In the abstract, it’s pretty darn easy to see the Cardinals’ trade for Paul Goldschmidt, one of the best players in the National League for six years running, as a dramatic improvement to their playoff hopes in 2019. For a proud, competitive club that has missed the postseason three years in a row, there was no chance they were going to do nothing this offseason when they have an aging roster with guys nearing free agency.
I will admit, though, that when I saw this tweet of a hypothetical Cardinals lineup, intended to be a jaw-dropper I think, I was not all that intimidated:
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) December 6, 2018
Matt Carpenter, now 33, was intermittently awesome and garbage last year. Paul DeJong regressed to being a league-average bat last year. Marcell Ozuna famously struggled in his transition to St. Louis and is coming off shoulder surgery. Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader had promising debuts, but are far from established. Yadi Molina is 55. Kolten Wong is largely established as a slightly-below-average bat.
Don’t get me wrong: you can do this kind of poo-poo’ing with almost any lineup in baseball. But when I look at this one, I’m less struck by its impressiveness than by how freaking badly it needed someone like Goldschmidt.
So, then, what should concern you, a Cubs fan, about this trade is not just that Goldschmidt is good and probably improves the Cardinals’ projection by two or three wins, but also that it means they aren’t going to eff around with the rest of their roster. Goldschmidt is scheduled for free agency after this season, and although they’ll undoubtedly try to extend him, as of this offseason, they can only count on 2019.
You can expect the Cardinals, who have the resources, to make additions – maybe significant ones – in their bullpen. And it wouldn’t at all be a shock to see them still pursue another big-time bat, the placement of whom could be coordinated with other players. For example, if they could land Bryce Harper (a rumored target, don’t forget), then they could easily rotate Bader and O’Neill in and out of the lineup while jettisoning Dexter Fowler.
Although we saw the Goldschmidt trade coming for a few weeks, it was still jarring to me yesterday. The Cardinals already had a competitive lineup and a great, deep rotation. Now they have a solid lineup and all the more incentive to really, really go for it in 2019.