After the Cubs blew a five-game lead and lost the National League Central title to the Brewers, another team looms as a big threat in the division.
The rival Cardinals enhanced their chances Wednesday by acquiring longtime Cubs nemesis Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in a trade for pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andrew Young and a 2019 competitive-balance Round B draft pick.
Goldschmidt, 31, a six-time NL All-Star first baseman, is in the final year of a multiyear contract. The trade from the NL West to the Central means he’ll face the Cubs up to 19 times instead of six or seven.
In 43 career games against the Cubs, Goldschmidt is hitting .353 with 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, a .471 on-base percentage and a 1.170 OPS. At Wrigley Field, he has a .337 batting average with five home runs, 17 RBIs and a 1.011 OPS.
Wrigley was the site of one of Goldschmidt’s greatest games on Aug. 3, 2017. He went 3-for-4 with three home runs and six RBIs in a 10-8 Diamondbacks win. He homered twice off left-hander Jose Quintana before smacking a tiebreaking homer off closer Wade Davis in the ninth.
In eight major-league seasons, Goldschmidt is a .297 hitter with a .930 OPS and has topped 30 home runs four times. He was runner-up for the NL MVP award in 2013 and 2015 and finished third in 2017.
With the addition of Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter — coming off a 36-homer season — will move from first to third base. The Cardinals hope to sign Goldschmidt to a long-term contract after the Diamondbacks failed to reach an agreement on an extension and resorted to trading him.
The Cardinals are loaded with young starting pitching, and the Diamondbacks had hoped to land Jack Flaherty in the trade. Flaherty struck out 182 in 151 innings while posting a 3.34 ERA in 28 starts in his first full major-league season.
But the Diamondbacks settled on Weaver, a first-round pick in 2014 out of Florida State. Weaver, 25, was 7-11 with a 4.95 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings in 2018.
Kelly’s development at catcher was blocked by perennial All-Star Yadier Molina. Kelly, 24, has been limited to 63 major-league games over the last three seasons.
Young, 24, batted a combined .289 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs at Class A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield.