Although rumors are easily our favorite part of the winter, I know they can be overwhelming at times. In fact, they’re pretty overwhelming during normal winters, but these past two (desperately slow) offseasons have arguably made things even worse.
But facing the storm of swirling rumors, most of which end up as nothing more than talk (even when that talk actually *IS* happening behind the scenes, and you’ll never really know for sure!), you can usually trust it when the by-line reads “Ken Rosenthal.” He’s not only well-sourced, but he tends to do his due diligence, and appears to hit with news on a much higher rate than most. Basically: his word carries some weight.
Which is why I don’t love seeing a portion of his latest at The Athletic: indicating that the Cardinals “have kicked around internally the idea of acquiring [Paul] Goldschmidt and [Zack] Greinke in the same deal.”
Yowsa. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but this would be quite the bombshell if the Cardinals pulled it off. Moreover, given Greinke’s contractual commitment (a little over $100 million remaining over the next three years), it’s not hard to imagine the return to the Diamondbacks not being significant if the Cardinals simply took on the salary (which they certainly could afford to do, though the long-term impact could be a net negative).
Obviously, any team in baseball would love to have someone like Goldschmidt, but the Cardinals, in particular, have been looking for someone *exactly* like him. Specifically, their number one priority this winter is adding an impact bat to either first or third base, while moving Matt Carpenter across the infield, as necessary.
And, well, Goldschmidt is about as impact-y as bats get, and has been one of the top overall first basemen in baseball over the last six seasons. Heck, he’s just an impact player.
WAR Leaderboard 2013-2018
- Mike Trout: 54.0
- Clayton Kershaw: 37.9
- Max Scherzer: 36.8
- Josh Donaldson: 35.6
- Chris Sale: 35.4
- Corey Kluber: 33.8
- Paul Goldschmidt: 32.9
- Mookie Betts: 30.5
- Jose Altuve: 29.4
- Joey Votto: 29.0
Over the last six years, Goldschmidt, 31, has been the 7th most valuable player in baseball according to WAR. Without the hurlers, he’s third, behind only Trout and Donaldson. And, again, positionally, he fits perfectly with the Cardinals.
Moreover, while Rosenthal hints at the Cardinals’ intentions to attempt an extension if such a deal went down, keeping Goldschmidt for just the one year at $14.5M would work just as well. The Cardinals are losing several key players after 2019 and several more after 2020. Going for it with this “core” one last time in 2019 before starting over soon thereafter is a pretty darn good strategy.
Of course, Goldschmidt is only half the deal. And while Greinke’s best days may be behind him, he finished 2018 with a 3.21 ERA (3.71 FIP) and 3.5 WAR after posting his fourth 5.0+ WAR season in 2017. Indeed, that ugly 2016 season is behind him, and, even at age 35, he figures to have something significant to offer next season now that he seems to have re-adjusted to very-low-velocity life. And although a starter might not be as high of a priority as a first or third base bat for the Cardinals, they could definitely use a sure thing.
Carlos Martinez ended his season in the bullpen after several injuries slowed him down in 2018. Miles Mikolas was a revelation in 2018, but was pitching in Japan a year prior. Michael Wacha made his last start in June. Alex Reyes was suspended in 2015, needed Tommy John surgery in 2017, and managed just 4.0 innings in 2018. And Adam Wainwright is 37 years old, tossed only 40.1 innings in 2018, and is under control for just one more season. Luke Weaver hasn’t put it together in the big leagues yet.
Sure, there’s plenty of promise in Jack Flaherty and John Gant, but both guys are relatively inexperienced. There’s nothing wrong – at all – with the Cardinals current crop of starters, but adding a strong foundational piece like Greinke (200+ innings in 4 of his last 5 seasons and 8 of his last 11) would certainly help.
Adding these two guys in one fell swoop would make the Cardinals significantly more threatening in 2019.
But unlike Goldschmidt, who’s due only $14.5M in his one final year of control, Greinke is due $95.5M over the next three seasons, plus another $9M in bonuses, for a grand total of $104.5M from 2019-2021. That’ll be a significant hurdle for any sort of double-deal to go down.
And here’s where I calm your nerves a bit: According to Rosenthal, the likelihood of a Goldy-Greinke to the Cardinals deal is “remote,” in part, because St. Louis is on Greinke’s no-trade list. He can, of course, waive that right, but Rosenthal guesses that it might cost the Cardinals additional dollars to do so. Moreover, despite Greinke’s obvious talent, his contract – currently boasting the highest AAV in baseball history – hardly sets him up to be a net-positive asset. Thus, attaching him to Goldschmidt might actually diminish the first baseman’s overall trade value – meaning: the Diamondbacks might be better off selling Goldschmidt separately and figuring something else out with Greinke.
I’m not sure that’s actually better from a Cubs fan perspective. Greinke might offer a stabilizing presence for the Cardinals’ rotation (and could even lighten the return from the Cardinals), but I can’t say for sure that seeing them footing his $30M+ bill over the next three seasons wouldn’t be a net win in the end. And if they didn’t have to pay Greinke, they might be that much more willing and able to extend Goldschmidt.
Ultimately, entering the 2018 season as a Cubs fan with Greinke and Goldschmidt on the Cardinals might be scary, but I’d still think Chicago would have the better squad – as presently constructed – for 2019 and would be better off for 2020 and 2021, as well.
But remember, the Cardinals have money to spend, an aging core ready to contend one last time, and a chip on their shoulder after missing the postseason in 2016, 2017, and 2018. A blockbuster deal for Goldschmidt or Goldschmidt + Greinke is perfectly plausible and could only be the start.
Here’s hoping that if that did happen, the Cubs would be able to accomplish more this offseason than just hoping for rebounds.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.