With all the offseason baseball talk focused on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, it’s easy to overlook other options teams may pursue.
When it comes to the Cardinals, the list of possibilities is lengthy. Nothing would come as a major shock.
The Cards don’t necessarily need another starting pitcher, but adding a starter is rarely a bad idea. They will almost certainly add bullpen depth. What will be interesting will be finding out if they’re willing to shell out a large bullpen contract. Recent attempts to add a big contract to the bullpen have gone awry (re: Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, Greg Holland).
The only thing that seems to be a lock is the idea the Cardinals will add an impactful bat. What that means depends on who you ask.
Obviously, Harper and Machado fit that bill. One thing that’s not fair to do is to compare other free agents or trade targets to them.
Harper and Machado are two of the game’s very best hitters. They’re young. They’re flashy. They’re the kind of players that can change the course of history for a franchise. The other guys who are available don’t quite stack up, but that doesn’t make them unattractive options.
One revelation that could overcome help overcome the disappointment of missing out on Harper and Machado is the thought that the Diamondbacks could make Paul Goldschmidt available.
Playing his home games in Arizona and so many other games on the West Coast, it’s possible many Midwesterners aren’t too familiar with Goldschmidt. Take a look a closer, and it’s hard not to like what you see.
Goldschimdt has been one of the league’s most productive hitters for six years. During that time, he’s hit right around .300 with an OPS well above .900. He’s averaged more than 30 home runs a season, and the analytics largely back up his production.
Plus, he’s been an outstanding defender at first base and rates as a very good base runner. Those are two things that should catch the attention of Cardinals fans.
Goldschmidt is a guy who would immediately improve the Cardinals in every aspect of the game. That said, he’s not without his faults.
At 31, it’s reasonable to believe he’s on the downside of his prime. He’s coming off his worst offensive season since 2012, but that’s only a testament to how prolific he was in the years in between. His 2018 numbers were perfectly healthy (.297 BA, .922 OPS, 33 home runs, 145 wRC+).
Sidebar: Don’t know what wRC+ is? No problem. Just know this. It stands for “weighted runs created plus,” and it’s considered one of the best analytics available at determining a batter’s production. In 2018, Goldschmidt’s 145 was eighth in baseball. That’s one spot ahead of Machado and nine ahead of Harper. Mike Trout’s 191 wRC+ was best in baseball, and Mookie Betts was second at 185.
Next season will be the last of Goldschmidt’s current contract. If the Diamondbacks are truly willing to do business, the Cardinals have the goods to pry the perennial all-star away.
It’s the move the team should look at most closely if/when they miss out on Harper and Machado.
JEFF WILSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwilson83.