Drastic Change #2 - Moving Paul Goldschmidt at the Trade Deadline
Here's something that would feel pretty drastic, but also very realistic, if the Cardinals do not play well in 2024: Trading 2022 National League Most Valuable Player and future Hall of Famer Paul Goldschmidt.
As I talked about at the beginning of this piece, Goldschmidt is in the last year of his contract and an extension does not appear likely before the season begins. Both sides want to see how things go when it comes to both team success and Goldschmidt's performance and so unless the team and Goldschmdit are playing well midseason and both sides want to hammer it out, it's likely that Goldschmidt will hit free agency this winter.
Goldschmidt becoming a free agent doesn't mean he's leaving St. Louis. Again, CBA rules restrict some of the pay reductions we'd expect to see in Goldchmidt's next contract, so both sides have to wait for him to hit the open market if that is where they are trending. But, if the team is playing poorly in 2024, I think there's a good chance we see the Cardinals capitalize on his value at the deadline and bring in some young talent with their rental bat.
It is hard to say right now what kind of return the Cardinals could get for Goldschmidt. If he has a rebound season at the plate and looks like an All-Star caliber player, he may be the single best bat available in trade and could fetch a really nice return, possibly a top-100 prospect or two (just look at the Jordan Montgomery trade that netted St. Louis both Thomas Saggese and Tekoah Roby, both top 100 prospects). But if he looks like he did in 2023, he'll still have value, but a half-season of that bat isn't going to get them a ton in return.
Trading Goldschmidt would truly be a sign of change coming. If he walks away this offseason after playing out the full year in St. Louis, that could be because the Cardinals do not need him anymore or he found a bigger offer somewhere else. Trading him at the deadline would signal a second straight year of a seller's mode, and would accelerate a shift on this roster toward freeing up playing time for their young core.