ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' search for an impact bat led them to the desert, where they plucked perennial All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the D-backs for a package that cost them former top prospects Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver. The Cardinals also sent Minor League infielder Andy Young and their compensation pick in Round B of the 2019 MLB Draft to Arizona to complete the deal Wednesday.
The club will hold a press conference to introduce Goldschmidt on Friday at Busch Stadium. It will come two months after president of baseball operations John Mozeliak spoke in that same room about the importance of adding a middle-of-the-order hitter to propel the Cardinals back toward the postseason after three years on the outside.
Though Goldschmidt, 31, arrives with only one year remaining on his contract, he instantly enhances a Cardinals lineup that was hampered by inconsistency last year. Goldschmidt is coming off a season in which he slashed .290/.389/.533 with 33 homers and finished sixth in the voting for National League MVP. A four-time Silver Slugger Award recipient, Goldschmidt has averaged 30 home runs over the past six seasons.
The addition of the three-time Gold Glove winner will shift Matt Carpenter back to third base, a position at which he posted a plus-6 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018. The Cardinals' corner infielders will also anchor the top of the lineup.
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 2013, Goldschmidt ranks second in the NL in hits, home runs, RBIs, runs, walks and extra-base hits.
Though the Cards were interested in trying to better balance their lineup with a left-handed bat and were ideally seeking a solution for the long term, the organization pivoted its pursuit around the time of the General Managers Meetings when it became clear that Arizona was willing to seriously entertain offers for its best player.
The two clubs remained in contact, with both sides desiring a quick resolution. The Cardinals needed clarity in time to turn their attention elsewhere had a deal not been reached. Arizona didn't want to leave a player who has meant so much to its organization under a cloud of indefinite uncertainty.
An agreement was reached on Wednesday, after which D-backs general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo met with Goldschmidt at Lovullo's home to deliver the news in person.
"Paul is possibly the best player in the National League," Hazen said. "We understand that, and we've understood that for a very long time. He has been the face of this franchise, neither of which were taken lightly when we made this decision."
The Cardinals did not request an opportunity to explore a contract extension with Goldschmidt before agreeing to the trade. Instead, they'll pay Goldschmidt the $14.5 million he's owed this year with the hope of turning a short-term payoff into a long-term gain. The Cardinals believe Goldschmidt will be more compelled to stay in St. Louis after playing here for a season.
It's a sales pitch that has worked in the past, most recently with Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Matthew Holliday.
The Cardinals won't be left completely empty-handed, either, if Goldschmidt does depart after one season. The club could make him a qualifying offer, thus assuring that they'd land a compensatory first-round pick for the 2020 Draft.
Because of the limited financial commitment related to the acquisition, this won't preclude the Cardinals from still making a significant splash in the free-agent market. Their focus now turns to the bullpen and adding a left-handed bat for the bench. Bryce Harper is not a priority target.
In order to execute this move, the Cardinals dealt from areas of strength. Weaver, a former first-round pick, had an uncertain fit given his regression last season and all the pitching depth around him. Kelly, considered one of the best catching prospects in baseball, was likely to be blocked by Yadier Molina for two more seasons. No. 5 prospect Andrew Knizner's emergence as a potential future heir to Molina also made dealing Kelly more palatable.
Young, a versatile infielder, had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League after slashing .289/.379/.479 while splitting time between Class A Advanced Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield last year.