The Phillies and Diamondbacks had recent talks about a trade centered around Paul Goldschmidt, tweets Jayson Stark of The Athletic, but talks crumbled when the Phils tried to include Carlos Santana in the deal. Right-hander Zach Eflin was one of multiple younger players discussed as part of a potential return for Arizona, per Stark.
It’s somewhat of a surprise to see the Phils linked to Goldschmidt. A significant driving factor behind Philadelphia’s effort to move Santana, after all, is to open at-bats for Rhys Hoskins to return to first base. Acquiring Goldschmidt would likely mean that Hoskins would remain in left field, where he ranked as one of the game’s worst defenders at any position. Then again, the Phillies are known to be casting a wide net in an effort to improve at virtually any area of the roster, and plugging Goldschmidt in at first base would make for an immensely improved lineup, even if it meant another year of Hoskins in left field.
Goldschmidt, 31, enjoyed yet another brilliant season in 2018, hitting .290/.389/.533 with 33 home runs, 35 doubles and five triples. Perennially one of the game’s premier bats, Goldschmidt is owed $14.5MM in 2019 before he’ll reach the open market and become a free agent for the first time in his career next winter. That lack of club control, the presumably enormous cost of an extension and a crowded Diamondbacks payroll have all combined to create the possibility that Arizona moves the face of its franchise this winter.
Turning to another potential suitor, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cards have talked to the D-backs about a trade for Goldschimdt. As Goold explores in great detail, the slugger checks several boxes — the Cards prefer to trade for a bat rather than sign one and are especially interested in corner infielders — but there are question marks as well. He’d only add to a deluge of right-handed bats in the St. Louis lineup, for example, and there is of course no guarantee he’d be willing to sign an extension — something the Cards would be likely to pursue.
While Goldschmidt is the best player the D-backs could move this winter, he’s hardly the only high-profile candidate to change hands. Zack Greinke, too, has emerged as a potential trade candidate, though circumstances surrounding the two are quite different. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that while the D-backs want young players or prospects back in any Goldschmidt deal — hence the mention of Eflin in Stark’s report — the primary motivation in trading Greinke would be to escape the burden of the three years and $104.5MM remaining on his contract (which includes his annual salaries and a trio of $3MM payouts as part of an $18MM signing bonus that was spread out evenly over the duration of the contract). Greinke’s six-year, $206.5MM contract is the largest ever in terms of average annual value and was signed by the previous front-office regime in Arizona. At 35 years of age, the right-hander is still a highly effective pitcher, but it’s understandable that as payroll has risen beyond the organization’s comfort level, the new-look front office is hoping to unload some of that financial burden.
It’s natural to suggest that the D-backs could try to kill two birds with one stone by trading Goldschmidt and Greinke in one franchise-altering blockbuster. Attaching a player of Goldschmidt’s caliber to Greinke’s contract would hold appeal for an acquiring team, but The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported this morning (subscription required) that the D-backs aren’t interested in watering down a return on Goldschmidt by packaging him with Greinke. Rosenthal, in fact, notes that Cardinals already had internal discussions about attempting a trade to acquire both, but they’re cognizant of the fact that they’re on Greinke’s 15-team no-trade list. Goold tweets that the Cardinals’ inclusion on Greinke’s no-trade list is tied to geographic preferences.
It should be pointed out, too, that while Greinke’s contract is somewhat onerous, it’s not the albatross that many might think. The veteran righty has topped 200 innings in consecutive seasons with virtually identical ERAs of 3.20 and 3.21 to go along with above-average strikeout rates, elite control and solid ground-ball tendencies. Were he a free agent, Greinke would still command significant interest on a multi-year deal and would likely be regarded alongside the likes of Dallas Keuchel as perhaps the second or third-best arm available.
He likely wouldn’t top $100MM in total guarantees, but there’s a very real argument that Greinke command $20MM+ annually on a three-year deal — as Jake Arrieta did last winter. Arrieta, of course, was a three years younger at the time than Greinke is now, but he was also coming off a worse season. And given the fact that the soon-to-be 39-year-old Rich Hill is entering the third season of a three-year free-agent contract, there’s recent precedent of a pitcher in his mid-to-late 30s securing a three-year guarantee. The exact valuation of Greinke will vary from team to team, but his contract may “only” an overpay of around $30-35MM relative to what he could realistically seek on the open market.