Part of the reason we read – and write – about sports on the internet is to dissent and disagree. Our brains crave the sweet, sweet chemicals that come from a good resolution, so we search out every bit of disjunction we can find to snuff it out and get that elusive high. The best place to find these triggers is the over-abundance of hot takes or the regular fight against click bait.
All of this goes to say that this piece is neither of those things. There is probably no broken narrative for you, dear reader, to resolve. If you’re looking for a take to roll your eyes at, this probably won’t be it. That resolution high that your brain wants? You’d probably be served better finding it elsewhere.
So here goes: you probably already know that on Wednesday evening, the Cardinals traded Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, Andy Young and a competitive balance pick to the Arizona Diamondbacks for All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. It’s the kind of move the Cardinals don’t often make – player consolidation, major upgrade to an already above-average position – and was immediately praised by fans and media alike.
There are a few unknown factors that could turn the move into a disaster – or at least an unsavory memory – for the Cardinals. Luke Weaver could return to his 2017 form or maybe even improve to a consistent, top-of-the-rotation type of starter. Carson Kelly could discover his offensive ceiling and turn into one of the league’s best two-way catchers. Andy Young could turn into a useful utility bench player. The Diamondbacks could also turn the draft pick into a valuable prospect. On the Cardinals’ end, Goldschmidt could regress sharply into his 30s, maybe even after the Cardinals offer him a lucrative extension.
All or none of these things could happen. All or none of the direct opposite of these things could happen. We have no way of knowing the future, which makes the practice of instantly picking a “winner” and “loser” of a trade pointless. Even after years of evaluation, it can be hard to get a consensus opinion.
But we also shouldn’t overthink our evaluation trade, which is an obvious positive for the Cardinals in about every sense of the word.
Saying, “Paul Goldschmidt is a good baseball player, and he makes the Cardinals a better team,” is a bit of an understatement. Since 2013, Goldschmidt ranks third in fWAR for position players in the major leagues, only trailing Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. He hasn’t posted a wRC+ below 130 since 2012. He’s been an above average base runner for the same amount of time. His defense, while not sterling, is good enough for a bat of his quality. He’s (seemingly) a hard worker, has been the face of an entire franchise for much of the past decade and is about as good a player as you can hope to get on the trade market – teams aren’t shipping away franchise cornerstones very often
In return for this player of such high quality, here’s what the Cardinals gave up:
- Luke Weaver, a pitcher whose ceiling is somewhere around a mid-rotation starting pitcher, but has recently regressed and been surpassed on the Cardinals depth chart by a stable of equally exciting prospects.
- Carson Kelly, a catcher who is blocked by the face of the Cardinals’ franchise for another two years and may have also been passed in the organization’s internal depth by another prospect. He could be an all-world defender and decent bat… or he could be a defensive specialist a team would have to hide in the lineup.
- Andy Young, a 24-year-old infielder who, barring a miracle, wasn’t going to be more than a bench bat in the future.
- A compensation pick which… who the hell knows?
The question of service time is what makes this trade worth following into the future. The Cardinals only get one guaranteed year of production from Goldschmidt, while the Diamondbacks get at least half a decade from each. In monetary terms, the Diamondbacks have a very good chance of walking away from this trade in the black.
There are, however, a few things money can’t buy: the thrill of October baseball or, dare I say it, a twelfth World Series championship; or just the joy of getting to watch one of baseball’s best players put on your favorite team’s laundry. The Cardinals’ acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt offers the Cardinals and their fans potentially all of those things, maybe for years to come.
There will be a time to look back at this trade and evaluate it on its on-field merits. That time is not now. Now is the time to celebrate a trade that is an undeniable positive for the St. Louis Cardinals and those who love them.