ST. LOUIS — After several years of searching and searching for the surefire superstar middle-order hitter that would bring muscle to the lineup, the Cardinals acquired him Wednesday in perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt.
The Cardinals traded catcher Carson Kelly, righthanded pitcher Luke Weaver and minor-league infielder Andy Young to Arizona for the six-time All-Star Goldschmidt. The deal also includes a compensation round draft pick in the 2019 draft. Goldschmidt will play first base, bump Matt Carpenter to third, and join Marcell Ozuna as the threats in the middle of the Cardinals' order.
Goldschmidt is set to travel to St. Louis as early as Thursday to meet with team officials. He will be introduced and presented with a jersey on Friday during a press conference.
Two sources confirmed Wednesday afternoon to the Post-Dispatch that momentum was building for an agreement and that the deal was possibly as far along as notifying the involved players. A deal was finalized Wednesday afternoon.
The Cardinals had entered the week looking to accelerate talks before next week's winter meetings in Las Vegas. Arizona had the harder decision -- moving the face of its franchise with a year remaining on his contract.
Goldschmidt, 31, will make $14.5 million this season and be a free agent a year from now. The Cardinals have wanted to acquire a player who they could spend a season with and determine if the pairing is a lasting fit. If so, the Cardinals would then seek to extend Goldschmidt before he reaches free agency. They did not eagerly chase a window to negotiate an extension with Goldschmidt because they see how a year together could be mutually beneficial.
The righthanded-hitting All-Star has had four consecutive seasons of at least 24 home runs and at least 80 RBIs, and he's got a career OPS of .930. (He also pulverizes NL Central opponents, as mentioned before.) In 2018, Goldschmidt won the Silver Slugger award ahead of other NL first baseman like Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo, and the Cardinals' Carpenter with a .290/.389/.533 slash line, .922 OPS, and 33 home runs.
Goldschmidt finished sixth in the MVP voting this past season, and he has had a top-three finish in three of the previous six seasons. In 2013, Goldschmidt led the National League with 36 home runs and 125 RBIs, and two years ago he topped the league with 110 walks. Since 2013, he has had only one year with an OPS lower than .900.
It was .899 in 2016.
Goldschmidt is also a superior glove and gives the Cardinals' their best all-around first baseman since Albert Pujols left after the 2011 season. Goldschmidt has won three Gold Glove Awards, and the Cardinals believe that his presence at first base will add stability to a position in flux. Carpenter's advanced metrics at third base in 2018 put him as an average to above-average third baseman.
With their brawny bat added before the arrival of the winter meetings, the Cardinals will narrow their focus to lefty relief and a lefthanded bat off the bench, possibly from a utility infielder. The Cardinals will drift further to the periphery on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, and for them to re-enter that mix it will take an opening in the market or a subsequent move to clear a spot in the outfield.
At this point the Cardinals are penciling Dexter Fowler as their starting right fielder for opening day.
The Cardinals were able to complete the deal without trading away a player that had a clear role for the 2019 team. Kelly, one of the top catching prospects in the game, was set to be Yadier Molina's backup this coming season, but his playing time would have been scarce the Cardinals had wondered what that would mean for his development. His absence clears the way for the Cardinals to explore a reunion with Francisco Pena as the backup catcher, and it also vaults Andrew Knizner to the top of the depth chart as the team's top catching prospect.
Weaver had a strong spring training this year and had elbowed his way into the rotation. But by the end of the year he had been surpassed by Jack Flaherty, and he was set to enter 2019 as a possibility for the bullpen or a depth starter who would begin the year at Class AAA Memphis.
The deal sets both of them up to be in the majors in 2019 with a rebuilding, cost-cutting Arizona club.
Both come with at least five years of control.
Young, an infielder, had a breakout year this past summer while playing for High-A and Class AA affiliates in the Cardinals' system. The 24-year-old hit .289/.379/.479 with 21 homers and 58 RBIs.