Astros should inquire about Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks smiles after the first inning of the MLB game against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on September 21, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks smiles after the first inning of the MLB game against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on September 21, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

It’s early November and the baseball offseason is slowly picking up steam. Whether last year’s offseason pace is replicated is left to be seen.

When the Astros‘ season ended in mid-October, there was already plenty of chatter of how to improve the club. A lot of the popular opinion online automatically gravitated towards the pitching staff, especially the bullpen. To be fair, the Red Sox were a juggernaut at the plate in the postseason. There wasn’t a pitching staff left unscathed by the time Boston was finished. I’d imagine fans of other teams thought the same about the Astros one year ago.

One area, which is not the pitching staff, for Houston to consider for improvement is first base. Yes, I know Yuli Gurriel (.794 OPS) has done a solid job at the position this year. And, yes, I know that Tyler White (.846 OPS) has filled in admirably, when necessary. Marwin Gonzalez is a free agent, but his versatility allows him to cover first base on occasion. I also realize that both AJ Reed and J.D. Davis are still in the minors. Top prospect, Yordan Alvarez, may be a potential first baseman in the making. The Astros have plenty of options if they decide to stay internal at the position. If someone argues that the internal guys deserve a chance in lieu of anyone external, I wouldn’t have a qualm with such a position.

At the same time, Houston felt like it needed one more power bat in the lineup, especially when Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve lost significant chunks of playing time due to injuries. As I detailed here a few days ago, Gurriel finished with roughly the same numbers as the year before, but his power took a noticeable dip. Now, his power may rebound in 2019 like it did as the latest season closed. He showed some power in the postseason. But if a clear upgrade is available at first base, the Astros should take advantage while their championship window is still fully open.

Enter the possibly available(?) Paul Goldschmidt.

Rumors have it that the Diamondbacks are interested in a rebuild following a September collapse. For a team with postseason aspirations this year, it was a gut punch to Arizona. Although Goldschmidt is a key reason behind the Diamondbacks’ success in recent seasons, the impending free agency of his teammates may force the team’s hand in trading him for something now.

R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports ranked the other 29 teams chances of acquiring Goldschmidt, who is likely one of the Diamondbacks’ best trade chips. The team listed atop of Anderson’s ranking? The Astros. Here is his reasoning behind why the Astros should acquire Arizona’s first baseman:

"Last winter, the Astros added Gerrit Cole. The summer before that, Justin Verlander. Grabbing Goldschmidt and plopping him down in the middle of the order sounds pretty good to us. He’d qualify as a huge upgrade over Yuli Gurriel, and the Astros could still use a Tyler White–Evan Gattis platoon at DH. Factor in Houston’s rumored past interest in Jose Abreu, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Astros end up employing Goldschmidt in 2019."

In my opinion, Goldschmidt-to-Houston makes a lot of sense. For one, there is the connection to the city as he grew up in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, and played his college ball at Texas State. More importantly, he is one of the best hitters at the position in recent memory. Arizona had the highest OPS at the position for any team in 2018. By the way, the Astros finished 13th in OPS at the position.

The age-31 slugger finished last season with a .922 OPS with 33 home runs and 40 extra-base hits (excluding home runs). Tied with Joey Votto with a 15.3 fWAR since 2015, only Freddie Freeman with a 15.8 fWAR has been more valuable than Goldschmidt by FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement. For the Astros, Gonzalez comes in 12th on the list with a 5.9 fWAR at the position over the same time span.

Goldschmidt would automatically make his presence known in the middle of any lineup, especially for a team like the Astros. Just imagine him in the same lineup as Altuve, Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman. Opposing pitching staff’s already thought that Houston’s lineup, which was historic in 2017 and pretty good in 2018, was already tough enough. If the Astros were to actually acquire him, well, good luck.

Goldschmidt is also entering the last season of his contract, which was a club option for $14.5 million that the Diamondbacks just exercised a few days ago. He is currently scheduled to enter free agency following the conclusion of the 2019 season. However, he will be entering his age-32 season, which may not bode well in his next contract as teams are less apt to hand out big contracts to an aging first baseman in today’s baseball landscape. The Astros have money to spend, but the question is how they’ll prioritize it. If another team does acquire the All-Star, then there is possibility that he is only a one-year rental.

In terms of prospects, I am not sure what Arizona would need to receive to actually part ways with their star first baseman. The position itself doesn’t generate the same supply-and-demand as pitchers or other premium positions. Teams are much more apt to use versatile position players to cover first base, like the Astros have done to a certain extent. In the event of a trade, Houston’s general manager Jeff Luhnow would likely have to agree with trading at least one well-regarded pitching prospect. Alvarez, Davis, or Reed could also draw interest from Arizona as a potential replacement for Goldschmidt at first base. For a first baseman on an expiring contract, though, I highly doubt that the Astros would part ways with a well-regarded pitching prospect and Alvarez. Until more rumors surface, it is somewhat a guessing game on what the Diamondbacks view as a reasonable return for Goldschmidt. The expiring contract should act as an incentive for a deal, but we shall see.

Next. Astros review: Grading Yuli Gurriel’s 2018 season. dark

Like all contenders, the Astros should consider a trade for Goldschmidt, if he is truly available. He would transform Houston’s lineup into juggernaut in no time. With the connection to the city, one can’t help but wonder if both sides would be interested in a long-term commitment. We’re all familiar with the long-term contract statuses of the Astros’ core, but Goldschmidt would bring another potent bat to a group going for it in 2019.