Paul Goldschmidt has been a steady force at first base throughout his career. Excluding his rookie season, Goldschmidt has not had a batting average below .260, an OPS+ lower than 115, or fewer than 122 hits (although 122 is quite lower than his next lowest, 155 hits). His defense has been admirable, as he has 4 Gold Gloves in 12 seasons. Additionally, Goldy has an MVP trophy in his closet to go along with 7 All-Star game appearances.
Goldschmidt's best season came in 2022 with the Cardinals, his MVP season. He had a triple slash of .317/.404/.578 for an OPS+ of 179. He also accrued 2 outs above average at first base and tallied 7.0 fWAR. Regression was expected in 2023, as he was turning 35 and ended 2022 on a bit of a slide. The typical age regression for players is 0.5 fWAR per year after they turn 30. Goldschmidt ruined that trend, as he increased his fWAR total from 5.0 in 2021 to 7.0 in 2022.
In 2023, Goldy is expected to finish with right around 3.7 fWAR. While this is quite the drop from his 2022 performance, it is in line with the general regression from his 2021 season. He would have garnered 4.0 fWAR in 2023 with an average decrease of 0.5 fWAR each year after turning 30.
With that in mind, we can expect Goldschmidt to finish with an fWAR total between 3.0 and 3.2 in 2024. To find out if Goldschmidt is a value or if he's too expensive at 3.0 fWAR in 2024, we have to calculate the average price per win. That price is currently right around $10 million/1.0 WAR. Goldschmidt is owed $26 million in 2024. With a projection of 3.0 WAR, Goldschmidt would cost around $30 million. Therefore, the Cardinals are getting Goldy for a slight bargain in 2024.
What would a stat line look for a player with 3.0 total fWAR?
Good question. Let's look at some player comps for context. Perhaps the best low-end comp for Goldy in 2024 would be a 2018 Joey Votto. Votto was 35 that year, and Goldschmidt will be 36 next year. In 2018, Votto accumulated 2.9 fWAR with a slash line of .284/.417/.419 and an OPS+ of 126. Votto was just about league average on defense as well with a -1 OAA. It is plausible Goldschmidt is a neutral defender at first, as he has experienced negative seasons in recent years. While Goldschmidt usually touts more power than Votta, his increased slugging percentage will be balanced out by a lower on-base percentage. fWAR usually values slugging more than an on-base percentage, however.
On the high end, a 2019 Yuli Gurriel is a possibility. At the age of 35, Gurriel totaled 3.9 fWAR with a slash line of .298/.343/.541 for an OPS+ of 126; Gurriel was also strong defensively with 3 OAA total. While Goldschmidt's slugging is significantly better this year compared to Gurriel's (.450), his on-base percentage surpasses Gurriel's that year. Additionally, Goldy has shown an ability to slug greater than .540 6 times in his career. It is fully possible that Goldschmidt taps into some more power next year while maintaining a relatively strong on-base percentage. As long as his defense stays where it is this year, Goldschmidt could be looking at a 4.0-fWAR season as a 36-year-old.
For Goldschmidt's 2024 season, assuming he experiences normal regression for his age, he is looking at a season somewhere between a 2018 Joey Votto and a 2019 Yuli Gurriel. While those stats aren't quite at the heights Goldschmidt reached in 2022, they are absolutely stats that will play in the middle of the lineup for a playoff contender.