Cardinals Strike Gold

07-12-2018 08:12

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The Cardinals’ primary offseason goal was to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat. Mission accomplished.

St. Louis announced a trade for six-time All-Star and two-time National League MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt on Wednesday. Arizona will receive Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, infield prospect Andy Young and a competitive balance pick in return.

Goldschmidt had an un-Goldy-like start to the 2018 season, sporting a .198/.320/.355 batting line and just five home runs through his first 48 games. He then took off and was Goldy again, putting up a robust .328/.418/.606 line with 28 bombs and 70 RBI across his final 110 contests. Of players with at least 300 plate appearances, only Mike Trout (1.105) and Christian Yelich (1.074) had a better OPS than Goldschmidt’s 1.023 mark over that stretch.

Goldschmidt has hit .301/.406/.541 over the last six seasons while averaging 32 home runs, 107 RBI, 105 runs scored and 19 stolen bases over his five full campaigns over that span. The only time he’s been on the disabled list in his career was back in 2014 when a hit by pitch fractured his hand.

While Goldschmidt’s strikeout rate was slightly elevated last season at 25.1 percent, that’s only because of his poor stretch at the beginning of the year. His whiff rate during the aforementioned final 110 games was 22.3 percent, which is a tick below his career mark. Goldy also posted the highest hard-hit rate (46.2 percent) and highest flyball rate (36.4 percent) of his career.

A move from Chase Field to Busch Stadium would have been a big downer for Goldy’s fantasy value a year ago but is much less of one now after Chase installed a humidor. Busch Stadium is a pretty pitcher-friendly park, while Chase Field played fairly neutral post-humidor. Goldschmidt batted just .238/.363/.420 with only 12 of his 33 dingers at home last season. He’ll be losing some games at Coors Field but will also be gaining games at Great American Ball Park, Miller Park and Wrigley Field. Goldschmidt should also be part of a better lineup. While he can’t be counted on for many stolen bases after falling off to seven in 2018, Goldy is set up to be a four-category monster again in 2019.

With Goldschmidt taking over at first base, Matt Carpenter will move across the diamond to third base and Jedd Gyorko will head to the bench. It’s possible the Cards will wind up trading Gyorko.

Weaver and Kelly both receive a boost in fantasy potential following the trade. Weaver had been likely to begin the season in the Cardinals’ bullpen or back at Triple-A but will have an inside track at a rotation spot with the Diamondbacks. Kelly was in line to serve as Yadier Molina’s backup, which is probably the loneliest job in baseball. Now he could win Arizona’s starting catcher job.

Weaver entered 2018 with plenty of promise but really struggled, posting a 4.95 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 121/54 K/BB ratio over 136 1/3 innings, eventually getting demoted to the bullpen (where he also scuffled). However, he came into last season with 117 strikeouts over 96 2/3 major league innings and he also posted a 2.03 ERA during his minor league career. There’s definitely bounce-back potential for the 25-year-old, especially if he can get his walks back down after he was uncharacteristically wild last year.

Kelly, 24, is known more for his defense at this point and has looked overmatched in his brief opportunities in the majors with a .415 OPS over 131 plate appearances. He has batted a solid .278/.373/.416 with a little pop during his time at Triple-A, though. If Kelly starts, he could potentially be relevant in two-catcher leagues given the low bar at the position. Neither Alex Avila nor John Ryan Murphy can be optioned, so it’s possible Kelly could start the season back in the minors or the D-backs might go with three catchers again. Obviously, neither of those scenarios would be good for Kelly’s fantasy potential.

What the Diamondbacks do at first base to replace Goldy remains to be seen. They could shift Jake Lamb over there, which wouldn’t be a bad idea since he’s coming back from shoulder surgery and isn’t a great defender at the hot corner, anyway. That would allow Eduardo Escobar to play third base and Ketel Marte to remain at second rather than move to center field as has been rumored. They might also give Christian Walker a shot at first. Walker has a .683 OPS over 99 plate appearances in the majors, but the 27-year-old has pulverized the ball at hitter-friendly Triple-A Reno. He could be a deep league option if he gets an opportunity. Of course, the D-backs look like they might be at the beginning of at least a mini-teardown, so their roster could look very different by spring training.

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