Back when the subject of trading Nolan Arenado, the face of the Rockies, just one year into an eight-year extension, was floated back in September, I found it deeply interesting, but also very unlikely. There are just so many hurdles to a deal like that – a superstar on a monster contract – that it felt crazy even BEFORE you considered Arenado’s singular importance to that organization’s history, his no-trade rights, and the opt-out in his contract after just two years.
I kinda always thought about this as a fun thing to discuss, but not a real situation to have to consider within the context of the entire trade and free agent markets. It just never felt realistic to me.
Yet … the drum kept banging.
Over the last two months, the whole thing has started to take on the feel of a situation where it may have once been unrealistic, and then something changed. Maybe the Rockies have re-considered their possible futures, have seen a better long-term path that follows unloading this contract, and maybe have even gotten signals from Arenado that he would consider a trade (especially if they want to rebuild).
Now, Ken Rosenthal is dropping the word “inevitable” at The Athletic and on MLB Network:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 9, 2020
Although a trade may not happen before Spring Training, Rosenthal is suggesting that the situation feels like – one way or another – Arenado will be moved by the Trade Deadline. That’s just such a wild 180 from where things were in September, let alone last year when he was inking his 8-year, $260 million extension.
If Arenado is truly, seriously being aggressively shopped now or at the deadline, the impact to the Cubs’ market for Kris Bryant will have to be considered more carefully. To be sure, Bryant’s price tag is and should be much higher with a more robust market (cheaper salary, no no-trade issues, no opt-out considerations versus long-term guarantee), and not every team that would be interested in one even COULD be interested in the other. But it’s clear that Arenado is not just being pumped up on the market as a BS negotiating tactic from a team that wants Bryant or wants Josh Donaldson. This is real, and it has to be factored into the calculus. Arenado is really available right now, and really might be traded in a blockbuster this offseason or at the deadline.
Note, too, that the Cubs’ possible pursuit of Arenado – as part of a complex coordination of other moves – could therefor also be very real.
The team that Rosenthal gives the most attention in his Athletic write-up, though? The St. Louis Cardinals, who’ve brought in long-term players in trade before with success, and who clearly would be improved for many years by adding Arenado across the diamond from Paul Goldschmidt. It’s a little unnerving to think about, actually.
The Rangers are, of course, one of the other known major suitors for Arenado, and probably make the most sense: they have the money, they have the strong desire to add a long-term third baseman, and they are trying to compete immediately. And, since the price tag on Arenado simply cannot be all that significant given the contractual and no-trade issues, I don’t doubt they can afford him.
This is now a really major storyline to follow for all kinds of reasons, regardless of whether the Cubs eventually find themselves in a position to seriously pursue Arenado.