Why Cards' deals for Goldy, Nolan are unique

February 14th, 2021

Most eyes are on the Cardinals in the National League Central entering 2021 after the team traded for yet another superstar in third baseman from the Rockies. In the past three offseasons, the Cardinals have now pulled off two trades for a perennial All-Star from another team, acquiring first baseman from the D-backs in December 2018, and now adding Arenado to the mix.

The 29-year-old Arenado has made a name for himself with his defense at the hot corner, winning the NL Gold Glove Award at third base every year since his rookie season. The only other player to start a career with at least that many consecutive Gold Gloves was Ichiro Suzuki with 10 straight, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But Ichiro also came over to MLB after a professional career in Japan, and he was 27, not 22 like Arenado when he debuted. Arenado is a five-time All-Star and received MVP votes from 2015-19, including a third-place finish in 2018, with a potent bat in addition to the defensive wizardry.

Goldschmidt, who was 31 when the Cards traded for him, was a six-time All-Star for the D-backs from 2013-18, and he finished second for the NL MVP in both 2013 and '15. He was also a three-time Gold Glove winner and four-time Silver Slugger.

In other words: two superstar-caliber players. Since 2015, the two rank third (Arenado) and fourth (Goldschmidt) in Wins Above Replacement among position players, according to Baseball Reference. The two players they trail, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, have each won at least one MVP Award in that span.

They aren’t just two star players, they’re two stars that the Cardinals acquired while both were in their primes -- in a short span. How unique is that? We’re glad you asked.

It’s the fifth time in the past 40 seasons that a team acquired two players in a three-season span who, at the time of their first games with the club, were both 31 years old or younger and had at least five career All-Star selections, according to Elias. One of those instances involved players who never played together: The Cubs traded for Nomar Garciaparra in July 2004 and signed Alfonso Soriano before the 2007 season, but the former had already signed with the Dodgers by then.

Here’s a look at the three other, more comparable, instances, in reverse chronological order.

Red Sox: David Price and Chris Sale
Dec. 4, 2015: Signed Price as free agent
Dec. 6, 2016: Acquired Sale in trade with White Sox
Season(s) together: 2017-19

When Price signed his seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox entering the 2016 season, it was the largest free-agent contract for a pitcher by total value. Price had been a five-time All-Star for the Rays, Tigers and Blue Jays, winning an American League Cy Young Award and racking up two other second-place finishes, including in 2015, entering his free agency. Sale hadn’t won a Cy Young Award, but he was an All-Star in five straight seasons for the White Sox, with four straight top-five award finishes through 2016.

In the duo’s first year as teammates in 2017, the Red Sox won the AL East before losing in the AL Division Series to the Astros, with Sale allowing nine runs in 9 2/3 innings in the series, while Price shined, albeit in a relief role. But in 2018, it all came together for the Red Sox, who won the World Series behind a narrative-changing postseason performance from Price and firepower from Sale, who struck out three batters in a scoreless ninth inning of the decisive Game 5 to clinch the title. The duo pitched together again in 2019, before Price was traded to the Dodgers before the '20 season.

Blue Jays: Troy Tulowitzki and David Price
July 28, 2015: Acquired Tulowitzki in trade with Rockies
July 30, 2015: Acquired Price in trade with Tigers
Season(s) together: 2015

This example is the closest to the Cardinals’ situation, since both players were acquired via trade, but in contrast, these happened over the course of three days, not seasons. Entering July 28, 2015, the Blue Jays sat tied for second place in the AL East with the Orioles, seven games behind the division-leading Yankees. They fueled up in a big way at the Trade Deadline, adding Tulowitzki and Price, who appears twice on this list. Tulowitzki had been selected to his fifth career All-Star Game earlier that month, as had Price. In 2012, Price won the AL Cy Young Award with the Rays, who traded him to the Tigers in July 2014, a year before Detroit dealt him to the Blue Jays in his final year before free agency.

Tulowitzki’s production declined upon arrival in Toronto, but Price got better, posting a 2.30 ERA in 74 1/3 innings for the club and ultimately finishing second for the AL Cy Young. Toronto turned it around, too, winning the division by six games over the Yankees and making it all the way to the AL Championship Series, losing to the eventual World Series winner Royals.

Rangers: Jose Canseco and Will Clark
Aug. 31, 1992: Acquired Canseco in trade with A’s
Nov. 22, 1993: Signed Clark as a free agent
Season(s) together: 1994

The A’s traded Canseco to Texas after 7 1/2 seasons that included five All-Star selections, a Rookie of the Year Award in 1986 and an MVP Award in '88. He played two-plus years in Texas before the Rangers traded him to Boston after the ‘94 season, hitting 45 homers in 193 games. Clark hit free agency after the ‘93 season and signed with the Rangers, after an eight-year Giants career that included five All-Star selections and four years receiving MVP votes, including a second-place finish in ‘89.

The two overlapped in 1994, when Clark introduced himself to Texas with a .329 batting average and a .932 OPS in 110 games. The team was atop the division, albeit with a 52-62 record, when a strike halted the season.