Goldschmidt is due $14.5 million in 2019 for his services, which is, honestly, pretty inexpensive for one of the best hitters in the majors. He projects to be worth about 4.2 WAR in 2019 according to Steamer with a conservative .277/.385/.488 batting line. At age 31 in 2019, a slight dip in his batting line is possible. His defense at first base is usually above average, although UZR didn’t like his defense last year while DRS did at +6.
The Cardinals are obviously instantly better with this move. Matt Carpenter moves back to third base, where his already strong bat becomes even more valuable. On the open market, Goldschmidt’s projection would be worth about $34 million in value. So, was the Diamondbacks return good?
The Diamondbacks Receive Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, and Andy Young
Besides the top-80 draft pick, the Diamondbacks get 5 years of Luke Weaver, six years of Carson Kelly, and a AAA minor leaguer in Andy Young. Weaver is the most MLB ready of the three, and he’s expected to slide right into the Diamondbacks’ rotation. Kelly and Young could also make an impact in 2019.
Luke Weaver was excellent for the Cardinals in 2017, but took a step back in 2018. Even in a down year, he was still worth 1.3 fWAR (FanGraphs WAR that uses FIP not ERA as a measure of value.) Steamer projects him to be worth 1.7 WAR in 2019. At only 25, Weaver is still looking ahead to his prime. If he’s a 2 WAR pitcher for even just three out of the next five seasons, this trade already looks like a win for the Diamondbacks.
The best thing about Weaver is he’s cheap, making the league minimum for 2019 and 2020, plus three more years of arbitration-eligible seasons. He’s easily the gem of the deal and really just has to stay healthy and be a roughly league-average starter.
Carson Kelly hasn’t been exciting in the major leagues so far as the heir apparent to Yadier Molina with the Cardinals. However, his minor league numbers and plus defense suggest he should be able to help the Diamondbacks in some capacity in 2019. Steamer projects him for 0.8 WAR with a .242/.316/.370 batting line and +4.8 runs on defense in only 53 games. He’s had very poor luck on batted balls in play so far in his MLB career, so that projection could easily be correct. Over the course of a full season, he could easily be a roughly league-average backstop. He’ll back up Alex Avila for now.
Already, the Diamondbacks seem to have “won” this trade. But that’s before we also consider Andy Young, the former 37th round pick. In many ways, Young is a lot like a guy that the Diamondbacks just let go in Chris Owings. Like Owings, Young plays second base, third base, shortstop, and the outfield. Steamer projects Young for a 12 game cup of coffee in 2019, hitting .253.307.408 with adequate defense for 0.1 WAR. Project that over a full season, and you have something like a 1.1 WAR player who can cover the whole infield and the outfield corners. They also control Young for six seasons.
It’s hard to fault the Cardinals for making this move, though. This was going to be the cheapest way for them to anchor their lineup. The Cardinals probably won’t miss any of those three players. Also, because they traded for Goldschmidt before the season started, the Cardinals can still extend a qualifying offer to him after the season. If he rejects it - a one-year offer in the range of $18 million or so - the Cardinals can recoup a draft pick. The Diamondbacks were happy to get a good pick already - not much worse than what they would’ve gotten out of a Goldschmidt qualifying offer being rejected.
Also, while this was probably not in the Diamondbacks’ line of thinking - what if this is the year that Goldy begins to decline? His value is never going to be higher than it is now. Both sides did what they needed to do. The funny thing is, the Diamondbacks may not even be that much worse this year.