Fleeced? Arenado to the Cardinals

Years from now, baseball fans will look back at the Nolan Arenado trade news that broke on January 29, 2021, and either a.) sigh in despair or b.) mock the ridiculousness of the decision to move their homegrown talent to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The trade, first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, likely will not become official for a few days, the final puzzle pieces within this move falling into place. Such a trade is yet another frustrating example of a billionaire owner sacrificing competitive vigor. For example, this is the third time within the last 12 months that a Major League Baseball team has traded its homegrown star on a Hall of Fame trajectory. We are all looking at you both, Boston and Cleveland.

Of course, there are many differences between Colorado shipping off Arenado compared to the deals that sent Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020 and Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets in 2021.The Red Sox easily could have afforded the 12-year, $365 million extension, except Boston didn’t want to pay him that much. As for Cleveland, ownership did not want to pay Lindor what he’d be worth on the open market. Great way to grow the game, right?

But what the Rockies are doing is more outlandish, more trivial. They did pay Arenado a contract to benefit the superstar third baseman when they signed him to a eight-year, $260-million extension before the 2019 season. Which was great for Arenado and Colorado fans – but it didn’t last long. The Rockies assured him they would commit to fielding a winning team around him – this would require spending more money and as we all know, they did not spend much. The organization actually proceeded to cut cost and sign one major-league free agent in this time, a reliever José Mujica.

In St. Louis, Nolan Arenado will win. He will be looked at as a King on the Diamond. A missing piece of the offensive puzzle that the Cardinals have longed for over the past five years. And they quite frankly fleeced the Rockies. None of the prospects named as probable pieces in Colorado’s return package rank among the top players in St. Louis’ system. Unless there is a final version of the deal has a dramatic change, the Cardinals will keep their No. 1 prospect, third baseman Nolan Gorman, and Jordan Walker, their first-round pick in the 2020 draft who is also a third baseman. 

The Cardinals are clearly planning on Arenado staying in the Lou for the remaining six years of his contract – roping the Rockies into playing them approximately $50 million, to help cover the $199 million Arenado is owed.

Since his 2015 season, he leads all third basemen in games played (835), hits (952), home runs (207) and OPS (.926). His 33.0 WAR over those six seasons ranks third in the majors—behind only Mike Trout and Betts—and first among third basemen. He’s won the Gold Glove award in each of his eight seasons – adding to the spectacular St. Louis infield of DeJong, Edman, and Goldschmidt. The future Cardinal also leads all active third basemen in fielding runs, and already ranks 11th all-time at the position.

Of course, like every MLB player to leave Coors, there is concern on how Arenado will do in his new home stadium. In Colorado, he has a lifetime .985 OPS, well above his .793 road OPS. For those in St. Louis who are concerned about the Coors Curse, take a fine look at Matt Holliday.

Holliday batted .312 with 28 home runs and 103 RBIs at 30-years-old, the same age Arenado will be this season. In over seven-plus years with the Cardinals, Holliday posted a 138 OPS+ and led the Cardinals to two NL pennants and one World Series title.

For all things baseball related, follow along @dugoutdish and @chelseabrooke on Twitter.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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