It sure seemed from the rumors like things might be getting serious between the Cardinals and Rockies this weekend, and now there’s a report getting even more specific.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 14, 2020
When you get to the “names exchanged” stage, it means the talks are far more than merely exploratory. The teams are seeing if they can actually make a deal work, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the next rumors are about whether Arenado has been approached about his no-trade clause. Keep in mind, it wasn’t a week ago that Ken Rosenthal reported that an Arenado deal looks “inevitable” either now or by the Trade Deadline.
As previous rumors suggested, some of the pieces being discussed include starter Dakota Hudson, as well as at least one of the Cardinals’ top four prospects: outfielder Dylan Carlson, third baseman Nolan Gorman, left-hander Matthew Liberatore, or catcher Andrew Knizner. (Whether Matt Carpenter would be included is a bit unclear – he’s got a no-trade clause, and is coming off a terrible year. Seems like his inclusion would mostly be about a salary offset, in my opinion.)
Because Arenado’s contract includes $234 million in guaranteed money remaining, because he’s got a full no-trade clause, and because he has an opt-out after 2021, I keep reminding folks that a trade is probably not going to be for the kind of obscene haul you’d otherwise associate with “NOLAN ARENADO!” Brace yourself accordingly, but understand that the Cardinals would be taking on a huge contract in a deal like this (including perhaps having to add MORE guaranteed money to get Arenado to ditch the opt-out).
Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Arenado, with his no-trade clause, has all the control here. He could dictate a short list of teams he’d accept a trade to – like Giancarlo Stanton did a few years ago – and then only the teams on that list who could afford his contract would even proceed. Hence, the Yankees got Stanton for almost nothing (and a ton of salary relief), and that could happen again, depending on how desperate the Rockies are to move the face of their dang franchise.
The Cubs have been connected to Arenado in multiple national reports, but as we know, they are not currently in a position to commit to Arenado’s contract unless they were moving substantial salary in the deal. If a team like the Cardinals were equally attractive to Arenado (or more), and if they were taking on the whole contract without huge salary offsets in the deal, then it would only be logical that the Rockies would head over to the Cardinals as compared to the Cubs.
If Arenado did wind up with the Cardinals, the small consolation is that he is then off the market having not gone to a team that would have traded for Kris Bryant (thus slightly improving the Bryant market) … but that’d be cold comfort when stacked against the idea of Arenado being a Cardinal for the next 7+ years in a trade that cost them little more than money.