The St. Louis Cardinals are not a team that frequently targets top players. For over a decade, they have had a never ending pipeline of solid players that has fueled them to four World Series visits and two World Series wins since 2004. After a dominant stretch though, their formula of relying on homegrown talent stopped working, and its caused a three year playoff drought for the redbirds, their longest since the late 90’s. Determined not to let another October come and go, the Cardinals seem to be making moves, as they just pulled off what may end up being the biggest trade this offseason by moving three players and a pick to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the perennial all-star Paul Goldschmidt. For a team that manages to come so close and just miss every year, a star like Goldy may be just what they Cards need to push themselves back over the top.
The last three seasons have been brutal for the Cardinals. In 2015, after winning 100 games and finishing with the best record in baseball, they lost a tough NLDS to their arch-rival Chicago Cubs in four games. Then, in 2016 they showed promise but lacked consistency, as they missed the playoffs by one game. 2017 was worse, as the team took a huge slide downward after the first month and finished four games out of the Wild Card. 2018 may have been the most heartbreaking, as the team treaded water all year up until August, where they took off after firing manager Mike Matheny. They did not lose a series that month, and managed to climb all the way to the first Wild Card,. In September, though, they fell short yet again, missing the playoffs by just a few games. Their huge comeback went for nought, and sent the team searching for answers.
The team’s offense has struggled to find an identity over that painful run. Their lineup had solid players like Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina, but nobody that could consistently carry a team. Now, with a star like Goldschmidt joining the fray, they may finally have that anchor whom they can rely on all year. Goldy is coming off of a year where he hit .290 with 33 home runs, and has not had a year with a WAR under 4.6 since 2012. He has also been an all-star every year of that stretch, and even led the Diamondbacks to the playoffs back in 2017 while being the majority of offensive production. He’s the type of consistently good player the Cards haven’t had, as their big hitters like Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna both were some of the streakiest players in the Bigs a year ago. Goldschmidt, however, may be the force they’ve been looking for to carry St. Louis back into the postseason.
While Goldschmidt will undoubtedly be good, there are other factors that will impact the effectiveness of this trade. They gave up prospects Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly for him, along with AAA shortstop Andy Young as well as a pick. Goldschmidt only has one year on his deal left, so if Weaver or Kelly wind up being anything special, the Cardinals may regret the move if they can’t resign him. Although they will have the finances to do so, as well as the baseball crazed environment players usually love, nothing is a given. People thought Brandon Heyward was a lock to stay their trade with the Atlanta Braves in 2015, but he jumped ship to Chicago after one year. If Goldschmidt does decide to leave after this season, it wouldn’t take much from Kelly or Weaver for the Diamondbacks to win the trade. There are always these risks, and the Cardinals surely realize that, but re-signing Goldschmidt is going to need to be a huge focus of theirs over the next few years.
The Cardinals need this move. They haven’t been able to survive with their lineup full of solid role players, and it has made life difficult for them. Now, with a. legitimate star they can lean on, they finally have an element to their came that they haven’t since Albert Pujols took of for the LA Angels after 2011. It may not be enough on tis own to take them back to October, but this is the most hopeful sign the Cards fans have had in a long time.