Louis Meyer, Sports Editor

Ever since star first baseman Albert Pujols departed in free agency eight years ago, there has been a void in the Cardinals lineup. The Cardinals have had numerous players try to replace Pujols’s production and locker room presence. Pujols also vaulted the Cardinals into the national scene, as he won three MVP’s and two World Series with the team. Since he left eight years ago, the Cardinals have only made one World Series, which they were swept in by the Boston Red Sox. This past offseason, however, the Cardinals just might have found someone who can replace both Pujols’s production and locker room presence. He even plays the same position.

On Dec. 6, 2018, the Cardinals traded pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, minor league infielder Andy Young, and their compensation pick in Round B of the 2019 MLB Draft to the Arizona Diamondbacks for first basemen Paul Goldschmidt. At first glance, it seems like a lot for a little; however, for the Cardinals, it was a steal. With the Cardinals’ deep pitching depth and young infield, Weaver and Young were easily tradeable. Carson Kelly was long pegged as Yadier Molina’s successor; however, a combination of his slow-progressing hitting and Molina’s refusal the age meant the team could afford to trade him. Not to mention the Cardinals have a fast-developing catcher in Andrew Knizner, who is also younger than Kelly.

In return, the Cardinals got arguably the best first basemen in all of baseball. Not only is Paul Goldschmidt an elite defender, he has been one of the most consistent hitters since entering the league in 2011. A career .297 hitter who averages 26 home runs and 89 RBI’s a season, Goldschmidt is the type of elite batter that was missing in the Cardinals lineup. Goldschmidt also has three Gold Gloves in his eight-year career, which is big for the Cardinals considering they led the MLB in errors last year. Even more importantly, Goldschmidt provides a locker room presence like that of Pujols.’

Cardinals fans immediately began buzzing about Goldschmidt. For some fans, this is the most excited they have been for the upcoming season in years. With good pitching depth and a healthy mixture of veterans and youngsters, the Cardinals look ready to make the playoffs for the first time in four years. Still, many fans worry that the success may be short-lived. When the Cardinals traded for Goldschmidt, they traded for him knowing he was in the last year of his contract. Goldschmidt is widely considered one of the most underpaid players in baseball considering the stats he has out. Many believed after this season, he would finally hit free agency and get the money he deserves. However, Goldschmidt and the Cardinals had other ideas.

On March 23, the Cardinals announced they had signed Goldschmidt to a five-year, $130 million extension. The contract was the biggest in the Cardinals franchise history, surpassing Matt Holliday’s seven-year, $120 million contract in 2009. Despite it being the biggest contract in the team’s history, many considered it a steal for the Cardinals, because Goldschmidt could have almost certainly hit free agency and gotten more. The contract is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Goldschmidt signed it before playing even one regular season game in a Cardinals uniform. While not usually a man of many words, Goldschmidt had this to say during his press conference following the extension.

“Everything I’ve heard about St. Louis and the organization has been more than great. Whether it’s from past players that have been here, coaches, current players, and now getting to meet all these guys. I definitely felt confident in that, and everything’s been true, and probably more than true the way the organization is run. Going into St. Louis a couple times this offseason, I knew I’d like it. There is not really anything to dislike. I’m just glad the feeling was mutual. Because it’s just exciting to be a part of this tradition and hopefully we’ll do some great things here.”

It is obvious that Paul Goldschmidt has fallen in love with the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis and vice versa. The match could not be more perfect. An elite player, family man, leader, and someone who sacrificed a potential massive payday for the chance to win and be a part of one of the most cherished franchises in all of baseball. The city of St. Louis has already made Goldschmidt feel like he’s at home with long lines at the annual Winter Warm-up and plenty of ovations. Goldschmidt is already making his name known in St. Louis through the first five games of the season, both on and off the field.

Goldschmidt already has four home runs and eight RBI’s this season, both of which are second best in the National League. Three of Goldschmidt’s four home runs also came in one game. Goldschmidt became just the second player in MLB history to hit three homeruns in one game to start the season with a new team. Off the field, Goldschmidt is also making is name known. When he signed his extension, Goldschmidt pledged $100,000 of his yearly salary to the Cardinal’s charity, Cardinal’s Care. A class act for a classy guy. I think it is safe to the say the next six years of Cardinal’s baseball with Paul Goldschmidt is going to be great.