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Which suitor needs Goldschmidt most?

November 26, 2018

Paul Goldschmidt is perhaps the biggest name caught up in trade rumors in an offseason that already has seen left-hander James Paxton move from the Mariners to the Yankees.The D-backs face a tough decision, coming off an 82-80 season that left them short of the playoffs. Unless Arizona can sign

Paul Goldschmidt is perhaps the biggest name caught up in trade rumors in an offseason that already has seen left-hander James Paxton move from the Mariners to the Yankees.
The D-backs face a tough decision, coming off an 82-80 season that left them short of the playoffs. Unless Arizona can sign Goldschmidt to an extension, he will reach free agency after next season, at which point the club could lose him for Draft pick compensation (assuming a qualifying offer). A trade would allow the D-backs to get more in return for the 31-year-old.
At the same time, parting with Goldschmidt wouldn't be easy. The six-time All-Star first baseman has become a franchise player in the desert, ranking third among MLB position players with 32.9 wins above replacement (WAR) since 2013, according to FanGraphs. After enduring a rough patch last May, Goldy looked like Goldy the rest of the way, batting .330/.420/.602 with 26 home runs over his final 104 games.

The track record, talent and 2018 salary ($14.5 million) suggest that Arizona general manager Mike Hazen should enjoy no shortage of suitors for his biggest trade chip. The lack of club control remaining makes things far more complicated, however, considering the risk of giving up too much for just one year of Goldschmidt's services.
Taking that dynamic into account, who should be making the biggest push to land Goldschmidt this offseason?
1. Houston Astros
The 2017 World Series champs have won 204 regular-season games over the past two years yet also boast the type of farm system that would allow them to comfortably land a star player. The Astros' enviable lineup already features Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer, but there is also room to add, especially with Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez free agents.

While a left-handed hitter would be the ideal target for Houston's righty-heavy group, the Astros no doubt would be thrilled to bring Goldschmidt to a first base/DH picture that currently includes Yuli Gurriel and Tyler White. Neither should be considered an impediment for such a deal, with the 35-year-old Gurriel more solid than spectacular in the big leagues (career 111 OPS+), and the 28-year-old White having logged fewer than 600 career plate appearances. Even with Goldschmidt on board, both could see significant playing time, especially since Gurriel has experience around the infield.

2. St. Louis Cardinals
They have gotten perhaps the most buzz thus far when it comes to Goldschmidt rumors, which is understandable. The Cardinals have missed the playoffs for three straight years after doing so in just three of the previous 12, and the lineup has more depth than top-end talent. Goldschmidt would bring the kind of thump the club needs in a tough NL Central.
Ideally, the Cardinals would land a left-handed hitter, and/or someone who plays third base or right field. (Say, Bryce Harper). Acquiring Goldschmidt instead would tilt the lineup further to the right while weakening the defense by pushing Matt Carpenter across the diamond to third. But perfect fits are rare, and Josh Donaldson's reported deal with Atlanta takes one obvious St. Louis target off the table. The Cards have the motivation and means to get something done with Goldschmidt instead.
3. New York Yankees
As the Paxton deal showed, the Yankees are in an aggressive mood this offseason, after an October in which the rival Red Sox beat them in the American League Division Series on their way to another championship. That approach might be focused more on adding another starting pitcher, or on landing an infielder such as Manny Machado. Don't ignore Goldschmidt, though.
At first base, the Yankees are counting on under-the-radar Trade Deadline acquisition Luke Voit (.333/.405/.689 in New York) to be the real deal, or for Greg Bird to finally put together a productive full season. Perhaps Brian Cashman and the front office are satisfied with that, in particular given Voit's impressive results and underlying Statcast™ metrics. But Goldschmidt would bring a far more established bat to the mix, and the thought of adding it to the lineup between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton has to be tempting.

4. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays don't usually leap to mind when it comes to making high-profile acquisitions, but upon closer inspection, a Goldschmidt deal makes a lot of sense. As Mike Petriello recently examined in depth, Tampa Bay is coming off a strong 90-win season that still left it on the outside looking in thanks to the tough competition in the AL. It's a deep organization, but only AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell had a 4-WAR season in 2018, and an elite talent such as Goldschmidt (5.1 WAR) could be just what the Rays need.
No, the Rays almost certainly would not sign Goldschmidt long-term, but they could afford to take a shot with him in '19. Not only is Goldy's $14.5 million salary not prohibitive, but Tampa Bay also has a top farm system from which to deal. And with C.J. Cron claimed off waivers by the Twins, the Rays currently have Jake Bauers and Ji-Man Choi penciled in as the top options at first base and DH. Most would expect them to stick with those in-house candidates or hunt the free agent bargain bin, but Goldschmidt represents a huge opportunity to make a splash.
5. Minnesota Twins
Claiming Cron on Monday would appear to decrease the likelihood of a Goldschmidt deal, but it shouldn't preclude one. Cron is a solid hitter, but even his career year in 2018 fell well shy of Goldschmidt's lofty standards. And despite last season's disappointing result, Minnesota has an opportunity to challenge Cleveland in the AL Central in '19.
Goldschmidt would be a tremendous boon to those postseason hopes, whether or not the Twins' latest addition remains in the picture. With Joe Mauer retired, the club's options at first base and DH now include Cron, Christopher Austin, Robbie Grossman, Mitch Garver, and perhaps Miguel Sano. That leaves plenty of room for an upgrade, even if Minnesota probably would prefer a more long-term solution.
The field
Rockies first basemen (mostly Ian Desmond) had the lowest park-adjusted offensive numbers in the Majors last year, and Colorado might have just one year left to win with Nolan Arenado. The Angels seem to have a hole at first, though if Shohei Ohtani is able to swing the bat for the bulk of the year, a Goldschmidt trade would require the Halos to finally reduce Jose Pujols' role.
The Phillies clearly are looking to turbocharge their lineup and have been connected to just about every big name, including Goldschmidt. But any deal that cements Rhys Hoskins' place in the outfield for another year is somewhat counterproductive. The Nationals could use Goldschmidt to hedge their bets on the often-injured, 34-year-old Ryan Zimmerman, but might prefer to focus on other areas.
Considering Goldschmidt's stature, he would help just about any team in 2019. But the realities of the situation likely leave the D-backs with a limited group of likely trade partners.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.