By Rob Rains
When he met with the media following the Cardinals’ third consecutive year of failing to reach the playoffs, a candid John Mozeliak admitted the team might need to take a risk if they wanted to bring an end to that disturbing cycle.
The Cardinals’ president of baseball operations also admitted one thing lacking on his team in recent years was a star, a face of the franchise player the team had not had since the departure of Albert Pujols.
They took a calculated risk on Wednesday and might have just found their next star, all in the same move.
The Cardinals acquired six-time All Star Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, minor-league infielder Andy Young and the team’s compensation back after the second round in next year’s amateur draft.
In the team’s press release announcing the trade Mozeliak called Goldschmidt “one of the game’s premier players.”
In addition to his six All-Star selections, the 31-year-old Goldschmidt isa three-time winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove as the best first baseman in the National League and is a four-time winner of the Silver Slugger award.
Goldschmidt is the only National Leaguer and one of just three major leaguers to make the All-Star team each of the last six years. The others are Mike Trout and Salvador Perez.
The deal comes less than a week before the start of the winter meetings in Las Vegas and will not keep the Cardinals from being active there and beyond, perhaps even continuing their pursuit of free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.
The Cardinals are planning to have Goldschmidt in town for a press conference on Friday.
Goldschmidt is a career .297 hitter with 209 home runs and 710 RBIs ib 1,002 career games. He has hit 30 or more home runs in four of the last six seasons, including 33 this season, when he overcame a slow start to finish the year with a .290 average.
He has been particularly effective against the rival Chicago Cubs. In 43 games in his career, Goldschmidt has compiled a .353 average with 14 home runs.
Barring any other additions, Goldschmidt projects to hit third in the Cardinals’ lineup.
Part of the risk in the deal for the Cardinals is that Goldschmidt can be a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. His addition also means the former first baseman, Matt Carpenter, likely will shift back to third base.
The Cardinals are hoping, of course, that they can convince Goldschmidt to sign a long-term deal once he arrives in St. Louis as several would-be free agents – including Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds and Matt Holliday – have done before him.
If they can’t convince Goldschmidt to stay, they can make him a qualifying offer and at least receive a compensation pick in the 2020 draft if he signs with another team.
The three players the Cardinals sent to the Diamondbacks likely did not figure prominently in their plans for next season. Weaver, a former first-round draft pick, suffered through a tough 2018 season that saw him lose his spot in the starting rotation.
Kelly, considered one of the best catching prospects in the game, was stuck behind Yadier Molina with the Cardinals and even if was on the roster as the backup catcher likely would have had only limited playing time. Mozeliak admitted there was nothing left for him to prove in Triple A.
Young, who spent most of last season at Springfield, probablty would have played at Memphis this season.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains