ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Carlos Martinez summed up the Cardinals’ biggest offseason move in just two words.
Asked how he felt about having six-time All Star Paul Goldschmidt on his team, rather than in an opposing lineup, Martinez simply said, “Thank God.”
Adding Goldschmidt and his seven Silver Slugger awards to a Cardinal lineup that often lacked a signature bat seemed like the perfect answer to the offensive shortfall of the past three seasons.
“When I think back to when we all gathered in early October, we talked about some of the things we wanted to see get accomplished. As all of you may recall, we knew we couldn’t have a stagnant offseason,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Saturday. “We knew we had to make some changes to our club because we felt like even though we had a good team last year, we still weren’t good enough.”
Enter Goldschmidt, who has three top-3 MVP finishes and some of the most consistent offensive numbers in the National League.
He’s hit at least 33 home runs in half of his seasons, has never batted below .286 outside of his rookie year, and has never had less than 33 doubles in a full season. For a team that seemed to be feast or famine at the plate (both on an individual basis and as a lineup), Goldschmidt’s historic reliability figures to be the stabilizing influence absent during this playoff drought.
“He’s Paul Goldschmidt for a reason. The guy does it year in and year out,” said Kolten Wong. “That’s something all these guys who are coming up or getting drafted by the Cardinals are going to be able to look at and say, ‘This is how I want to play the game. This is the guy who is a perennial MVP, a perennial Gold Glover, a perennial Silver Slugger. This who I want to be. This is who I want to mimic, this is who I want to follow.’”
Goldschmidt got his first introduction to Cardinal fans Saturday, when the 31-year-old mingled with the crowd during a two-hour, sold-out autograph session at Winter Warm-Up. Despite never playing a game for the Birds, dozens of young fans could be seen sporting his new jersey, number 46, in nearly every version of the Cardinal uniform.
“It’s really, really cool. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Even in Arizona when I saw [them wearing] 44. I kind of picture myself as that little kid. I grew up and I watched baseball every night in TV and that’s all I ever wanted to do,” Goldschmidt said. “We’re role models out there to kids and there’s some big expectations. I try to live up to them.”
The expectations are high for not only the new Cardinal, but the 2019 team as a whole. Many contracts, including Goldschmidt’s, are up at the end of the season, and the long term plans for the roster are still in flux. That means this team, which many in the organization believe is good enough to compete for a World Series, may only have one shot as it’s currently constructed.
“Ultimately the way you should think about the 2019 Cardinals is just that – 2019,” Mozeliak said. “In terms of what 2020 looks like or 2021, I assure you we’ll think about that and work through that, but winning does matter this year.”
With the addition of Andrew Miller, the Cardinals looked to sharpen a bullpen that already flashed moments of dominance with late-inning work by Bud Norris and phenom Jordan Hicks. Alex Reyes will return to the major league team this year, either as a member of the rotation or another potent bullpen arm.
While Goldschmidt is a critical addition to the lineup, he also helps improve another Cardinal Achilles heel from season’s past. The defense.
“Oh man. It’s gonna be fun. It’s going to be so fun to have that guy there,” Wong said with a grin. “I know I’m not the most accurate thrower, so to have somebody who can pick it like he does, helping me out in tough situations, it’s going to allow me to be more aggressive; take more risks, take more chances, and help these guys.”
Wong, who finished as a Gold Glove finalist in 2018, got in contact with the first baseman as soon as the trade was announced, texting him, “It’s going to be tough for guys to sneak one past us on the right side.”
Goldschmidt has three Gold Gloves of his own and has a long frame perfect for corralling errant throws.
“Hopefully he saves me a couple of errors in the dirt,” shortstop Paul DeJong said with a smile. “Most guys who win a Gold Glove usually seem to have a really good first baseman, so it’s always good to have someone like that over there. I think everyone is really excited about that.”
And Goldschmidt is just as eager to help his teammates. Despite his imposing frame, the first baseman is anything but domineering. He speaks softly and steadily, never bragging and always focusing on the larger picture. When told the middle infielders were excited to have his sure hands across the diamond, he deflected the praise.
“That’s the great part about this game, someone else could make technically a bad throw and you can pick them up and save an error or save a run,” he said. “That’s part of the camaraderie and the teamwork, and the thing that makes it so great. When you have those victories as a team. Especially when someone picks you up or you pick them up. It’s so much better than an individual success.”
It’s easy to see why Goldschmidt’s new teammates are eager to work with him and why fans took to the star so quickly. Even if only one year in St. Louis is certain at this point, he feels like the perfect fit.
“When you look at someone like Paul Goldschmidt, that is a Cardinal, man,” Wong said. “How he plays the game, how he goes about his business, that’s the Cardinal Way.”