The Braves are unlikely to “aggressively” pursue a Nolan Arenado trade as long as incumbent starter Josh Donaldson remains on the market, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported on Saturday citing unnamed sources (link).
Yesterday, our own Steve Adams explored in detail the many obstacles impeding a potential Atlanta-Arenado connection. First, there is the $234MM remaining on the third baseman’s contract; the addition of that sum would push Atlanta’s payroll into historic heights moving forward, and the club’s lack of serious engagement on Anthony Rendon could signal that the Braves aren’t true players at such a price tag. Then, there are the logistical issues of Arenado’s no-trade clause, his ability to opt-out after 2021, and the fact that his contract is set to run through his age-35 season. Donaldson, often positioned as being a bit “old” for a premium free-agent, would only be 37 at the end of his reportedly sought-after four-year deal. All of this, of course, is before considering any potential prospect capital Atlanta may have to surrender in acquiring the Colorado cornerstone.
Today’s note would seem to lend credence to the idea that the Braves may simply prefer spending payroll capital in acquiring Donaldson. In an offseason that has seen Donaldson court a four-year contract and Arenado’s name enter the rumor mill, the two superstar third baggers have become more or less linked. While Kris Bryant has also loomed as a speculative trade fit for teams in need at the hot corner, a few clubs have possibly spent the last several weeks weighing the relative merits of acquiring either Donaldson or Arenado. For the moment, this report indicates that Atlanta has a clear order of preference in terms of which scenario they prefer at third, with Morosi suggesting that the team won’t actively court Arenado unless Donaldson signs elsewhere—making the former a rather premium “plan B”.
Still, Morosi said only that the team will not “aggressively” pursue Arenado, so the door remains open, in theory. As far as potential trade partners for the Rockies superstar go, few clubs could match up with the Braves in terms of young prospect capital. When your team is built around Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, youngsters like Austin Riley, Drew Waters, and Cristian Pache can seem like downright luxuries. In Riley’s case, in particular, it’s hard to ignore that Atlanta seems rather intent on filling the third base spot where he would figure to offer the most long-term value–even if that’s just personal conjecture.