ATLANTA -- If it weren’t for the Braves, Paul Goldschmidt likely would not be with the Cardinals.
Yep. You read that right. By going back to the start of Atlanta’s rebuild, or even just last winter’s signing of Josh Donaldson, you can create a strong argument that the Braves significantly influenced the trade that sent Goldschmidt from the D-backs to the Cardinals.
This isn’t a unique evaluation within a world where every decision and transaction can have a widespread influence on the countless others that follow. But it is a pertinent one as Goldschmidt and the Cardinals prepare to battle the Braves in the National League Division Series, which begins today at SunTrust Park.
It's also worth noting that in this alternate reality, Goldschmidt would probably not be in Atlanta this week regardless because the Braves wouldn’t be preparing for a second straight postseason appearance had they not...
Opted to rebuild: When the Braves dismissed former general manager Frank Wren during the final month of the 2014 season, they possessed one of the game’s worst farm systems and knew they would not be able to re-sign Jason Heyward and Justin Upton before they entered free agency following the '15 season.
After acquiring Miller, the D-backs signed Zack Greinke and felt they had the rotation necessary to back a lineup that featured Goldschmidt. But when Miller flopped during a 69-win season in 2016, the D-backs overhauled their front office by demoting Tony La Russa and dismissing general manager Dave Stewart.
Had the Miller-Greinke combo proved to be as successful as Arizona envisioned, it seems far less likely the D-backs would have changed leadership and then reached the point this past winter when it opted to trade Goldschmidt with a year left on his contract. The opportunity to bring the six-time All-Star to St. Louis happened in part because the...
Braves signed Donaldson: When the Braves agreed to a one-year, $23 million deal with Donaldson around Thanksgiving, the Cardinals were denied their bid to land the former American League MVP Award winner. They attempted to acquire the veteran third baseman from the Blue Jays during the 2017 season, but they were never willing to include Jack Flaherty in the trade. Another attempt was made to complete a waiver deal in August '18.
While Donaldson finished this season ranked 10th in the NL with a 4.9 WAR (per FanGraphs), Goldschmidt ranked 37th with a 2.9 WAR -- his lowest mark since 2012. Donaldson’s presence would have helped the Cardinals avoid going through a majority of this season with Matt Carpenter struggling at the plate and at third base.
But given that Donaldson would have been on a short-term deal, the Cardinals would have entered this winter searching for what they secured when they signed Goldschmidt to a five-year, $130 million extension.
The benefits of the Braves’ rebuild will be visible during the NLDS. Game 2 starter Mike Foltynewicz (Evan Gattis trade with the Astros), potential Game 4 starter Max Fried (Upton trade with the Padres) and left-handed reliever Sean Newcomb (Andrelton Simmons trade with the Angels) were all acquired during it.
Had the Braves not gone through this temporarily painful process, they wouldn’t currently own two consecutive NL East titles and the Cardinals might have somebody other than Goldschmidt sitting in the middle of their lineup for the next five seasons.