The St. Louis Cardinals pulled off a gigantic move on Wednesday, as they acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andy Young, and the Cardinals’ Competitive Balance selection in the 2019 draft.
The 31-year-old Goldschmidt is entering the final year of a six-year contract worth $44.55 million that he signed before the 2014 season. His career with the Diamondbacks was nothing short of spectacular, as he slashed .297/.398/.532 with a cumulative 209 home runs in 4,708 plate appearances. He has also been an All-Star in each of the last six season, won four Silver Slugger awards, three Gold Gloves, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times, with one 11th place finish. In his final season before free agency, he will earn a reasonable $14.5 million. The move also shifts Matt Carpenter to third base full-time while second will now be handled in something of a platoon between Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong. Goldy should put the Cardinals right in the thick of the NL Central race that seems likely to include the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs, with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a dark horse.
For the Diamondbacks, this signifies a shift to something of a rebuild. The Diamondbacks have already acquired a compensatory pick from the Nationals after losing Patrick Corbin, and they will probably earn another when A.J. Pollock signs elsewhere. Furthermore, they made a trio of rather significant non-tenders last week in Shelby Miller, Brad Boxberger, and Chris Owings, who signed with the Royals today.
As expected, the Snakes received a very strong haul for the All-Star, headlined by a pair of major league ready players in Weaver and Kelly.
Weaver is a 25-year-old right-handed starting pitcher who threw 136.1 innings last season for the Cardinals. While his 4.95 ERA in 2018 wasn’t great, he was considerably better in 2017 when he posted a 3.88 ERA next to a 3.17 FIP over 60.1 innings pitched. Weaver brings with him a plus change-up, an above average cutter, and a fastball that typically works in the mid 90’s. Furthermore, while his control wasn’t particularly impressive in 2018, he has shown nearly elite control in the past, typically sitting under 2.5 walks per nine innings. My expectation for Weaver is that he begins the 2018 season in the Diamondbacks rotation slotting third behind Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke, assuming neither are traded. The Diamondbacks also have Zack Godley and the recently signed Merrill Kelly in place to fill spots. Weaver’s ceiling is that of a legitimate two, but I believe he will fall closer to a three/four type guy.
The 24-year-old Kelly has long been considered one of the most promising prospects in the game. Throughout his first 63 games in the major leagues, the bat hasn’t looked very good, as he has slashed .154/.227/.188 with no home runs. That being said, he has posted above average caught stealing rates, throwing out 31 percent of base thieves compared to a 28 percent league average rate. One major reason for his struggles, however, has been the fact that he has been behind Yadier Molina throughout his entire career. His playing time has been limited, which has hurt his development. Luckily for him, assuming he is able to hold his own in spring training, he should be the Diamondbacks starter on Opening Day with John Ryan Murphy and Alex Avila serving as backups. While I don’t believe his bat will ever be well above average, I can certainly see him slashing .250/.345/.360 while playing borderline elite defense behind the plate. I am a huge fan of his approach at the plate and while the power isn’t necessarily great, it works. On a side note, I expect either Avila or Murphy to be traded within the coming weeks. Avila seems like the obvious choice in a contract swap as he’s owed $4.25 million for 2019.
Young has been a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals throughout his career. Drafted in the 37th round in 2016, the infielder has slashed a very strong .281/.367/.462 over 289 minor league games. His speed is average, his power can be considered to be slightly above average, and he sports a plus glove. He can play a well above average shortstop and second base, with competency at third base and the outfield corners. He should begin the season at Double-A and could be an option for the Diamondbacks by the end of the year. Long term, I see him as a major league super utility guy, as opposed to a journeyman. I would consider some comparisons to be Daniel Descalso or Tommy La Stella.
My first impression of this deal is that it’s a fair deal for both sides. The Cardinals did what was needed to be done to compete in one of the better divisions in the league, while the Diamondbacks acknowledged the fact that the window with their current team was closing, and decide to start “breaking it down” and acquire major league ready players before it was too late to do so and they were stuck with a lengthy rebuild. I would expect Ray, Jake Lamb, Steven Souza Jr., and possibly David Peralta to be traded in the coming months as well. The bullpen is another area from which they can deal. That being said, I don’t expect the Diamondbacks to go into “tank mode” based on their signing of Eduardo Escobar.