It’s not every day a team trades the face of their franchise.
The Diamondbacks are going through that right now after dealing first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday afternoon.
“Paul is possibly the top player in the National League, we understand that,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “We’ve understood that for a long time. He is the face of the franchise, neither of which were taken lightly.”
He said it was not a foregone conclusion Goldschmidt would be dealt up until it happened. azcentral’s Nick Piecoro reported the team even began discussions with Goldschmidt for a contract extension, but they didn’t go anywhere. With one year left on his deal, it made sense for the Diamondbacks to trade the six-time MLB All-Star.
Hazen doesn’t want to use the term “rebuild,” but the deal shifts the team’s focus to the long-term. The two Major League-ready players heading to Arizona are pitcher Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly, both of which have at least five years of contract control.
“We think very highly of the players we got back. Kelly and Weaver, I think, will jump right on to the club,” Hazen said. “Weaver slots right in to the rotation and Kelly we see as an everyday catcher moving forward.”
In addition to that, the Diamondbacks also receive a competitive balance pick in the 70s in this year’s upcoming MLB draft and prospect Andy Young.
“Andy Young is someone we scouted pretty extensively most notably, most recently in the (Arizona Fall League). He had a tremendous season and a tremendous Fall League. Certainly the draft pick is something we look long-term at our upcoming draft, having seven of the top 80 picks in this draft, we should be in a pretty good position there.”
Weaver stepped in nicely for the Cardinals in 2017. In 10 starts, he struck out 72 in 60.1 innings and had 3.88 earned run average. He struggled a bit in an expanded role in 2018 where his ERA jumped to 4.95 in 25 starts. His home run rate and walk rate both jumped. He was at one time the #2 prospect in the Cardinals farm system and Hazen believes he can grow from his 2018 season.
“We’ll get with Luke over the next couple weeks, getting our arms around with delivery consistency,” Hazen said. “His stuff was still really good, some of the results were not. I think it’s not that atypical for young pitchers going through the ups and downs of the early parts of their Major League career.
He has five pitches. We’ll certainly focus on that mix of pitches and sees where that goes as well. We have a lot of things to unpack here as we get to know him.”
Kelly saw a similar dip in 2018. The catcher hit .277 in Triple-A over three years but hit .114 at the Major League level last year. Also contributing to those struggles were limited reps at the big league level behind Yadier Molina.
In Arizona’s setup, Kelly should have ample opportunity to find the field consistently.
“We’re probably looking at a three-catcher setup right now,” Hazen said. “We would envision Carson taking over a larger workload as we move forward, he’s still a very young player. There’s a lot that we ask of our catchers so there’s probably going to be a transition for him.”
While parting ways with one of the best players in baseball is a tough pill to swallow, Hazen is hopeful having to take that step backwards can help set the team up to make more than a few steps forward.
“It’s a bittersweet day when you’re talking about trading someone of the caliber of Paul Goldschmidt. I think we’re hopeful in the long-term future given what we’ve acquired given what we have in the draft given, hopefully, the talent infusion that we’ll continue to see.”