ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina seemingly spoke for so many when he reacted to the Cardinals' December acquisition of star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt by asking for another beer.There was a similar sort of toast within the organization, which set out this offseason to add an impact bat as part
ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina seemingly spoke for so many when he reacted to the Cardinals' December acquisition of star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt by asking for another beer.
There was a similar sort of toast within the organization, which set out this offseason to add an impact bat as part of a larger effort to unseat the Cubs and Brewers in the National League Central. Rather than wade into a slow-moving free-agent market where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned, the Cardinals, for a second straight season, targeted their offensive upgrade via trade.
One year after taking advantage of the Marlins' rebuild, they did the same as Arizona retooled. Landing Goldschmidt wasn't cheap. Nor was it without risk. The Cards gave up three young players -- Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly and Andy Young -- along with a Draft pick for only one sure season of Goldschmidt.
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But if he takes them where the Cards believe he can -- deep into October -- they'll consider the cost plenty palatable.
"For me, when I looked at this team from the outside, when I was a free agent, when they went out and got him, that was a huge sign for me of a place that I want to be," said Andrew Miller, a teammate of Goldschmidt's in the World Baseball Classic. "I want to be in a place that wants a guy like that."
As the Cardinals open camp in Jupiter, Fla., next week, Goldschmidt will begin assimilating to a new clubhouse and heightened expectations. He's arguably the most accomplished player to arrive via trade since the Cardinals dealt for Matt Holliday in 2009. That relationship lasted eight seasons, and the Cardinals intend to make every effort to ensure Goldschmidt settles in for the long haul, too.
The yearlong courtship of Goldschmidt, who is due to be a free agent next fall, has already begun.
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"When you look at someone like Paul Goldschmidt, that is a Cardinal, man," infielder Kolten Wong said. "How he plays the game, how he goes about his business, that's the Cardinal Way. To have someone like that, hopefully to re-sign and be with us long term, that's something all these guys who are coming up or getting drafted by the Cardinals are going to be able to look at and see. … This is the guy who is a perennial MVP, a perennial Gold Glover, a perennial Silver Slugger. This is who I want to be."
The Cardinals don't believe a move out of hitter-friendly Chase Field or age (Goldschmidt will be 32 this season) will curtail his production. Goldschmidt arrives in St. Louis having averaged 30 home runs over the past six seasons while playing Gold Glove defense and showcasing above-average baserunning skills.
Since his first full season in 2012, Goldschmidt has posted a .400 on-base percentage and .534 slugging, good for a .934 OPS. All of those figures rank in the Majors' top seven. Since '13, Goldschmidt ranks second in the NL in hits, home runs, RBIs, runs, walks and extra-base hits.
It doesn't hurt, either, that he has feasted on National League Central pitching throughout his career. He enters the year with a 1.307 OPS at Miller Park, a 1.011 OPS at Wrigley Field and a .948 OPS at Great American Ball Park.
"Whenever people ask me who is the toughest guy I've faced in the big leagues, I've always told them: Paul Goldschmidt," Michael Wacha said. "Just the way he puts together his at-bats. He can handle any pitch. That's a huge addition to this lineup, to this team, to the field. I'm excited to meet him and excited for the season."
Where he fits into the lineup will crystallize over the next six weeks, though manager Mike Shildt has already hinted about Goldschmidt's possible fit as a two-hole hitter. In the meantime, the Cardinals anticipate an instant impact in a clubhouse dotted with players ready to follow the first baseman's lead.
"I can speak about what kind of player he is until I'm blue in the face," said Matt Carpenter. "It's important to have a guy like that who walks into your clubhouse and can instantly be your best player on your team, but he comes with a very high character, a very great work ethic, someone who is going to be a good teammate and be a good example. It's just going to make us better."
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.