The Diamondbacks made the stunning move that has seemed inevitable for most of the offseason, shipping face-of-the-franchise slugger Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in exchange for three young players and a draft pick.
With Goldschmidt under contract for just one more year and the club uncertain it would be able to sign him beyond that, the Diamondbacks instead flipped him for a pair of young major leaguers in right-hander Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly; a prospect in infielder Andrew Young; and a 2019 Competitive Balance Round B draft pick.
“There are decisions that you want to do and there are decisions you feel like you have to do,” Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen said. “I feel like this fell in the category of the latter.”
Goldschmidt will go down as the best homegrown player in franchise history. During parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, he’s a career .297/.398/.532 hitter. He placed in the top 3 in National League MVP voting three times, finishing runner-up twice.
ANALYSIS: Why the Diamondbacks felt they had to trade Paul Goldschmidt
The reasons for the move were many, and they led the Diamondbacks to conclude that now was the time to act.
The club could have kept him and taken one last run at contention, but with left-hander Patrick Corbin already gone — he agreed to a reported six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday — and center fielder A.J. Pollock likely right behind him, the Diamondbacks would have had a hard time gaining ground on other NL playoff contenders.
That would have left them with two other options with Goldschmidt: moving him at the trade deadline and likely getting back less of a return since he would have been that much closer to free agency, or letting him depart at the end of the season and receiving only a compensation pick in return.
Sources said the Diamondbacks explored the idea of an extension with Goldschmidt, feeling him out about the parameters of a potential contract, but came away uncertain it would be able to consummate a deal. As such, the Diamondbacks didn’t want interested teams to move on to other options, leaving them without a strong fallback in the event they couldn’t extend him.
Given those factors, the industry reaction to the deal was mostly favorable toward the Diamondbacks’ return. In Weaver, scouts see a pitcher with the potential to develop into an above-average major league starter, someone who might belong in the middle of a strong starting rotation. He has five years to go before free agency.
Kelly comes with the reputation of being a strong defensive catcher and has shown the ability in the minor leagues to be at least an adequate hitter. He has the full six years of club control remaining.
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Young was a late-round pick out of Indiana State in 2016 who has posted impressive offensive numbers at every stop in the minor league, including a strong showing this year in the Arizona Fall League. He could be develop into an offensive-minded second baseman.
“Pretty good return, all things considered,” said a high-ranking scout with a National League club. “Really solid haul.”
Another complicating factor was a seeming lack of contending clubs in need of help at first base. Hazen said there were “a few” teams that showed serious interest in Goldschmidt down to the end.
“I don’t think they had many takers,” an executive with an American League club said. “And he’s only got one year left. So if they were set in moving him, they did pretty well.”
Said another high-ranking executive: “On a value basis, I think they got a lot.”
Hazen said he met with Goldschmidt and his agent, Casey Close, at the end of the season to discuss what might happen this offseason, and he said he and manager Torey Lovullo broke the news to Goldschmidt at Lovullo’s house on Wednesday.
“He was very professional and respectful,” Hazen said. “I think (he was) probably disappointed, as much as he loves Arizona and has given to this organization and this community.”
Said team president and CEO Derrick Hall in a statement: “This was an extremely difficult decision given how much Paul has meant to our team both on and off the field. He represents everything it means to be a D-Back, and we are very thankful to him for all that he has done for our franchise and our fans. We wish him, Amy and their family nothing but the best in the years ahead.”
The deal shows the Diamondbacks are willing to drastically reimagine their roster. While Hazen said he doesn’t envision a “rash of trades coming” this winter, he didn’t rule out continuing to tear things down in the coming weeks or months.
He said he imagined he would continue to field “inbound” calls from rival executives on the availability of his veteran players. That likely means listening to offers on right-hander Zack Greinke, lefty Robbie Ray and outfielder David Peralta, among others.
TRADE REACTION: Baseball world reacts to trade of Paul Goldschmidt
It’s also possible the Diamondbacks keep their roster mostly intact through the winter, adding to their outfield and bullpen, before potentially making even more difficult decisions if they fall out of contention midway through next season.
“What it’s going to mean for the future in terms of multiple years down the road, it’s too hard for me to say right now,” Hazen said. “Everybody can sort of look at our roster and see where the contractual status (is) and control we have in large parts of our major league team.
“I think it’s just something that we have to critically look at. We have to take opportunities at times, as challenging as they may be, to try to find ways to infuse talent into the organization, younger talent, that we can control for a little bit and grow with. I think it’s probably a little premature to (call it a rebuild), but we’ll see how the season plays out and how it plays out moving forward.”
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