Grading Paul Goldschmidt's contract extension with the Cardinals as it nears the end

As Paul Goldschmidt nears the end of his contract extension, we can look back and reflect on the deal as a whole.
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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When news dropped in early December of 2018 that the St. Louis Cardinals acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the St. Lous faithful rejoiced. For the first time in 7 years, the organization could once again lay claim to one of the best first basemen in all of baseball. It took quite a bit to acquire the right-handed corner infielder, but John Mozeliak was willing to part with a key starting pitcher in Luke Weaver and the potential catcher of the future in Carson Kelly.

Just a few months later, it was reported that Goldy was in line to receive a 5-year, $130 million extension with various incentives and bonuses. The trade and subsequent signing of Paul Goldschmidt gave the Cardinals a surefire middle-of-the-order bat for his age-31 through age-36 seasons.

Since joining the Cardinals, Goldschmidt has finished in the top 20 of MVP voting 4 times with an MVP award in 2022, he has a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and an All-Star appearance. While the accolades aren't quite there for Goldy as he nears the twilight of his 6-year career in St. Louis, the production has been plentiful.

Goldschmidt has a .279/.364/.483 slash line with a .847 OPS, and a 132 OPS+ during his time in St. Louis; he's been 32% better than the average hitter. Defensively, he's accumulated 12 outs above average and 15 defensive runs saved in 6 years, making him an above-average defender at first. All of this begs the question: what grade should we give the Paul Goldschmidt contract extension?

Paul Goldschmidt's extension deserves an A- grade.

Goldschmidt has been worth 17.2 fWAR over the last 5 seasons. That gives him a smidge above 3.5 fWAR per year, a very reliable player. Mind you, the 2020 season is in there. Goldy played 58 games that year, and he's averaged around 155 games per year. If we prorate Goldschmidt's 2.1 fWAR total that year over a full season, that gives him a 6-WAR season that year, boosting his total value over the course of the contract to a full 21.2 fWAR over 5 years, valuing him at just above 4 fWAR per season.

The value of 1 win above replacement has fluctuated dramatically over the years, but Bleacher Report calculated the price of one WAR for a hitter to be about $5.7 million based on offseason spending over the previous few years. Using that math, Goldschmidt's contract should have cost about $120.84 million over the course of 5 seasons. The Cardinals ended up paying $10 million more for Goldy, though. However, there is still time this year for Goldy to make up some ground and balance out the price of his contract. He's sitting at 0.0 fWAR thus far, but a second-half turnaround could boost his value.

The price of 1 win above replacement will always fluctuate, and the figures will vary each year, but the production the Cardinals have received from their All-Star first baseman has been irreplaceable. Paul Goldschmidt has accumulated the second-most fWAR among qualified first basemen from 2020-2024 behind only Freddie Freeman, and he has the 3rd-best wRC+, the 5th-most home runs, 6th-most RBIs, and 5th-best OPS.

Talks surrounding Paul Goldschmidt this offseason centered around a contract extension. Those talks are likely tabled for the foreseeable future, and conversations during the season have largely revolved around trading Goldy. Even that dialogue has been quelled as the Cardinals have worked their way firmly into the postseason picture.

While the 2023 and 2024 seasons haven't been nearly as productive for the future Hall of Famer, Paul Goldschmidt has provided ample production from first base for the Cardinals over the course of his extension. As fans begin to envision life without Goldy at first, they can take solace in knowing they've gotten to see one of the best first basemen in the sport over the last half-decade.

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