By Carson Field
It’s only fitting that the Arizona Diamondbacks’ season winds down against the St. Louis Cardinals this week at Chase Field.
Nearly all the buzz surrounding both teams’ respective offseasons regarded one move: the shipping of Paul Goldschmidt to the Cards for Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, Andy Young and a draft pick. That trade, processed in December 2018, commenced a litany of intriguing MLB headlines leading up to the 2019 season.
Now, almost 10 months later, the cross-league adversaries are facing off for each team’s second-to-last series of the regular season. In the first of this three-game set Monday night, St. Louis earned a 9-7 victory, officially eliminating Arizona from playoff contention.
Purely based on numbers, it would be easy for one to say the Cardinals “won” the trade. Goldschmidt has been electric as usual, crushing 32 home runs in 574 at-bats. Also, unlike the D-backs, St. Louis will still be playing in a week’s time.
Though the trade meant the departure of Goldschmidt — an elite infielder — Arizona manager Torey Lovullo stressed how this trade sets the team up well for the future.
“I think that we’re very fortunate that we’re going to be able to dig in with them for the next several years and help lead us to a championship,” Lovullo said. “I believe they’re championship players.”
No, the D-backs won’t be playing postseason baseball. After winning 11 of 12 earlier this month, they went on a six-game skid, crushing their hopes of playing in October.
However, considering the team’s low expectations entering 2019, this season has been far from a disaster. Sure, the recent skid is disheartening to fans hoping the team would slip into the Wild Card spot. But Arizona, which currently sits second in the NL West and 80-77 overall, has shown promise as a young ball club.
A lot of this can be traced to Kelly. The 25-year-old catcher is batting .246 and has logged 18 home runs this season.
This production, however, didn’t come from the jump. In the months of March and April, Kelly batted below .200 and struck out 13 times.
Focusing on defense and letting the offense come later was crucial to his development.
“We told him to put his offense to the side from an offensive standpoint for the first several weeks in the season,” Lovullo said. “It was a little bit of a frustration.”
As the season progressed however, so did Kelly’s comfortability at the plate. He hit 14 home runs from the beginning of May to the end of July and batted above .250 in each of those months.
Always looking forward? pic.twitter.com/ttwvgRw1u3
— Carson Kelly (@carskelly) August 17, 2019
Along with his hike in efficiency at the plate, Kelly has also posted a respectable .990 fielding percentage. According to Lovullo, Kelly’s multifaceted skill set makes him particularly valuable.
“Carson really anchors a position that’s very difficult at the major-league level to combine the offensive and defensive characteristics of a championship player,” Lovullo said. “I think he’s going to be a very good player for us for a very long time.”
The other piece of that trade who started the year on the D-backs’ opening-day roster, pitcher Luke Weaver, spent the majority of the season on the injured list. He injured his forearm in late May, sidelining him until the tail end of the season.
On Sept. 21, Weaver pitched for the first time since the injury, throwing two perfect innings in Arizona’s 4-2 win over San Diego.
It is still uncertain whether or not Weaver will start again this season. Nevertheless, Lovullo said he’s excited for the 26-year-old arm’s continued development.
“He’s going to get better and better each day with how many pitches he throws,” Lovullo said. “It’s a very live fastball that’s gonna continue to get better. He’s going to get some more strikes, and he’s going to get back on the mound and win some baseball games for us.”
But not all of the return on investment from this blockbuster deal currently resides in the big leagues. One of Arizona’s top prospects — second baseman Andy Young — has shown proficiency at the minor-league level this year, batting .280 and .260 in Triple-A Reno and Double-A Jackson, respectively.
A 25-year-old slugger, Young has still never appeared in an MLB game. But his time is coming soon.
“We’re going to see him in a very short time,” Lovullo said.
As for Goldschmidt, he’s also making the most of his new setting. Despite not being selected to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2012, he is still a key component on a team just two games away from clinching its division.
For a player looking to win now, like Goldschmidt, the move was necessary. Even before his arrival, St. Louis had the needed pieces to compete for a World Series.
Though Goldschmidt’s days with the “Snakes” are now long gone, there is no bad blood between him and the team. In fact, he treasures his eight seasons in the valley.
“I’m just appreciative of this organization, my time here,” Goldschmidt said.
At the end of the day, both teams got what they needed. St. Louis received a superstar to bolster its already-stacked roster. Arizona added to a deep organization loaded with up-and-coming talent — one that should become a persistent contender in a few years.
“Between those two guys and Andy Young, we feel very fortunate about all three guys,” Lovullo said.