Diamondbacks fans knew the day was coming. They were well aware that Paul Goldschmidt has only one year remaining on his contract. Many thought Goldschmidt would have been traded last season. That didn’t happen because the Diamondbacks front office felt the team could contend for a title. Trading Goldschmidt at any point before or during the 2018 season would have been like throwing up the white flag prematurely.
The Goldschmidt era in Phoenix ended December 5, 2018, when the team’s most iconic player in history and “face of the franchise” was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a deal that brought right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, second baseman Andy Young and a 2019 competitive balance round draft pick to the Dbacks.
Having scouted each of the three players coming to Arizona in depth, I believe the Dbacks made an outstanding deal for Goldschmidt. When one considers the fact the Cardinals will have only one year of control over Goldschmidt’s contract, the Dbacks got a very admirable bundle in return. If the Cards want to keep the first base slugger, they will have to pay his market value in an extension or watch him leave in free agency. In short, St. Louis can offer him a qualifying offer and see what happens, sign him long-term, or watch him leave in free agency. If he refuses an extension or QO, the team will get a compensation pick in return.
I have watched all three of the players coming to the Dbacks during their time in the Arizona Fall League. Weaver pitched for Surprise in the 2015 AFL season, just after his second year as a professional. He started two games in his seven appearances. I saw them both and I was impressed with his repertoire and mound presence. Kelly appeared in the 2016 Fall League, playing for Glendale. He hit .286 and showed excellent defensive skill. He hit three home runs that fall. Andy Young just completed his Arizona Fall League season in November, hitting .301 for Surprise and showing upside on both sides of the ball.
Weaver and Kelly have played at the big league level. Young is probably at least a year away.
Here are my thoughts on the three new Dbacks players:
B/T: R/R HT: 6-2 WT: 170 pounds AGE: 25
The St. Louis Cardinals have remained competitive through the years in part because they identify solid pitching prospects, develop them and bring them to the parent club when they feel they have completed sufficient minor league innings to allow them to compete against the best hitters in the world.
Luke Weaver was a 1st round pick of the Cardinals in the 2014 draft out of Florida State University. He was the 27th player taken in that draft. Weaver was previously drafted in 2011 by the Toronto Blue Jays but did not sign.
An aggressive and confident pitcher on the mound, Weaver throws a very complete repertoire that begins with a four-seam fastball that he throws fairly consistently between 92 and 94 miles per hour. He compliments that pitch with an extremely crisp curveball, the second most often used pitch in his inventory. He also throws a changeup that is good enough to alter the balance and the timing of the hitter. A rarely used cutter completes his arsenal. Weaver has a slider that I saw in the Fall League days, but he hasn’t used it as much recently. I think that pitch may return to his repertoire with more prominence in Arizona
Weaver was exceptionally effective as a minor league pitcher. Throwing 279.1 innings in parts of five minor league seasons, Weaver finished his development with a stellar 2.03 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He had a strikeout rate of 8.9 per nine innings, compared to his 1.7 walks per nine. Weaver had a composite 25-11 record in his 54 starts. He did not pitch in relief.
At the age of 22, Weaver threw four innings in his debut against the Chicago Cubs in August 2016. At this point, Weaver has thrown in 52 major league games. He has started 43. He has a major league record of 15-17 in parts of three seasons. Luke Weaver has a composite ERA of 4.79, not even close to his outstanding minor league days. His WHIP of 1.45 is partially based on walking an average of 3.2 hitters per nine innings. He is striking out an average of 9.2 per nine.
Weaver was really effective pitching for the Cardinals in 2017. He won seven while losing two. His ERA was 3.88 in his 10 starts. It was his 2018 season that may have caused some concern in St. Louis. His ERA jumped more than one point. His WHIP increased even more than that.
I am not guessing it was a poor 2018 season that led the Cardinals to trade Luke Weaver. I feel the regression entered the equation, but I don’t think it was everything. I feel the rotation success of Miles Mikolas, the continued progress of Carlos Martinez and Jack Flaherty, the presence of Michael Wacha and the veteran leadership of Adam Wainwright made Weaver expendable. And we can’t forget that Tommy John patient Alex Reyes, a potential star performer, waits in the wings.
Combine the full and crowded rotation situation with the chance to obtain the potent bat and outstanding glove of Paul Goldschmidt and Weaver became an odd man out.
Weaver will not have to wait his turn with Arizona. He will slot nicely in the back end of a rotation that lost lefty Patrick Corbin to the Washington Nationals in free agency. With Shelby Miller designated for assignment on November 30, Miller will not be a threat for that vacant spot. It should belong to Weaver.
Weaver has to use spring training as an opportunity to return to his previous form. He will have to be mindful that his curveball will not spin at the same rate in Arizona as it did in Florida during the spring, or in St. Louis during the season. But it is still a very solid offering.
Challenging hitters and coming inside against them is part of what I like about Weaver. He shows no fear on the mound and he comes right after the hitter. He will use the edges of the plate to his advantage and because of that, as well as the fact he works down in the zone, Weaver may be a bit umpire dependent. He will join teammate Zack Godley in that regard. Both will throw the ball down in the zone as well as on the edges.
