This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Paul Goldschmidt
Stats: 154 G, 687 PA, 89 R, 31 2B, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 11 SB, 2 CS, .268/.363/.447, 3.4 bWAR
Statcast: 12.0% barrel, 35.6% sweet spot, 111.7 max exit velocity, .350 wOBA, .367 xwOBA, 23.4% K, 12.7% BB
When you win the MVP, most likely the next season is going to be a bit of a downer, especially when that MVP year comes in your mid-30s. Yet when you look at the underlying metrics (and hat tip to Ben from Talking About Birds for highlighting this on one of their shows), there are a lot of similarities between that MVP season and the 2023 season, which is not as highly regarded.
As you can hopefully see from there (around my very crude circling) was that Goldy’s barrel %, barrel/PA, exit velocity, K%, BB%, hard hit rate were all pretty much in the same ballpark as they were last year when he had is outstanding season. The launch angle dropped a bit, which probably impacted the traditional numbers quite a bit, but all in all, the decline of Goldschmidt may have been a bit overrated.
Which is important for the big decision to come. Goldbird, to steal Dayn Perry‘s terminology, has one season left on the contract extension he signed right after showing up in St. Louis. The Cardinals have traditionally used spring training to sign at least one player to an extension. Goldschmidt would be the person that would seem to be most in line for such an addition to his contract this time around. If you just look at the production in ’22 and ’23, you might be hesitant to lock him up for another 2-3 years. After all, you have players like Jordan Walker, Alec Burleson, even Nolan Gorman that could cover first at a significantly lower rate with more upside. Maybe the Cards should get one more good year out of him then cut him loose.
There are two things wrong with that. One is what we are talking about–Goldy hasn’t fallen off a cliff and he’s not a liability by any means. If he was to reach the free agent market, he’d likely have 3-4 teams–contending teams–checking in with him and expressing interest. This isn’t the last ride of Matt Carpenter, for instance. Goldschmidt still has a lot of value. How that translates to dollars and years, I don’t know, but we’ll find out I imagine.
There’s the other aspect of this as well. The Cardinals–definitely the DeWitts and the front office but I also believe the fan base–love their legacy/Hall of Fame players. Obviously Goldschmidt is not home-grown but if he stays a couple of more years, he probably goes into Cooperstown as a Cardinal, especially if he wins a ring in St. Louis. You have Nolan Arenado on the same team with a similar appeal. After losing icons like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, the club is going to need these tentpoles for marketing, for team building, for all sorts of things. So I think even if Goldy was obviously declining, the club would be interested in extending him, which means it’s a good thing that decline might be overstated.
It will be interesting to see how the dearth of the big leadership personalities influences Goldschmidt in the last portion of his career. I don’t know that we’ll see much change in his public persona and from all accounts it’s not like he’s been shirking responsibilities in the clubhouse, but there’s going to need to be that player that speaks up. Miles Mikolas has said he wants to be that guy on the pitching side. Will Goldschmidt be that guy for the hitters?
What’s in store for 2024: As noted, Goldschmidt goes into his last year if a spring extension (in theory it could be done this winter but the front office has a lot of other things to focus on before Jupiter) doesn’t pan out. I would think that Goldy’s going to hit second or third all year long, put up solid numbers (maybe a step up from last year), and be a Cardinal from now until when he retires.