It was quite the day for Cardinals news yesterday. Two games and a declaration of a fifth starter, not to mention the apparent fate of Alex Reyes. We’ll get to all that but it was all overshadowed by a report that came out yesterday afternoon, quickly confirmed, that Paul Goldschmidt would be signing an extension.
Ever since Goldschmidt was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the line from the front office was that they weren’t going to really engage Goldschmidt on extension talks until he got a chance to experience St. Louis, both the city and the fans, and give him a chance to see if that is a place that he’d be comfortable playing for a number of years. I don’t know exactly what changed–maybe Goldschmidt feels he knows enough about St. Louis from his occasional visits and talking with others on the team, maybe he decided he didn’t want to tackle free agency after the last couple of winters–but instead of Opening Day being a recruitment, it will be a coronation.
The Cardinals probably felt a little pressure to get something done as well. When they acquired Goldschmidt, there were still big names on the free agent market (though they weren’t pursuing them), and Nolan Arenado (next year) and Mike Trout (two years hence) were still scheduled to be available. All those options are off the board and, assuming Anthony Rendon winds up extending with the Nationals (which, to be fair, there haven’t been any recent reports), you wonder exactly what the Cards would have done had both Goldschmidt and Ozuna walked after this year. There weren’t any obvious big bats to target to fill in that hole. Now, if (honestly, when) Ozuna walks, they can probably do OK with Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, and Dexter Fowler in the outfield with Official Prospect of the Blog Dylan Carlson probably knocking on the door by then. It’s not the same as an established big bat, but with Goldschmidt at first, you can get by with a lot of upside but less experience.
The terms seem to be five years, $130 million (or 5/130 for anyone that’s not the crazed Jon Doble) starting in 2020. The initial report said $110, which would have left Matt Holliday‘s contract (which was longer) as the most expensive one in Cardinal history. Instead, Goldschmidt takes the crown for highest annual value and most total money. We’ll see if he keeps it for 10 years like Holliday did–there are strong odds that he will.
Is there a downside here? Absolutely. We talked a lot this winter, while Bryce Harper was still on the market, about the value of paying for 10 years that spanned 27-36 versus the five years of 32-36. Most likely Goldschimdt is going to decline over the span of this contract. That said, Holliday’s contract covered his 31-37 years and, by every account, he more than earned the money he was given. The last couple of years were injury-plagued, which didn’t help, but even his final year in St. Louis he hit 20 homers in 110 games. It wasn’t classic Matt Holliday but it did help the team. It feels like Goldschmidt could be a similar type of player. He also plays first base, not the outfield, which means he has less places to go but he also doesn’t have to worry much about losing speed or agility as he ages.
The deal came in less than many of us thought (we had basically braced ourselves for $150 million) and comes early enough that people now can embrace Goldschmidt without fear that this is a one time thing. The Andres Galarraga scenario is ruled out. Once Yadier Molina retires, assuming he does so over the span of this contract (you never really know with Molina), most likely Goldschmidt is elevated to the face of the franchise. It seems like a good deal all the way around and it insures Goldschmidt is going to have a huge ovation when he is announced at the home opener.
Also yesterday, Mike Shildt confirmed that Dakota Hudson will start in the rotation, John Gant in the bullpen, and Alex Reyes will be out in the ‘pen as well. None of this was really surprising, with the only real strike against Hudson the fact that he still has options and might have made some other decisions easier. Shildt has been adamant about taking the best arms possible, however, and given Hudson’s spring training, it would have been hard to argue he wasn’t one of them. My reluctance around Hudson has always been his lack of strikeouts. This spring, though, he’s struck out 17 in 15.2 innings of work, which seems to indicate a new approach. If that continues, Hudson could be a big benefit to the rotation.
Carlos Martinez, as Derrick Goold pointed out yesterday, is still about two weeks from throwing off a mound. (At least–we know what two week estimates have been worth in the past.) If he’s on a spring training-like program, that probably means we won’t really see Martinez until almost the first of June, which coincides with that Peter Gammons report from a month or so ago. It’s not going to be a short-term loss for the rotation so this will give Hudson plenty of time to claim that spot as his own. By time Martinez is ready to return, there could be other issues in the rotation that Hudson needs to fix. If he’s going well, they won’t remove him, they’ll work around him. His fate is in his hands and I look forward to seeing what he does with it.
As for Gant and Reyes, again those are not big surprises. Gant is out of options and while he could get dealt in the next week (as could Mike Mayers), it feels like the club likes his flexibility. With him and Reyes (and, perhaps in time, Martinez) there should be very few times where Shildt has to stick with a struggling starter because he needs innings. There was no particular reason for Reyes to stretch out in Memphis, especially when he’s on an innings cap this year. I am still a bit skeptical of this idea that they can transition him to the rotation during the season, but when you think about it people like Gant help that cause. If they ever need to, they can slide Reyes in to start a game, go three innings, and plan for Gant to go two or three in relief. Rinse and repeat until Reyes has built up to starter strength.
Oh, and the club also played some baseball yesterday. After all the talk about the scuffling offense, the first game might have shown some signs that there is life there after all. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run on the first pitch and later added another. Marcell Ozuna had a homer and two doubles. Drew Robinson, trying to bookend his spring, had three hits including a double. All in all, the club put up 14 hits and 11 runs, more than they’ve done in some weeks lately it feels like. Again, it’s one game and we’ll see how things look today against the Mets, but it’s definitely something that can quiet a little angst, at least temporarily.
The second game wasn’t as successful, a 7-1 loss to the Nationals, but it also didn’t have many regulars in that lineup. Tommy Edman had a couple of hits, which is going to keep his name at the top of a potential call-up list, and Dylan Carlson had two as well. The only guys going north in this game were Tyler O’Neill (0-4), Jose Martinez (0-3), Yairo Munoz (1-4) and perhaps Matt Wieters (0-2). Today’s decision day on Wieters and while he should be the backup for Molina, if you go by the spring numbers they’ve been a bit concerning. Then again, almost everyone’s spring numbers are and I doubt that’s what they’ll use when deciding between him and Francisco Pena. Still, until they commit to him or vice versa, there is an element of uncertainty there.
Less than a week until Opening Day! Go out and get your Goldschmidt jersey in confidence now!