When Nolan Arenado chose not to opt out of the five years remaining on his contract at the end of the 2022 season, St. Louis Cardinals fans audibly exhaled, as discourse had raged about whether Arenado was dissatisfied with the Cardinals after they were trounced by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Now, some comments from the other side of the team's infield could lead fans to worry about Paul Goldschmidt testing the waters of free agency.
Longtime Cardinals journalist Jim Hayes of Bally Sports Midwest talked to Goldschmidt on the Dec. 29 episode of "Cat's Corner," where Goldschmidt said in the final minute of the video that "We'll see what happens" regarding the possibility of remaining a Cardinal for the rest of his career. With the Cardinals coming off their worst season in decades, the concern among fans is palpable that Goldschmidt will look at other teams that could compete for a title if the Cardinals underwhelm again in 2024.
"For me, I've just always tried to play the game," continued Goldschmidt on Hayes' show. "Any contractual stuff, leave that out. For me, it's just preparing for this year, trying to play well and help us win. Whatever else happens is going to happen."
Fans shouldn't psych themselves out regarding Goldschmidt's comments; the slugger had a down season by his standards in 2023, hitting .268 with 25 home runs, and the 36-year-old is looking to defy the aging curve and improve in 2024. His thoughts about his contract are likely on the back burner for now, and it's likely that the team's performance next season will affect his eventual decision.
The Cardinals need to do their part in persuading Goldschmidt to return in 2025 and possibly beyond, but don't rule out the possibility that Goldschmidt will continue his decline next season, making an extension a potentially unwise move.
However, the Cardinals have relied on "legacy players" the past two seasons to captivate fans, with Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina belting out their swan songs in 2022 and Adam Wainwright struggling through a nightmare 2023 before his storybook 200th victory in his final start. Goldschmidt could be the next Cardinal whom the team locks up to entice fans to arrive at the gates.
That's not to understate Goldschmidt's time in St. Louis; his 2022 MVP campaign was a massive success despite the Cardinals' quick departure from the postseason. 2024 will be a crucial season in determining whether Goldschmidt can still put up some semblance of those numbers and would warrant an extension or whether the Cardinals should move on from the aging superstar.