What a year 2018 has been for Paul Goldschmidt. Or more aptly, his Fantasy value.
More trade reaction
First was the great humidor scare that dropped him from a top-three pick to the second round. Then came the disastrous May that had some evaluators questioning whether he could still catch up to a big-league fastball, prompting a tidal wave of buy-low scenarios to my inbox, all met with tepid responses. Then came the final four months of the season, when the 31-year-old hit .330 with 26 home runs and a 1.022 OPS to remind us all that a stud is a stud and a month is a month and he’s as good as he always has been.
Minus the stolen bases.
And now, this:
The #STLCards have acquired six-time NL All-Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for C Carson Kelly, RHP Luke Weaver, INF Andy Young and the club’s Compensation Round B selection in the 2019 MLB Draft. #TimeToFly pic.twitter.com/65SThIrDli
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) December 5, 2018
I’d rate it a solid 9 on the newsworthiness scale. Indeed, most of us would struggle to picture Goldschmidt in anything other than a Diamondbacks uniform. He’s as intrinsic to the desert as cacti and the gila monster.
That is why this trade might strike fear in the hearts of some. It’s a change to a constant, the most beautiful of constants whose numbers have quietly nipped at the heels of Mike Trout over the past five years. Goldschimdt has three top-three MVP finishes during that stretch, but also the sigma of playing half his games at a notoriously hitter-friendly park, where he had historically performed better than on the road.
Maybe this trade is what ruins it all. Maybe the panic should begin anew. Maybe the humidor was actually the best thing that could have happened to him!
Allow me to dispel some of the uncertainty: It wasn’t. It may not have made Chase Field the bleakest of hitting environments, as feared, but as much as we can tell from just one year’s data, it pulled it down to the middle of the pack. And Goldschmidt wasn’t immune to its effects. He hit .238 with a .782 OPS there, defying the career-long trend of going big fly in the big dry.
But if his overall numbers were about the same, you know what that means: He must have killed it on the road. Indeed he did, batting .339 with a 1.053 OPS. And if you go through year by year, his numbers were more or less studly on the road even if it’s true his OPS was often 50-100 points lower there. So we’re talking a matter of degrees here — all of which would probably still forecast Goldschmidt as the top first baseman — and his 2018 should offer hope we’ll see him perform near the highest degree.
What happened to him is what so often seems to happen to transcendent bat wielders. Regression places a natural limit on their upside, sure, but when an advantage becomes closed to them, they find some other path of least resistance to achieving that same upside. It’s never as simple as applying their road numbers to their new home, in other words.
No, Busch Stadium isn’t a great place to hit, but hitters like Goldschmidt are too great for you to worry. So don’t let the panic set in again. He may be leaving the desert, but his skills aren’t deserting him.
The other pieces in this deal could see a bigger shift in value, which possibly goes without saying given that they’re beginning at next to nothing. But Luke Weaver was a popular breakout pick at this time a year ago and could use a change of scenery. Kind of needs one actually, after losing his job last August — and that was with Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright all sidelined by injury.
It was a bad year, one in which he seemed to get away from doing what he does best: getting ahead in the count and forcing hitters to guess between his fastball and changeup. But he had 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings as a rookie in 2017 and put together a 2.03 ERA over his minor-league career. He’s a pitcher I’d much rather see in a big-league rotation than out of it, and he almost certainly will be in the Diamondbacks’ with Patrick Corbin out of the picture.
Then there’s Kelly, who evaluators have deemed ready to step into a big-league starting job for a couple years now but who has had the misfortune of playing behind an all-timer in Yadier Molina. Much of Kelly’s appeal is as a receiver, but he has good strike-zone judgment and at least extra-base pop, offering hope he could develop into a Jonathan Lucroy type over time.
It’s a long-shot comparison, especially in an era when true full-time catchers are becoming more and more scarce, but Fantasy owners will take any semblance of upside at that wasteland of a position. If Kelly appears to have the inside track on the starting job come spring training, he probably vaults into the top 15 at the position.