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Paul Goldschmidt leaves NL West — and Dodgers path to a 7th straight title gets easier

Paul Goldschmidt leaves NL West — and Dodgers path to a 7th straight title gets easier
Paul Goldschmidt (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

One of the most fearsome hitters in the National League West has left the division — and one team standing in the way of a seventh consecutive division title for the Dodgers has stepped aside for 2019.

In the first step of a teardown, Arizona shipped franchise pillar Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis in exchange for a package of players in their early 20s: pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly and infielder Andy Young, along with a pick in the compensatory round of next year’s draft.

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Goldschmidt, 31, leaves the Diamondbacks a year ahead of free agency. His departure signals a realization from Arizona’s front office that their team, which stood in first place in the West on Sept. 1 before sagging to an 82-victory campaign, required an overhaul. Pitcher Patrick Corbin accepted a six-year, $140-million contract with Washington earlier this week, and the team is not expected to re-sign outfielder A.J. Pollock. The Diamondbacks are interested in dumping pitcher Zack Greinke, who left the Dodgers for a six-year, $206.5-million contract after the 2015 season.

Losing Greinke did not alter the Dodgers’ grip on power in the West. Arizona reached the wild-card game in 2017 before getting swept by the Dodgers in the first round. Now the Diamondbacks will join the Padres and the Giants among the ranks of the rebuilding.

As the Dodgers ponder strategies this winter for winning a third consecutive National League pennant, they can take comfort from the depth of their roster and the lack of urgency from their rivals. The only team making a good-faith effort in dethroning the Dodgers in 2019 will be Colorado, an organization still in search of its first division title.

Goldschmidt provides the Cardinals with the sort of slugger their 88-win team lacked in 2018. He has made six consecutive All-Star teams, averaging 30 homers, 36 doubles and a .947 on-base plus slugging percentage over those years. The Dodgers managed to tame him, ever so slightly — Goldschmidt has posted a .927 OPS in his career against the Dodgers.

Goldschmidt is owed $14.5 million for 2019. The Diamondbacks attempted to negotiate an extension with Goldschmidt, but were unsuccessful, according to the Arizona Republic. A new contract for Goldschmidt could exceed $150 million, even as he enters the latter half of his career. Unable to strike a deal, Arizona shopped Goldschmidt and saw the sticker price for one-year rentals, even those with gaudy statistics.

The players headed back to Arizona will fortify the team’s depth, if not the billboards outside its ballpark. Weaver, 25, finished 2018 with a 4.95 earned-run average. Kelly, 24, has a .415 OPS in 63 big-league games. Young, 24, has played 37 games above class A baseball.

All three players could develop into something more: Weaver struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings in 2016-2017. Kelly could become an everyday catcher, in the eyes of several talent evaluators. Young has hit well in the minors, and can play multiple infield positions.

The three players will join an organization in search of a new cornerstone. Goldschmidt can still vex the Dodgers as a Cardinal. But the path to another division title just got a bit smoother.

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