Weaver suffered a broken wrist in 2016 and has had some back spasms and hiccups that cost him some time on the mound. If he’s 100% healthy, he will use every inch of his frame to mix and match pitches from that complete repertoire.
Should he begin the 2019 season as the No. 4 starter in the Dbacks rotation, I don’t think it will take long before he creeps up in the starting rotation pecking order.
I remain very bullish on Weaver and I think the Dbacks got a very good, young, controllable and effective starting pitcher for years to come.
B/T: R/R HT: 6-2 WT: 220 pounds AGE: 24
Let me begin by stating I believe Kelly will be the starting catcher for the Diamondbacks when the season begins and he will be their starting catcher for years to come.
Drafted as a third baseman and converted to catcher, Kelly was widely regarded among the best catching prospects in baseball during his development program. A 2nd round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2012 out of Portland’s Westview High School, Kelly is known as a very good defensive catcher. That said, he had a solid bat in his minor league development program, hitting .255 in his 2,517 plate appearances. However, with Yadier Molina still going strong in St. Louis, there was little chance Kelly could become the club’s starting catcher any time soon. Enter Arizona and the Dbacks.
Kelly hasn’t shown much power, but he makes contact, puts the ball in play and doesn’t strike out much. Anything he offers on the offensive side of the ball will likely be an improvement for Arizona, as their catching corps has not done well at the plate in the past couple of years. I think Kelly’s power is a work in progress with more to come.
Defensively, Kelly does everything expected of a quality receiver. He handles pitchers well, calls a good game, has a solid arm, moves well, and blocks balls in the dirt. He is a complete catcher behind the plate.
Kelly is the product of instruction by his former manager Mike Matheny in St. Louis. Kelly learned the mechanics and nuances of catching from Matheny and Molina after converting to the position. The work he did in St. Louis will benefit Arizona.
Kelly may ultimately find some power in his new Chase Field home. It projects to be a bit more friendly for his right-handed stroke, but the use of the humidor at the facility may take away any advantage he gains with the change of venue.
I believe the Diamondbacks pitchers will be very happy with the defensive ability of Carson Kelly behind the plate.
B/T: R/R HT: 6-0 WT: 195 pounds AGE: 24
Andy Young is the only true prospect among the three players coming to the Dbacks from St. Louis in the Goldschmidt deal. I have just watched Young play in the Arizona Fall League, where I was impressed with his game.
Young was a 37th round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2016 out of Indiana State University in Terre Haute. It is rare that a draft pick that low can make it to the big leagues, but Young has the total game to succeed. Obviously, the Cardinals saw enough in Young during his development to include him in their Fall League contingent. And he didn’t disappoint, hitting .303 with three home runs and 15 RBI. He stole one base and didn’t get caught stealing. Young struck out 17 times, which is a bit below average in that league for his 89 plate appearances. He walked 14 times, which is above average.
Having completed parts of three minor league seasons in the Cardinals organization, Young reached Double-A Springfield before being included in the Fall League. He hit a combined .289 this past season playing for Class-A Advanced Palm Beach as well as Springfield. He hit a surprising 21 homers and drove in 58 over 503 plate appearances. He also stole four bases in six chances.
I like the fact Young makes contact at the plate. He doesn’t have much speed, but he is capable of taking an extra base if needed. A very good defender, Young is dependable and sure-handed at second base.
Young may become a very useful player in the scheme of the Diamondbacks infield depth. While I feel he projects as a second baseman, he may be able to play other infield positions as well.
Young might become a player with a bat loud enough to call attention to himself as he continues his development program. Hitting three home runs in Arizona this fall made scouts in attendance take a good look. That’s exactly what happened to me. I wasn’t quite sure about Young when I saw him on the roster, but he hit his way and played his way into attention. And that’s one of the great aspects of the Fall League. A 37th round pick who went to Neosha County Community College in Kansas and then to Indiana State said, “Hey, look at me.” And the Arizona Diamondbacks did. So did I. I liked what I saw. So did Arizona.
Again, given the fact Paul Goldschmidt would have become (and may still become) a free agent at the end of this coming season, the Diamondbacks did remarkably well in trading him.
Luke Weaver joins the Arizona rotation. Chris Kelly is the likely starting catcher. Andy Young has a chance to become a major league roster player. And the team gets a competitive draft pick.
Paul Goldschmidt will be missed. He is a Silver Slugger quality hitter. He is a Gold Glove quality first baseman. He runs well and steals bases. He is quiet and almost shy. His play speaks for itself.
Goldschmidt loved playing in Arizona. I think he will miss the Valley and the Valley will miss him. He was the face of the franchise.
It is always tough to replace the face of a franchise while that person is still healthy and playing well. Allegedly, the Diamondbacks offered Goldy an extension. I have no idea about that. I believe the team when they say they wanted to keep him and that they offered him a new contract. But apparently, Paul Goldschmidt is ready to take his game to St. Louis-the Gateway to the West, or wherever his next contract leads him.
I wish Goldy all the best. He is a class act. But I think the Dbacks can move forward with their new players as they shape their team for the future.
Follow me from the Winter Meetings in Arizona on Twitter @BerniePleskoff