It was love at first sight.
Paul Goldschmidt was made for St. Louis. The Cardinals were made for Goldschmidt.
They tied the knot Thursday when Goldschmidt agreed to a five-year, $130 million contract extension, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity since Goldschmidt won’t take his physical until Friday, with a press conference tentatively scheduled for Saturday.
The Cardinals have been down this road before. They traded for Mark McGwire. He stayed and became a legend. They traded for Matt Holliday. They went to two World Series together, winning one.
Now, after trading for their latest and greatest slugger, the man who has been the most underpaid player in all of baseball, has decided to stick around, too.
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Really, anyone who knows Goldschmidt, 31, could have predicted this. Goldschmidt’s quiet-but-serious personality is ideal for St. Louis. And St. Louis’ no-frills atmosphere, where they appreciate substance over style, is perfect for Goldschmidt.
“I knew he’d love it there,” says Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols, who will be enshrined in Cooperstown for his performance in St. Louis. “It was the perfect fit. I even tried to see if I wanted to buy my house.”
There was no question that Goldschmidt had every intention of sticking around when he was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and when we chatted for nearly 30 minutes three weeks ago, it was just a matter of when the contract extension would be signed.
Goldschmidt was blown away how easy the transition was after coming to a new organization, and the Cardinals felt as if Goldschmidt had been around for 20 years.
“He comes exactly as advertised,” Cardinals veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright told USA TODAY Sports, “because I don’t think you can have higher words of praise going into something. So many of his former teammates text me and said, “Dude, this guy is going to be your all-time favorite teammate. Just wait until you see it.’ “
Well, they sure saw it, and made sure the guy who has finished three times among the top three in MVP voting would finally be paid what he’s worth.
Oh, sure, he cost himself perhaps $125 million when he originally signed a six-year, $32.5 million contract extension with the Diamondbacks before the 2013 season, but never once did he complain.
The way he figured, he’d set his immediately family up for life with his first contract, and if he performed the way he hoped, he’d set up future generations of the Goldschmidt family.
“If you look back now, it’s easy to second-guess it” Goldschmidt told USA TODAY Sports three weeks ago. “You sign a contract early in your career, you play well, you give up some earning potential. You play bad, and you’re overpaid. I understand that.
“But I’m not looking back regretting it. I was 25, had a year in the league, and I got the opportunity to make a large sum of money. You’re always kind of managing the risk compared to the reward. I felt confident in the decision I made.”
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Now, one of the most genuine and authentic players in all of baseball, has found his own utopia. There will be the sellout crowds. He’ll see those 11 World Series championship flags flying. And he’ll get to see those Budweiser Clydesdales, the Cardinals’ Hall of Famers, and all of the pageantry on opening day in St. Louis.
“I got to see it last year with the Diamondbacks,” Goldschmidt said. “Pretty spectacular.”
This, of course, will be even better.
He’s one of theirs now, and the over-under on thunderous standing ovations he’ll receive on Opening Day?
Three? Four? Five?
“It feels like he belongs here,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said, “like he’s been here forever.”
Goldschmidt has found the perfect home, and this time, there won’t be anyone kicking him out. He has a full no-trade clause and there are no opt-outs.
He’s home in St. Louis, and is welcome to stay as long as he desires.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook: @Bnightengale