By Rob Rains
Even before he played an official game for the Cardinals, Paul Goldschmidt knew St. Louis was where he wanted to be for the rest of his career.
The Cardinals wanted that to happen as well, knowing that by signing Goldschmidt to a long-term extension he would become the face of the franchise, something they haven’t had since the departure of Albert Pujols, and that he would be the best player the team has had in nearly a decade.
“I was just excited when I got traded over here to be honest with you,” Goldschmidt said on Saturday. “I didn’t know if it was just going to be for one year or shorter or longer. My experience has been great so far. This organization has a great reputation for a reason. Everything I’ve heard has been true since I’ve been here and it’s exciting to be part of the team.
“Teams, organizations, cities kind of have a reputation. Coming from the outside, you only go in there for a few days, but everything I heard about St. Louis and the organization has been more than great … Definitely felt confident in that and it’s been probably been more than true.
“I knew I would like it. There’s not really anything to dislike. I’m glad the feeling was mutual. … Hopefully we will do some great things here.”
The Cardinals officially signed Goldschmidt to a five-year contract extension on Saturday and announced the deal at a press conference outside the team’s clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla. The extension will begin with the 2020 season and keep the 31-year-old Goldschmidt in a Cardinals’ uniform through 2024.
The contract is reportedly worth $130 million, making it the richest deal in team history both in terms of the total dollar amount and also for the annual salary of $26 million a season. The extension includes a no-trade clause.
Goldschmidt would have been eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, and following his acquisition in a trade from Arizona in December, the Cardinals said they did not intend to try to push Goldschmidt into early talks about signing an extension.
They wanted him and his wife and family, which includes two young children, to get familiar with St. Louis and the organization and then at some point determine if there was mutual interest in a long-term relationship.
It turned out the courtship wasn’t necessary, and was completed even before it really had a chance to begin.
“I think back to Dec. 7, when we announced the Paul Goldschmidt trade,” said John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations. “We addressed a lot of things; what he meant to our lineup, what he meant to us defensively, what he meant to us as a teammate. One thing we didn’t address was the contract and what that would look like.
“A few weeks ago I ran into Goldy and over a cup of coffee that I was sipping we talking about potentially trying to find a way to make this his permanent home. I’m happy to report that after speaking with him, and with (agent) Casey Close we got to a point where we could do that.
“It was very organic. We never went into this with deadlines, we never went this with ‘we have to do this.’ Really the strategy was hope, which is sometimes dangerous, but it worked out.”
Said Cardinals’ chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., “I think he understood the commitment to winning, the quality of our teammates and the quality of our club … I want to thank him for believing in the Cardinals and for what he will do for our franchise as we move into the future.”
Goldschmidt said he didn’t really know how the contract negotiations would go.
“The business side is always weird,” he said. “For me I was just focused on playing and let whatever would happen off the field, let my agent handle it and talk with the Cardinals. The most important thing for me was getting ready for opening day and the season. I owe that to my teammates and the organization. That’s why we are here, to go out and play baseball and try to win and bring another championship back here. Hopefully I will be a small part of that.
“I think the plan was just to play baseball and focus on that … That’s why we’re here. We’re here to play. Anything that can possibly be a distraction I try to take out of the way. This was something that could be a distraction.”
Even though Goldschmidt’s humility was on display at the press conference, the Cardinals are counting on him being the centerpiece of their push to get back to the playoffs after a three-year absence.
Goldschmidt is the only National League player to appear in the last six All-Star games and he has won four Silver Slugger awards as the top hitting first baseman in the league and three Rawlings Gold Gloves as the top defensive first baseman.
Goldschmidt knows he potentially could have landed a bigger contract as a free agent next winter, but he’s glad he won’t have to go through that experience.
“I’m just excited that they (the Cardinals) thought that highly of me and wanted to keep me around. I’m excited to be part of the team,” he said.
Goldschmidt said watching what happened on the free agent market this off-season really did not affect his decision.
“You know what’s going on because you have to,” he said. “Everyone sees the money and they are excited about that and I understand why that makes headlines but I think the most exciting thing for me is to be part of the Cardinals and to be here for six years.
“It’s pretty rare to know where you are going to get to play. There’s a lot of great things about this game but a lot of times families are moving around, guys are going to different cities and teams more out of necessity than want. To have an opportunity to stay in one place was a high priority.”
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports