In a chat today with readers, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals will approach first baseman Paul Goldschmidt at some point this offseason with the hope of discussing a contract extension. He says the club prefers to get a deal done before the start of the season but that they will leave the door open for in-season discussions. He adds that neither side expects the conversation to be contentious and the club believes they can extend him through the remainder of his career.
Goldschmidt, 36, has just one year remaining on his contract, an extension he signed with the club in 2019. He will make a salary of $22MM in 2024 and will also get two signing bonus payments of $2.25MM each, one in January and one in July, leaving $26.5MM left to be paid out.
Though he is now into his mid-30s, he has continued to be a key part of the club, winning National League Most Valuable Players honors just last year. His 2023 was unquestionable a drop-off, but that says more about his excellent MVP campaign than anything. Here in 2023, he hit 25 home runs and drew walks in 12.7% of his plate appearances. His .268/.363/.447 batting line amounted to a wRC+ of 122, a far cry from his 176 in 2022, but that still indicates he was 22% better than league average. He also stole 11 bases and was got strong marks for his glovework, leading to a tally of 3.7 wins above replacement from FanGraphs and 3.4 from Baseball Reference.
Given that he continues to be a valuable member of the club, it’s understandable why the Cards would want to keep him around. They have generally not been shy about keeping their legendary players around, with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright a couple of recent examples of players who were continually re-signed through the ends of their respective careers. Albert Pujols was away from the club for a while but returned for a farewell tour in St. Louis before hanging up his cleats.
That points to the club having strong relationships with its star players, with Nolan Arenado having also foregone an opt-out opportunity that many felt was in his best financial interest. If the same is true for Goldschmidt, it’s possible he could follow down the legendary path and stick with the club through the end of his career.
The spring is a common time for extensions, as clubs generally like to use the winter months to focus on building the roster by signing free agents and making trades, leaving discussions with in-house players for after those other matters are settled. The Cards came into this offseason with plenty to do, having already remade their rotation by signing Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn, in addition to trading outfielder Tyler O’Neill to the Red Sox. They still want to add to their bullpen and perhaps continue trading from their group of position players, so the talks with Goldschmidt aren’t the priority at this exact moment.
But as mentioned, they do hope to get it done before the season starts, so it will be something that could develop in the New Year or during Spring Training. It’s not terribly uncommon for a veteran to sign a one-year extension to stick around, such as the one Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies recently agreed to or the one-year deals Molina signed with the Cards for 2021 and 2022. But since Goldschmidt continues to produce at such a high level, he may be able to ask for a multi-year deal.
There’s not much precedent for a position player being extended this late in their careers, but there are some recent examples. In August of 2021, Brandon Crawford and the Giants signed a two-year, $32MM deal to cover his age-35 and age-36 seasons. Going a bit further back, Adrian Beltre signed a two-year, $36MM with the Rangers for his age-38 and age-39 seasons. In terms of free agent comparisons, Jose Abreu got a three-year, $58.5MM deal from the Astros going into his age-36 season. Prior to 2021, Justin Turner signed a two-year, $34MM deal with the Dodgers that began with his age-36 campaign. After that deal expired, he was able to get a two years and $21MM plus an opt-out from the Red Sox for his age-38 season.
The financials will be an interesting thing for the Cardinals to balance. Roster Resource estimates their 2024 payroll at $175MM while they already have $103MM committed for 2025, thanks to hefty deals for Arenado, Gray, Miles Mikolas, Willson Contreras and Steven Matz. Adding Goldschmidt will probably put them over $120MM for just six players.
But given their past preference for keeping their marquee players around as long as they keep playing, perhaps they are willing to walk that tightrope to keep Goldy around for a few more years.