The Cardinals have acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks for catcher Carson Kelly, right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver, infield prospect Andy Young, and a Competitive Balance Round B pick in next year’s draft, as the teams announced Wednesday afternoon. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold first detailed the talks between the clubs, and Fancred’s Jon Heyman was the first to confirm it was a done deal:
Welcome to Arizona! The #Dbacks have acquired right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andrew Young and a 2019 Competitive Balance Round B draft pick from the Cardinals in exchange for Paul Goldschmidt. pic.twitter.com/ylANMvt8kU— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) December 5, 2018
There is momentum in talks with #dbacks and a Goldschmidt trade. #stlcards have been heavily in pursuit and wanting to push the pace on a deal, according to a source. Will Update. #cardinals https://t.co/KZyE0jit6C— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) December 5, 2018
Stlcards will be getting Goldy— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 5, 2018
There’s a very good argument to be made that the 31-year-old Goldschmidt is the best hitter in baseball, though he’s coming off a bit of a down year by his standards. The six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger is a .297/.398/.532 career hitter and has averaged 31 homers per 162 games over his eight big-league seasons — seven of them spent fully in the majors. Even as he experienced a bit of an up-and-down season in 2018, he still posted an impressive .290/.389/.533 slash line with 33 homers and 83 RBI. Though the 6-foot-3, 225-pound first baseman doesn’t possess elite speed by any means, he’s generally been an elite baserunner, stealing 15 or more bases in five of his seven full major-league seasons, including a career-high 32 in 2016. With that said, he had just seven steals — his fewest since he stole four while playing the final two months of the 2011 season as a rookie — and now that he’s into his 30s, it’s possible that his baserunning ability has declined for good.
Goldschmidt is a free agent following the season, so it’s understandable why Arizona felt compelled to move him now — especially since they’re unlikely to compete for a World Series title in 2019 with Patrick Corbin having departed and the Dodgers and Rockies both being clear playoff contenders. But judging by Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, Goldschmidt was the most impactful position player in Diamondbacks history, posting a 40.1 WAR for his career, which has been spent entirely in a D-Backs uniform up until now. So in many ways, this deal feels like the one that sent franchise icon Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates to the Giants last winter — though it’s perhaps more notable since the Pirates have had far more stars throughout their history than the 20-year-old Diamondbacks franchise has.
The 25-year-old Weaver, a first-round pick in 2014, had certainly shown flashes, but he had fallen very far down the Cardinals’ starting-pitching depth chart and was unlikely to get many opportunities going forward. He struggled significantly in 2018, posting a 4.95 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, striking out 121 and walking 54 over 136.1 innings. He should get more of an opportunity as a starter in Arizona with Patrick Corbin gone and Zack Greinke a candidate to be traded later this offseason.
Kelly was once regarded as the best catching prospect in baseball, but at 24 years old and with just one option year remaining, he wasn’t going to get many opportunities in the immediate future with Yadier Molina signed through the 2020 season. Kelly has been absolutely abysmal through his major-league career to date with the Cardinals: He’s a .154/.227/.188 hitter through 131 big-league plate appearances, and he seemingly regressed defensively in 2018, posting a -0.1 defensive WAR. He appeared to have been surpassed by 2016 seventh-round pick Andrew Knizner as the Cardinals’ preferred catcher of the future. He should get more of a legitimate chance in Arizona, where he’s likely platoon with or outright supplant Alex Avila.
Young, 24, was a 37th-round pick out of Indiana State in 2016 but has impressed over his first two full professional seasons. Between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield in 2018, he posted a .289/.379/.479 slash line with 21 homers over 503 plate appearances while seeing action at second base, third base, and shortstop. He once again thrived over 89 PAs in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .301/.416/.521 with three homers. He still projects as a Daniel Descalso-type utility player at the big-league level, but nevertheless is an interesting throw-in to the deal.