10:32pm: Arenado will receive another guaranteed year on his contract for roughly $15MM, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, who adds that he could waive his no-trade clause as early as Saturday.
8:51pm: The Cardinals and Rockies have swung an enormously impactful trade centering on Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was among those to report. The Rockies will send around $50MM to the Cardinals in the deal, according to Rosenthal, who adds that it likely won’t be official tonight and perhaps won’t go through this weekend.
Arenado has a full no-trade clause, though Rosenthal and Nick Groke of The Athletic reported earlier this week that he is likely to waive it in order to join the Cardinals. The five-time All-Star also has an opt-out clause in the seven-year, $234MM extension he signed with the Rockies before the 2019 campaign. But Arenado would still be able to opt out after 2021, he’d get an additional opt-out after ’22 and he would keep his full no-trade clause, Rosenthal tweets. He still has $199MM left on his pact over the next six years.
This has been a low-profile winter for St. Louis and the rest of its competition in the National League Central competition, but the Cardinals have suddenly come alive after a long slumber. Before agreeing to acquire Arenado, they re-signed right-hander Adam Wainwright, and indications are that they’ll bring back catcher Yadier Molina. Of course, in terms of impact, Wainwright and Molina pale in comparison to Arenado, one of baseball’s highest-profile stars. The well-rounded Arenado, who will turn 30 in April, has batted .293/.349/.541 with 235 home runs in 4,558 plate appearances since he debuted in 2013. Arenado has also totaled a whopping 120 Defensive Runs Saved and a 56.4 Ultimate Zone Rating at third base, where he has won eight straight Gold Gloves.
While Arenado was hugely successful in Colorado, his relationship with the team was – in a word – rocky over the past couple years. The Rockies were a playoff team from 2017-18, but they’ve dropped off drastically since. After the club fell well shy of a playoff spot in 2019, Arenado made it known he was unhappy with the direction of the franchise, saying he felt “disrespected.” Arenado frequented trade rumors then, but the Rockies retained him during what turned into another subpar year for the organization. It was also a disappointing campaign for Arenado, who slashed a career-worst .253/.303/.434 with eight homers in 201 PA.
Even though 2020 didn’t go as planned for Arenado, the Cardinals are clearly banking on him to serve as their long-term solution at third base. The team primarily used Matt Carpenter and Tommy Edman there last season, which was a playoff year. However, Carpenter went through his second straight below-average year, and he’s only signed for one more season. Carpenter is due to earn $18.5MM in 2021, while his $18.5MM option for 2022 is sure to be bought out for $2MM if he’s still with the Cardinals. Meanwhile, the versatile Edman could be the Cardinals’ pick at second base.
The Arenado pickup will obviously be a significant investment for the Cardinals, whose chairman, Bill DeWitt Jr., drew ire last summer for saying baseball’s not a “very profitable industry.” But the Cardinals suddenly do look as if they’re aiming to take over the NL Central in 2021, especially with none of their other division rivals – the reigning champion Cubs, Reds, Brewers or Pirates – doing much to better themselves this offseason. Certainly, if the Arenado trade is finalized, it will be the biggest acquisition in the division this winter.
The Rockies, on the other hand, looked to be in for a third consecutive lean year in 2021 before trading Arenado, and that’s all the more true with the face of their franchise on his way out the door. They’ll likely acquire lefty Austin Gomber as part of the return, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Rosenthal names first baseman Luken Baker, outfielder Jhon Torres, and righties Jake Woodford and Angel Rondon as other possible names the Rockies could acquire. Gomber debuted in the majors in 2018 and has posted a respectable 3.72 ERA over 104 innings, though that production obviously falls quite a bit short of the impact Arenado has made.
With Arenado leaving, the question now is whether the Rockies will deal shortstop Trevor Story, who’s entering his platform year. Story would no doubt bring back a sizable return in a trade, as he is among the top players in the game at his position. It would seem to make sense for the Rockies to part with him if they’re not expecting to contend in 2021, but they may be interested in extending him, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com relays.