Have you had your helping of hot Paul Goldschmidt content yet this fine Saturday? If not, you’re in luck- it’s time for another look into team-building given the Cardinals’ newest acquisition. Today, however, I don’t want to talk about 2019. Andrew St. John covered ways the team can maximize 2019 yesterday. Instead, I want to address the perception that the team has created a one-year contention window. Look, yeah, having a player as good as Goldschmidt incentivizes you to go for it right now. The team projects to be almost as good as the Cubs already, and it would be irresponsible not to try to win the division next year. We know far more about the 2019 roster than we do about any future year, and it’s worth maximizing talent in that year of certainty.
Just because Goldschmidt is a free agent after 2019, however, doesn’t mean the Cardinals’ window closes there. Because they paid a reasonably low price to acquire him, the team can contend in 2020 with the pieces it has on hand. To illustrate this point, I’m going to consider four possible versions of the 2020 team- one with Bryce Harper and Goldschmidt both on the team, one with neither, and one each for keeping one of the two. In each case, I’ll run through the team’s payroll commitments and players before suggesting some moves the Cardinals could make to complement those players. In each case, I’m using John LaRue’s excellent payroll matrix. I’m going to stop short of projecting win totals or playoff odds or anything like that, because that would veer even further into wishcasting than I’m comfortable with, and this is coming from a guy whose first article here pegged Luke Weaver as an effective number three starter. Instead, I’ll just give a rough run-down of the roster, and qualitatively how I think that looks for the team.
Star Power- Retain Harper and Goldschmidt
This is the best possible outcome for contending in 2020 (obviously). The infield looks stellar. Goldschmidt, Carpenter, and DeJong provide enviable offense, while Kolten Wong’s defense and streaky offense combine to form an above-average second baseman. The outfield is the much-dreamed-of all-bro outfield, with Harper and Tyler O’Neill manning the corners while Harrison Bader patrols center. This lineup is going to do damage; Yadier Molina and Bader are probably the two worst hitters, and they make up for it in other ways- Bader with his all-world defense and Molina because he’s a catcher, which comes with a significantly lower bar for offense. Depending on how Bader and O’Neill develop, this could very well be the best set of position players in the National League.