The St. Louis Cardinals knew that Paul Goldschmidt had one year left on his contract when they acquired the slugging first baseman in an offseason trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
They also made no secret of their desire to sign him to a long-term deal.
Now, the Cardinals and the 31-year-old Goldschmidt are nearing completion of a $130 million, five-year agreement through the 2024 season that would make him the highest paid player in club history, a person familiar with the terms told The Associated Press on Friday.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Goldschmidt still must pass a physical, which is mostly a formality. It is expected to take place later Friday, with an announcement likely Saturday.
The Athletic was first to report that a deal was imminent.
“Goldschmidt has that residual value that is measurable and maybe not measurable,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “His impact on other guys in the clubhouse. Obviously, he’s a good player on the field. He’s an established guy in the league. We know what we can count on with him.
“The offense will be there. He lengthens our lineup,” Shildt added, “but what I appreciate about the (trade for him) is the defense that we can expect to get from Paul as well. He’s also got a passion for base running, which is fantastic. He appreciates the nuances of the game. His impact will be real in what we can expect. He’s just a standup guy.”
Goldschmidt is due $15.5 million this season, while his new agreement trumps a $120 million, seven-year deal that the Cardinals gave outfielder Matt Holiday in 2010. It also follows huge free-agent deals given to Bryce Harper by the Phillies and Manny Machado by the Padres, and the 12-year, $426.5 million contract that the Angels gave to Mike Trout on Wednesday.
Cardinals president John Mozeliak acknowledged to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “we are working toward something,” but officials otherwise declined to comment on Goldschmidt’s contract.
Goldschmidt has been an All-Star each of the past six seasons, and he rebounded from a slow start with the Diamondbacks last year to hit .290 with 33 homers and 83 RBIs. It was his fourth year with at least 33 homers, and he has a career .297 batting average and four Silver Slugger awards.
He also plays so solidly at first base, winning three Gold Gloves, that three-time All-Star Matt Carpenter agreed to move to third base full-time to clear the way for him.
Goldschmidt also has been remarkably durable, appearing in at least 155 games five of the past six seasons. He led the league with 705 plate appearances in 158 games in 2016.
The Cardinals have been seeking an offensive-minded star ever since Albert Pujols left for the Angels as a free agent. They worked hard to acquire Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton before those opportunities fell through, then zeroed in on Goldschmidt late last year.
They wound up sending right-hander Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly and infielder Andy Young to Arizona in December, and finally landed the big bat they wanted in their lineup.
“When we met in October,” Mozeliak said, “we talked about the importance of winning now. We do have a very good baseball team and we just decided to make it better. By doing so, we added Paul, and Paul Goldschmidt has plenty of baseball ahead of him in his career.”
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