To appreciate fully just how brilliant Paul Goldschmidt’s 2018 season was, you first have to appreciate just how poorly it began. After a slow first week, Goldschmidt looked like the slugger of yore, but in the month of May, he hit .144/.252/.278 with 35 strikeouts in 111 plate appearances. He was Jeff Mathis in a down season. He was over 30 and broken.
The report of his career’s death was an exaggeration. Goldschmidt dominated for the rest of the season, hitting .330/.420/.602, with 26 home runs. He finished sixth in the National League MVP voting, which seems impressive until you remember that he’s had three different top-three finishes.
An underrated part about Goldschmidt is that he does everything well. He has three Gold Gloves. His career high in steals is 32. If you consider health to be a sixth tool, note that he’s played in at least 155 games in each of the last four seasons. He’s been on the DL just once in his career, and that was because a fastball broke his hand.
Your team should want Paul Goldschmidt. I don’t care if that team already employs an all-star first baseman; figure it out. The Braves with Freddie Freeman? Uh, let’s see, put Goldschmidt at second and move Ozzie Albies to short. Or if that doesn’t work, shove someone in the outfield. You can always shove someone in the outfield, that’s my motto. Look, the point is that someone is going to have Goldschmidt next year, and they’ll be much better for it.
Which team should that be, though?
There are a lot of teams interested, from the Phillies to the Cardinals to the Astros. Our job today is to whittle them down and pick the five best landing spots for him. Paring down the candidates was easier than expected, though.
Even if the Yankees hadn’t acquired James Paxton, there still wouldn’t have been shame in upgrading an already powerful lineup. If the Yankees traded for Goldschmidt, there would be hundreds — hundreds! — of people screaming about how they needed this or that instead of more power. Those people will never work in my front office when I buy a baseball team. Those people are pre-fired. You can always get more power.
I mean, just how would you pitch to a middle of the order like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Paul Goldschmidt?
With a bunch of right-handed relievers who miss bats.
Quiet, you. It would be impossible. You’d give two of those hitters a golden sombrero, and it would be your participation ribbon as you watched the third hitter circle the bases after a game-winning home run.
This isn’t even factoring in the power from the rest of the lineup, with Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Aaron Hicks all with 24 homers or more. And what if Gary Sanchez figures out what’s wrong with his bat?
The Yankees with Paul Goldschmidt, man. What a dream. What a nightmare.
I wouldn’t harp on this so much if the Yankees didn’t have an obvious hole at first base and have for years. Luke Voit is a beeflord supreme, and he was phenomenal in limited time last September, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s 27 and was the owner of exactly one (1) really good minor league season before his surprise breakout. We know from watching the Dodgers over the last couple years that players can drop the zero and get with the hero, never looking back. Maybe that’s what happened here.
But when you’re the damn Yankees, and you have the opportunity to get an MVP-quality player who is on track for the Hall of Fame, you do it. The Yankees usually don’t need our encouragement. They just do exactly this. They skip the part where they mess around with Guy You’ve Kinda Heard Of and go straight to REGGIE F’ING JACKSON. It’s worked in the past. It’ll work in the future.
I love the Crag Burt song and get it stuck in my head frequently. But the Yankees can do, and usually do, better, especially when there’s a superstar to be had.
See, here’s the thing about an already stacked lineup adding another perennial MVP candidate: It’s not just about building an unstoppable juggernaut. Sometimes it’s about building the team you thought you were going to have in the first place.
Take the 2018 Yankees, for example. A fine team. Won 100 games. But what was the scuttlebutt before the season? That they had Aaron Judge, the MVP runner-up, with Giancarlo Stanton, the NL MVP, with a 33-homer catcher in Gary Sanchez. They were all under 30, all in their primes or still getting better, and they were going to help the Yankees have an all-time lineup. This wasn’t irrational optimism; it was entirely rational.
What happened? Stanton hit like Sanchez, and Sanchez hit like J.P. Arencibia. The Yankees were still fine. They still set the record for most home runs in a season. But stuff happened to prevent them from being an absolute juggernaut. Stuff always happens.
That’s why you get the future Hall of Famers, who generally have less stuff happen. In Stanton’s down year, he was still kind of a badass, for example. So while everything seems great in Yankees Land, what with six players hitting 20 or more homers next year, it always helps to add the best possible player.
It’s an expensive insurance policy at worst, and the all-time juggernaut the team was hoping for at best.
They should then go and get Manny Machado because of this principle. But that’s another column.
Yes, yes, we’ve already talked about some of the other teams that make sense. The Phillies were resurgent last year, but they were also outdrawn by the Padres. They can certainly use an MVP threat. The Cardinals wouldn’t have anywhere to put José Martínez, but they can figure that out. The Red Sox are enjoying the Mitch Moreland experience, for sure, but they can also get greedier. That sense of greed should also apply to the Astros.
It’s just too incredibly Yankees to pass this one up, though. Take the superstar who isn’t a superstar because he plays in the wrong part of the country, and make him a superstar in a lineup filled with other superstars. Think Jason Giambi without a suitcase filled with supplements that make you do the finger-quotes when you say “supplements.”
It’s been really quiet for the Yankees lately, other than the time they added an MVP on a $300 million contract because they could. They haven’t thrown multiple grenades into the middle of an offseason for years. Goldschmidt is exactly what we should be expecting.
Ah, right. The incumbents. They should probably have a say in this.
Maybe we should hold off on the Hall of Fame talk for Goldschmidt. He’ll be 31 next year, and he’s at just 209 homers. His 40 career WAR is fantastic, but he’ll need another three or four fine seasons just to get in Fred McGriff territory. There’s a lot that can happen in that time.
But there is still something he can offer the Diamondbacks beyond a bushel of prospects, and that’s a sense of permanence. As in, he can be an implicit promise from the team to their fans — still new, as far as baseball timelines go — that the franchise will hold onto the all-time greats with the tightest of grips. That once they’re lucky enough to enjoy one of the best players at his position, that they won’t have to grimace and check their watches for that moment when leaves for a richer, shinier team.
Everyone laughs at the Giants for giving lavish contracts to players like Matt Cain, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Tim Lincecum, but there’s a reason why they’re still drawing more than three million fans after a historically putrid season. The Giants used to be a franchise that forced their front office to choose between Will Clark and Robby Thompson, and then they became the franchise that tried very, very hard to keep fan favorites around. The Diamondbacks could do that with the best hitter they’ve ever had. Keeping a local legend and paying him doesn’t always work out, but fans generally appreciate the effort an awful lot.
There’s a lot going on with the franchise, what with Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock likely leaving as free agents, but there’s a lot going right, too. An extension for Goldschmidt wouldn’t be money thrown down a nostalgia hole if the Diamondbacks reload the way they should.
Trading him to the Yankees, where he would almost certainly succeed in a highly visible way, would be a great way for Diamondbacks fans — casual or otherwise — to wonder why in the heck they should care about the next great player. If he’s just going to leave anyway, what’s the point?
Counterpoint: the Yankees should probably just trade for Goldschmidt and bathe in the tears of smaller, less fortunate franchises. It’s something they do so very well.
One of baseball’s best hitters could be on the move. There’s one team that should trade for him. There’s another that should absolutely keep him. My money is on the ultra-rich team, even if my heart is with the fans who have grown very, very used to a tremendous baseball talent.
(It’s gonna be the Yankees, though, right?)