Paul Goldschmidt gives Cardinals face of franchise seven years after Albert Pujols left

It was a painful and heart-breaking trade for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, and if anyone knows the feeling, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Diamondbacks traded the heart and soul of their franchise, All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, almost seven years to the day the Cardinals watched the face of their franchise, Albert Pujols, leave for the Los Angeles Angels.

The D-backs, who drafted and signed Goldschmidt in 2009,  knew they would have to fork out a whole lot of money to keep him as a free agent after the 2019 season. 

Goldschmidt is a six-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger and three-time Gold Glove winner in his eight seasons with the club. He has hit 30 or more homers in four of his last six seasons, including 33 homers with 83 RBI this year.

They simply weren’t prepared to do it, not when they’re about to go into a rebuild. So they traded him Wednesday to the Cardinals in a strong package for catcher Carson Kelly, starting pitcher Luke Weaver, minor-league infielder Andrew Young and a competitive-balance pick.

The Cardinals got the power-hitting first baseman they’ve missed since Pujols’ departure, and the D-backs got a start on their rebuild.

“This was an extremely difficult decision given how much Paul has meant to our team both on and off the field,’’ D-backs president Derrick Hall said. “He represents everything it means to be a D-back, and we are very thankful to him for all that he has done for our franchise and our fans.’’

Said D-backs owner Ken Kendrick: “We are all in agreement that this was the best decision, but that doesn’t minimize how much Paul has meant to us, and will continue to mean to us. He is a great player, but even a better person.’’

The Cardinals, who have missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons for the first time in 20 years, have been searching for a power bat in the middle of the lineup.

The Cardinals tried to acquire slugger Giancarlo Stanton a year ago, but he rejected the trade before moving to New York. They expressed interest in free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but didn’t want to wait. Now, they’ve got just the man they need to give them a shot to win the NL Central, without giving up an integral piece to their lineup.

The D-backs, who next hope to shed pitcher Zack Greinke’s contract, landed a prized catching prospect in Kelly, a back-end starter in Weaver (7-11, 4.95 ERA) and a 24-year-old infielder in Young, who played in the Arizona Fall League last month.

It was a trade that really makes sense for both sides, and although Goldschmidt has only one year left on his contract, there will be a new love affair in St. Louis. Goldschmidt will fall in love with St. Louis, and the Cardinals and their fanbase will fall in love with him.

It’s going to be quite a scene June 21-23 at Busch Stadium.

That is when Pujols and the Angels will be making his first trip to St. Louis since his departure.

Finally, the torch officially can be passed.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale

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