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Cardinals acquire Paul Goldschmidt from Diamondbacks

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The Diamondbacks announced on Wednesday evening that the club traded first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andrew Young, and a Competitive Balance Round B 2019 draft pick.

The 31-year-old Goldschmidt has been one of baseball’s best first basemen since he broke into the league in 2011. He has a career .930 OPS. This past season, he hit .290/.389/.533 with 33 home runs and 83 RBI in 690 plate appearances while playing above-average defense.

Goldschmidt has just one year remaining on his contract at $14.5 million, a club option the D-Backs exercised at the end of October. This is strictly a rental for the Cardinals, but the two sides could work out a contract extension before he reaches free agency following the 2019 season.

Goldschmidt will push Matt Carpenter off of first base. The versatile Carpenter could head back to third base, displacing Jedd Gyorko.

Adding Goldschmidt certainly makes the Cardinals a more formidable presence in the competitive NL Central. They won 88 games last year, which was only good for third place. The addition of a five-to-six win player in Goldschmidt helps close the gap between the Brewers and Cubs compared to the Cardinals.

The D-Backs, meanwhile, are starting to disassemble after losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to free agency. Zack Greinke, David Peralta, Steven Souza, and Robbie Ray could all be traded this offseason now that Goldschdmit has been moved.

Weaver, 25, was one of baseball’s top pitching prospects going into the 2017 season. Across parts of three seasons in the majors, the right-hander has a 4.79 ERA with 238 strikeouts and 83 walks in 233 innings.

Kelly, 24, got sparse playing time behind the plate with Yadier Molina handling the lion’s share of catching duties in St. Louis. In 63 games across three seasons, Kelly hit .154/.227/.188.

Young, 24, was selected by the Cardinals in the 37th round of the 2016 draft. The 2B/3B spent 2018 between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield, batting a combined .289/.379/.479 with 21 home runs and 58 RBI in 503 plate appearances.

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

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Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.