On Friday, Jan. 30, Nolan Arenado, the rock of the Colorado Rockies’ organization, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for the metaphorical version of a bag of chips. This trade also included the Rockies sending $50 million to St. Louis, but that does not hide the fact that they agreed to a trade that puts them at a major disadvantage for the upcoming season.
In a nutshell, Arenado is the best player in Rockies history and one of the best third basemen in the game. His eight gold gloves to start his career, four diamond gloves and four silver sluggers do not match to anyone at the hot corner in the majors right now. Arenado is on track to be a Hall of Famer with these accolades alone, and he also has 235 career home runs on 1,206 hits and 760 runs batted in. For a franchise player such as Arenado, one would clearly expect a lot more if he were to be traded, especially with the eight-year, $260 million contract he signed back in the 2018-19 offseason that runs through 2026.
What the Rockies will get in return for trading away their franchise player, should he officially opt out of his no-trade clause, is Austin Gomber, Jake Woodford, No. 13 prospect Angel Rodon, No. 23 prospect Luken Baker and No. 9 prospect Jhon Torres. The big issue with this trade is none of the prospects are in the top five of St. Louis’ organization.
Think about it, the aforementioned accolades for Arenado deserve a lot more than what the Rockies are getting in return, such as a No. 1 prospect or even a star player right back. Arenado could opt out after this season and the Cardinals still would have won the trade.
This trade seems like a bad idea for the Rockies because, while they have a lot of hitting power with Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story, their issue is always pitching. But they could be contenders again if they upgrade the rotation and don’t grossly overpay their bullpen.
There have been rumors swelling over the last few seasons of Arenado wanting out of the Mile-High City
, but this trade is compelling to say the least. Money was not a big issue here. Why would it be when the Rockies send away $50 million that could have been used elsewhere? But now, another franchise player is gone and the Rockies are going to have to rebuild from such a critical transaction.
This transaction puts the Rockies in an interesting position though. They’ve joined a small (market) list of teams that have traded their franchise player away in the last decade. The Detroit Tigers led off the trend by trading away Justin Verlander, who was on waivers, to the Astros for a “piece of metal.” Also, the Tampa Bay Rays traded away Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants for prospects such as Christian Arroyo.
That was followed by the Miami Marlins shipping their MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees for a hefty number of prospects and Starlin Castro. For the Marlins, that offseason also saw the departures of Christian Yelich to the Brewers and Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals, thus continuing their fire-sale theme.
To wrap up the 2017 offseason, the Pirates shipped away Andrew McCutchen to the Giants and Gerrit Cole, a former first overall pick, to the Astros, just one day after signing a two-year contract to avoid arbitration. Fast forward one season and Paul Goldschmidt was swapped to the St. Louis Cardinals for a package of players. Even the Rockies can put themselves on the list again once they traded Troy Tulowitzki to a contending Blue Jays team at the trade deadline back in 2015.
Clearly, big stars in small markets will go to bigger markets to continue their successes, win and more importantly, earn the big bucks. Financial constraints are always an issue, and whether this trend is going to continue or not in the coming years will come down to which teams have the most money available and which teams can afford players worthy of nine-figure contracts.
The Cardinals, where Arenado is going to be headed, are a big market team. Their history of winning and consistently having great players (Albert Pujols, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, just to name a few) attracts baseball players to the Gateway to the West where they can continue the legacy of that team.
Now with the addition of Arenado, it appears the Cardinals have gone into a win-now mode. Especially in a highly contentious National League that features contenders such as the Padres, Dodgers, Braves, Mets and more, the Cardinals are going to need every piece they can get to be considered for the playoff picture.
Just being in a weak NL Central, and that is putting it nicely, will not give this team any credentials to be considered serious contenders. Facing a slightly improved AL Central will help only slightly, but compared to other contenders, their standards are not the same.
Arenado will join an infield that does not currently have Kolten Wong but does have Paul Goldschmidt and his four silver sluggers, as well as Paul DeJong, a Rookie of the Year Finalist in 2017. Having two former franchise players at either corner of the infield who consistently make fantastic defensive plays defensively is always a plus toward improving the team’s WAR and preventing runs from being scored.
Arenado also brings an incredible power bat to a lineup desperately needing one. His slugging will likely put him in the cleanup position behind Goldschmidt in the lineup, and his power can provide relief for Matt Carpenter, a career Cardinal whose talent appears to be dwindling with age. Even better, Arenado can provide veteran experience with excellent gameplay included long after Yadier Molina, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, and retiree Adam Wainwright.
I am still personally baffled as to why the Rockies would simply donate $50 million to the Cardinals organization and not even get a top 10 prospect in return, but if this is what the Cardinals needed or wanted to do to contend, if not win their 12th ring, then so be it.
As for the Rockies, all I can say is that this is going to be painful to watch, especially if Story is traded before Opening Day in April. But hey, at least the Avalanche and Nuggets are good.