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First baseman Paul Goldschmidt was in the last year of his deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the 31-year-old was thought to be a trade candidate this offseason. The deal was finalized on Wednesday, as the Cardinals got their man and Goldy was traded for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick.

In 2018, Goldschmidt had a .290/.389/.533 slash line with 33 home runs and 83 RBI. While Goldschmidt's 2018 line was still strong, it was the third consecutive season that his OBP dropped and he was under double-digit stolen bases for the first time since 2014 as well. It also did not help that he had his worst run production (83 RBI and 95 runs scored) in a full season.

While the slugger could be a rental (although the Cardinals will make every attempt to re-sign him), will Paul Goldschmidt return to his top-10 ways in St. Louis this season?

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Does Goldschmidt Get The Cardinals Over The Line?

As stated above, Goldschmidt has taken a bit of a step back from his 1.005 OPS in 2015 and back-to-back 20 home run/20 stolen base seasons in 2015 and 2016. That being said, Goldschmidt still has a career .398 OBP, averages 31 home runs and 18 stolen bases per 162 games, and has played at least 155 games in five of the last six seasons. There are few players that are as consistent or fill as many categories as Goldschmidt, and he will slot into a lineup that already has Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez, and Paul DeJong. This is also good for fantasy owners, as Carpenter will likely maintain his 1B/3B eligibility with Goldschmidt taking over first base. After finishing ninth in runs scored (but 14th in OPS), look for Goldschmidt to keep the Cards in the top-10 in offensive categories.

Looking at Goldschmidt's 2018 season, the clearest drop-off was with his soft-hit ball rate, which was a career-worst 16.9%. He did have 25% line drives and a career-best 46.2% hard-hit ball rate, but a boosted soft-hit ball rate and a 25.1% strikeout rate are two potential worries. Still, the jump in line drive rate and hard-hit ball rate led to a .359 BABIP that was his best since 2015, and he did post his seventh season of a .200+ isolated power in his eight big league seasons. He also hit just 38.6% of ground balls last season and, normally, hitting the ball hard in the air leads to good things! With regards to his strikeout rate, he has had a swinging strike rate of 10% in each of the last two seasons (first time since his first two seasons of 2011 and 2012), and he swung at 28.8% of pitches outside the strike zone, his worst rate since 2012. Patience is key for Goldschmidt and, if he is able to cut down on his swinging strike rate, look for him to get his OBP back in the .400s.

The biggest story of Goldschmidt's 2018 season could have been the fact that Arizona went from a hitter's ballpark to a pitcher's ballpark with the introduction of a humidor. Arizona went from third in runs allowed in 2017 to a middle-of-the-road park last season (11th). Furthermore, home runs went from fourth in 2017 to 19th in 2018, which could have been a big reason that Goldschmidt's HR/FB rate dipped from 24.8% to 21.6% year over year. This is not to say that Goldschmidt would have been a 40 home run player last year, but, with his batted ball profile, it is not totally far-fetched. Unfortunately, St. Louis is more of a pitcher's park as well, as Busch Stadium was 24th in runs allowed and 25th in home runs in 2018. Furthermore, St. Louis was more unforgiving to right-handed batters (like Goldschmidt) lefties.

There is a very small chance that Goldschmidt slips past the second round of this spring's drafts and, with this move, I am bumping him up to the top 1B in baseball for next season. There are very few players that have the potential to put up 200 R+RBI, 70 extra base hits, and 20 stolen bases and, quite frankly, there are no 1B that match that profile. Goldy is as safe as it gets early in drafts, allowing for some risk deeper in drafts.

 

What Did the D-Backs Get for Their Superstar?

Starting with five years of control for Luke Weaver, the Diamondbacks' haul in this deal is pretty nice. Weaver, a 2014 first-round draft pick of the Cardinals, already has 233 career MLB innings under his belt. There have been mixed results, as a 3.88 ERA in 60 1/3 innings in 2017 was followed up a 4.95 ERA om 136 1/3 innings in 2018, but the 25-year-old still has promise. His strikeout rate being slashed in 2018 was notable (117 in his first 96 2/3 innings and 121 in 2018), as was the fact that his WHIP jumped to 1.50. Hopefully, for the Diamondbacks, Weaver's home run issues (33 allowed in his career) can go away with Arizona's humidor, and he can return to striking out a batter an inning, as he did in the minors and in his early MLB career.

Carson Kelly has not lived up to his top prospect status and only has a .415 OPS in 131 career plate appearances, but will likely be the starting catcher for the Diamondbacks on opening day. Not to belabor Kelly's struggles in the big leagues, but he has yet to hit a home run and only has four extra-base hits. A former second-round in 2012, Kelly had an .834 OPS for Triple-A Memphis in 2017 and also hit .289 in 2016. At just 24 years old, the Diamondbacks hope that he is able to rehab his career in the desert.

A 37th round draft pick out of Indiana State in 2016, 2B Andy Young had a .289 batting average between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield last season. He showed a little pop last season (21 home runs and a .479 slugging percentage), and a jump in OPS from .817 with Palm Beach to .950 with Springfield is also a reason for optimism. With Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed holding down the middle infield slots for the Diamondbacks (said as sarcastically as possible), there is a chance that, if the 24-year-old looks good in Triple-A, Young could be on the big league team this season.

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