of playing the twilight years of his career in St. Louis.
"As you guys know, we've been fortunate over the years in making deals for players with one year left on their contract and retaining them," DeWitt said. "I think worst case is we get a top Draft choice, but that's not our goal when we trade for a player like Paul Goldschmidt."
It's a model that worked with the likes of Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Matthew Holliday. Each chose to stay after being traded to the Cardinals shortly before hitting free agency. Jason Heyward, in 2015, was the most notable and recent exception.
Goldschmidt has declined to comment about his willingness to negotiate an extension in-season, though his thoughtful comments this weekend about the sluggish state of free agency indicated that he is acutely aware of the uncertainty in that market. That could factor into his calculation about whether it's prudent to re-sign early or test free-agent waters.
As for the Cardinals, they have made their preference clear.
"All I did was really pray hard that we weren't going to get a lot of snow [for Goldschmidt's Winter Warm-Up appearance on Saturday]," Mozeliak said. "You know, first impressions could be meaningful. … I think most importantly when you think of Goldy and where this is headed is, get him down to Jupiter, [Fla.], get him with his teammates and, ultimately, we'll sort of, as we round the first turn, get a better idea of what the second turn looks like.
"Paul Goldschmidt has plenty of baseball left in his career. The fact that we only have him under control for one year? That was a gamble we were willing to take."