Nolan Arenado had previously suggested on a few occasions that he was unlikely to opt out of his current contract with the Cardinals. This afternoon, he officially put any notion about exercising the opt-out to bed.
“I’m not opting out,” Arenado told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We can put that out there. I will not be opting out. I will be coming back. That was always the plan. I’m absolutely coming back. I feel like this year has been special in a lot of senses.”
Arenado will return to St. Louis on a $35MM salary ($6MM of which will be deferred) next season. He’ll have another opportunity to opt out and test the open market over the 2022-23 offseason. His initial extension with the Rockies contained only the post-2021 opt-out provision which Arenado is electing to forgo. However, the Cardinals added the second opt-out as part of a restructuring to convince Arenado to waive his no-trade clause and facilitate St. Louis’ deal with Colorado last winter.
As part of that trade-off, the Cards also added an additional year and $15MM in guaranteed money to Arenado’s contract. Were he to forgo next year’s opt-out as well, he’d be guaranteed another $144MM between 2023-27. All told, his deal contains another six years and $179MM beyond this season.
The Cardinals’ acquisition of Arenado was one of the most important moves of last offseason. St. Louis surrendered a five-player package — Austin Gomber, Elehuris Montero, Tony Locey, Mateo Gil and Jake Sommers — to bring in the eight-time Gold Glover. He’s continued to perform well, albeit not quite at his peak level, over his first season in Cardinal red. Through 642 plate appearances, Arenado is hitting .256/.313/.499 with 34 home runs. That’s solidly above-average offensive production, and Arenado has again rated as one of the game’s preeminent defenders at the hot corner.
Arenado’s work is a key reason the Cards are playoff-bound for the third straight season. St. Louis entered the month a bit behind the pack in the postseason picture, but they’re currently amidst an incredible 17-game win streak that has officially clinched them a berth in next week’s NL Wild Card game.
As part of last offseason’s trade, Colorado agreed to cover $51MM of Arenado’s contract (assuming he doesn’t trigger either opt-out) — including his entire $35MM salary for 2021. $15MM of that was paid this year, with the rest of those payments deferred over the next few seasons. Arenado has suggested in the past he’s not anxious to exercise next season’s opt-out, either, but he’ll have another year to gauge the organization’s progress and determine whether he wants to explore his options. Free agents next offseason will have the added bonus of a little more certainty about the market structure, since this winter’s free agency is clouded by the impending expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement on December 1.