Paul Goldschmidt is entering the last season of the five-year, $130MM extension he signed with the Cardinals back in March 2019, so the star first baseman is on pace to hit agency at age 37. Team president of baseball operations John Mozeliak addressed Goldschmidt’s future when talking with Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat (links to X) and other reporters today at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-up fan event, and Mozeliak indicated that contract talks might be held off until beyond Opening Day.
“I think right now, I think everybody just wants to see how this season starts. You know, obviously, we want to get off on the right track, and then we can address things like that,” Mozeliak said.
Reports surfaced last month about the Cards’ interest in retaining Goldschmidt, with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noting that talks might well last into the season, even if the team’s preference was to have Goldschmidt locked up in advance of Opening Day. In that sense, Mozeliak’s comments today don’t represent a huge shift in the Cardinals’ overall plan to keep Goldschmidt, yet as Jones notes, a lack of talks at all during Spring Training is perhaps “telling” about both the club’s long-term belief in Goldschmidt and/or the Cards’ own ability to contend.
Goldschmidt hit .268/.363/.447 with 25 home runs over 687 plate appearances last season, translating to a 122 wRC+. These are obviously still very solid numbers, particularly for a player in his age-35 season, yet it did represent a dropoff from Goldschmidt’s NL MVP production (.317/.404/.578 with 35 homers, 176 wRC+) in 2022. The 122 mark is actually the third-lowest wRC+ Goldschmidt has posted in his 13 Major League seasons, which might be more of a sign of how great he has been over a Cooperstown-level career than a sign of any true regression.
That said, if a player is even able to keep playing at a high level until his late 30’s, sharp and sudden declines aren’t uncommon. It could be that the Cardinals are just exercising a bit more caution in seeing how Goldschmidt proceeds over the first couple of months before deciding whether or not to make another pricey commitment, even if the first baseman’s next deal will be shorter than five years in length.
The other financial element involved is the Cardinals’ broadcasting contract with Bally Sports Midwest, and parent company Diamond Sports. While the Cards’ deal runs through the 2032 season, Diamond Sports’ declaration of bankruptcy last year has left the Cardinals as one of the many teams in a state of uncertainty about their TV futures, and the Bally Sports broadcasts might cease once the 2024 campaign is complete.
Discussions about the situation remain ongoing between Diamond Sports and Major League Baseball, though until some resolution is in sight, St. Louis might be keeping spending in check. Club president Bill DeWitt III said earlier this week that might not have much or any remaining payroll space for any significant moves this offseason, and it stands to reason that those restraints might stretch into any big expenditures on Goldschmidt or others beyond 2024.
The Cardinals’ surprisingly disappointing 71-91 record last season is also certainly a factor, and it seems possible that the wait-and-see approach to an extension is shared by both the team and Goldschmidt himself. If he has any doubts about St. Louis’ ability to quickly return to contention, Goldschmidt might prefer to enter free agency and seek out a new deal with a more clear-cut contender for 2025. From the front office’s perspective, if the Cardinals get off to a rough start and might look to again sell at the trade deadline, Goldschmidt would stand out as a big trade chip that could be dealt. Goldschmidt holds full no-trade protection, though if St. Louis is indeed out of the pennant race by midseason, he might welcome a deadline move to a contender.
St. Louis has around $178MM on the books for 2024 and around $102.7MM currently projected for the 2025 payroll, according to Roster Resource. Nolan Arenado, Sonny Gray, Miles Mikolas, Willson Contreras, and Steven Matz are the only Cardinals on guaranteed deals through at least 2025, as Goldschmidt can be a free agent, and Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Giovanny Gallegos are signed through 2024 with club options for 2025.