Jacob Shafer of Bleacher Report recently posted an article in which he predicted the next 10 MLB superstars who will receive a megadeal in excess of $200 million after the 2019 season. Among the ten is the Cardinals hopefully-newest-superstar-to-be, Paul Goldschmidt, who will be a free agent after the upcoming season.
While most of baseball is wondering where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will end up, you can be sure the St. Louis Cardinals are already thinking about Goldschmidt's future after 2019. The 31-year old right handed bat is at the end of a 6yr/$44.55M contract and will undoubtedly be looking for a big payday after October.
So the question this off season will be if Goldschmidt will be one of the players receiving a megadeal in excess of $200M and are the Cardinals willing to provide it? There certainly a case for and against making Paul Goldschmidt the first Cardinal to make $200M plus.
THE CASE FOR THE CARDINALS MAKING GOLDSCHMIDT A RICH GUY
To start with, Paul Goldschmidt is really good. He is the rare player who can give a lineup offensive punch and at the same time provide defensive excellence. The six time All Star has an eight year career slash line of .297/.398/.532, a WAR of 40.1, to go along with his three Gold Gloves, and four Silver Slugger awards. The last time the Cardinals had a player with these type of credentials was a guy named Pujols.
Goldschmidt also has shown he is incredibly durable during his career. Since his first full year in the majors in 2012, he has played less than 145 games only once. In 2018, he didn't show any signs of slowing down by playing 158 games, with a .290 BA and thumping 33 HR. He also earned another Silver Slugger Award and made an All Star appearance.
Additionally, he also seems to be able to 'step up' in the postseason. Goldschmidt, in eight post season games, has a .313 BA with a 1.076 OPS, to go with four home runs and 11 RBI.
These reasons above seem to make a case for making Paul Goldschmidt the St. Louis Cardinals first $200M player. However, there are reasons not to jump into a record breaking contract with Goldschmidt.
THE CASE AGAINST THE CARDINALS MAKING GOLDSCHMIDT A RICH GUY.
Paul Goldschmidt will turn 32 in September. Unlike Harper and Machado, who are both still 26, a team giving Goldschmidt at 8-10 year contract seems unlikely. Whereas Harper and Machado would be in their mid-30s at the end of their deals, Goldschmidt would be in his early 40s.
The likely contract scenario by the Cardinals would be for 5-7yrs, which would still stretch into Goldschmidt's late 30s. With a $200M contract, the Cardinals would be committed to $28-40M per year to a player who could be entering his declining years as far as production is concerned.
Although Goldschmidt has shown remarkable resiliency during his career, it's unlikely the Cardinals will be able to continue to get 150 games a year from Goldschmidt as he enters his mid-30s. Keep in mind in 2018, Goldschmidt had a serious slump in May, that affected his production and resulted in recording only 83 RBI. On the surface, this doesn't look too bad, but it leaves one to wonder if this is a start of a decline.
This leads us to look at what happened with Albert Pujols and the Cardinals in 2011.
THE ALBERT PUJOLS DILEMMA
The Cardinals faced a similar decision after the 2011season when negotiating with 31-year old Albert Pujols. After seeing Pujols production drop off slightly, the Cardinals were forced to decide whether to offer the superstar a long term contract.
In 2011, the Cardinals saw the three time MVP offensive production drop off from his previous years. HIs BA(.299), RBIs(99), and OPS(.906) were all the lowest of his career. While a good year by most standards, it wasn't by Pujols standards.
Knowing Pujols would be entering his declining years as a player, the Cardinals were reluctant to offer a long term contract and offered a five year deal. After much back and forth with Pujols and his agent, the Cardinals finally offered 10/yr 210M deal, that was rejected. Pujols eventually signed a 10yr 254M contract with the now LA Angels.
The Cardinals concerns turned out to be well founded, as Pujols production declined and has slid primarily into a DH role. In seven years with the Angels, his BA is .260 vs .328 in his eleven years as a Cardinal. HIs OPS has fallen to .768 since his been an Angel from 1.037 during his Cardinals years.
THE PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT DILEMMA
Now the St. Louis Cardinals have to make a similar decision about Paul Goldschmidt. Should they commit over $200M to a player who will be 32 in September? Five years would mean at least $40M/yr, seven years would mean over $28M/yr. and the contract would likely include a no-trade clause.
Paul Goldschmidt is no doubt a better offensive and defensive player than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado entering 2019. However, Goldschmidt is five years older than Harper and Machado. How many more productive years does Goldschmidt have in him? If there is a fall off in production, how much will it be? Are we looking at another Albert Pujols after 31? Keep in mind, the Cardinals will not be able to use Goldschmidt as a DH.
$30M to $40M is considerable money to commit for any current MLB organization. Especially for the St. Louis Cardinals who usually are reluctant to do these type of contracts. Nevertheless, it may be what is required to keep Paul Goldschmidt.
That's the dilemma the Cardinals face.
Let us know what your thoughts. Thanks for reading and you may follow me on Twitter @frrobinson1957