Because we reasonably anticipate – and, indeed, will push for – this offseason to be a roster-transformative one for the Cubs, I certainly don’t want to leave too many possibilities out there unconsidered, even if I view them as (1) a very remote possibility, and (2) perhaps not the best path for the Cubs.
Moreover, sometimes something out there is just so big and crazy that it merits discussion regardless of whether there’s a direct Cubs connection.
To that end, the latest from Ken Rosenthal presents a whole lot to discuss:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 11, 2019
To be sure, this seems like a very remote possibility – finding the right trade partner for that contract, getting Arenado on board with the deal, AND getting enough value back to make it worthwhile to trade the franchise face? That’s a very tall order.
But then again, that whole thing reads like a trial balloon from the Rockies, wanting to gauge the reactions of Arenado, fans, and possible trade partners. In other words, the mere fact that Rosenthal is writing this piece suggests to me that, despite only just extending Arenado, the Rockies really are willing to consider moving him out.
If that’s true, just as I will continue to say the Cubs very much need to explore the Anthony Rendon market in an effort to change the nature of their lineup, I will say that of course the Cubs should at least have the conversation with the Rockies.
Consider that the Cubs were specifically tied to Arenado in a rumor just last offseason – not in trade, but as a guy they were eye in the upcoming free agent class – remember that whole, oh, they’re sitting this one out because they’re actually more enamored with next year’s class? Thing is, Arenado extended, just like so many other potential free agents, so he’s not actually in this year’s free agent class for the Cubs to be enamored of.
… but if he were on the trade market? If the Rockies were realistic about the return for a market-priced 29-year-old with huge home/road splits? The Cubs should have that conversation, right?
It is worth pointing out that Rosenthal mentions the possibility that Kris Bryant could be a trade candidate this offseason, something we’ve discussed before. While that’s likely something we’ll talk about a bit more this offseason, I will note that it is not explicitly necessary for the Cubs to trade Bryant in order to go after Arenado (or a free agent like Anthony Rendon). If the Cubs wanted to get really aggressive, they could install a new third baseman while moving Kris Bryant permanently to the outfield. Go that route, don’t go that route, whatever. I’m just saying if you’re looking to leave ALL options on the table, that’s an option, too.
As for seeking out Arenado specifically to add to the Cubs’ lineup, I do have some concerns beyond the usual “but what if he can’t hit outside Coors Field?,” which is a non-zero consideration, but they don’t necessarily make me say don’t do it. The biggest would be tying yourself to Arenado’s contract, which will pay him $234 million over the next seven seasons (and a $33M AAV), with an opt-out after two years … which is when most of the Cubs’ core hits free agency.
Of course, the flip side to that is, at 29 next year, Arenado is going to be the same age as Rendon, who might very well get a similar contract in free agency anyway. So, if as Rosenthal suggests, you could trade some talent to get the Rockies to eat some of that contract? Maybe you wind up with the best possible deal.
But is Arenado the best player? Well, just something to consider, particularly as you think about what a different *type* of hitter he is. Here’s the remarkably similar trio of third basemen since 2015, the year Bryant entered MLB:
Basically, the difference in total value has been Bryant providing more on offense and on the bases, with Rendon and Arenado the vastly superior defenders.
But look at *how* they’ve come to their results. If you were thinking about trying to diversify your lineup – add more contact, even if it came at the expense of walks and power – but still wanted top tier offensive production, well, there’s your trade off right there, folks. Historically, Arenado and Rendon provide similar offensive value to Bryant, but in different ways. Heck, Arenado would actually be the clear leader here in total value and type of production you want to see (huge power, doesn’t strike out, line drives, takes some walks, etc.) if it weren’t for the concerns about Coors Field.
Which, like I said, are non-zero:
Arenado career at Coors Field: .324/.378/.613, 7.9% BB rate, 13.8% K rate, 129 wRC+
Arenado career on the road: .264/.322/.476, 7.7% BB rate, 16.5% K rate, 109 wRC+
Obviously it would be very, very scary to trade for seven expensive years of a guy who winds up playing great defense at third but being only slightly above average offensively.
But there’s a decent bit of analysis out there to suggest that some of the extreme splits we see for Rockies players is not just because Coors Field inflates numbers, but also because the constant change in altitude takes a disproportionate toll on the players’ road numbers.
In other words, as we’ve been increasingly learning in recent years, you cannot always just make the facile argument that a guy who does things at Coors Field is gonna suck (or be great, for a pitcher) simply because his home park changes.
If this becomes a more serious rumor this offseason, we’ll have to dig in even deeper. For now, I’ll say only that:
- It could make some sense for the Rockies to shop Nolan Arenado, as Rosenthal lays out;
- The Cubs should be in the market to consider any impactful bat out there, especially if they could make the lineup less boom-bust;
- The Cubs may have had interest in Arenado previously;
- The Cubs would not necessarily *have* to trade away Kris Bryant to make room for Arenado, though they could; and
- Arenado is on a significant contract, but is likely not solely a product of Coors Field.