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Uh Oh: The Cardinals Are Reportedly Talking to the Rockies About a Trade for Nolan Arenado (Updates)

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Oh no … did an NL Central team finally decide they were going to try to compete this season? Because if the latest rumors are true, the St. Louis Cardinals may be zeroing in on a trade for Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Nolan Arenado ostensibly placed himself on the trade block not long after signing an eight-year, $260M extension with the Rockies a couple years ago, when his promised-vision for the future of the team didn’t line up with the actions of the franchise off the field/in the market (basically, they didn’t spend as much/try as hard to compete as they told him they would). And so the Rockies have been trying to move a (justifiably) disgruntled Arenado to make him happy … but also so that they can free up enough money to extend free-agent-to-be Trevor Story long-term, instead.

And while “no deal appears close” just yet, there are some specific details and plenty of momentum (emphasis mine):

The Cardinals are in discussions with the Rockies about a deal that would bring the five-time All-Star third baseman to St. Louis, according to major-league sources. No deal appears close, and the other players who might be involved are not known.

Arenado, 29, likely would waive his no-trade clause to join the Cardinals, and perhaps agree to push back his right to opt out after the 2021 season. The Rockies, to escape his $199 million guarantee over the next six seasons, almost certainly would absorb at least one high-priced veteran from the Cardinals while also receiving prospects in the deal.

NOTE: this isn’t the first time the Cardinals and Rockies have discussed such a deal.

One of the biggest hurdles to any Arenado trade (aside from all the money, of course) is the presence of an opt-out following the 2021 season. Because of that clause, any team acquiring him couldn’t be sure they’d be getting him for more than a year, which makes agreeing to a value in trade particularly difficult. However, if Arenado pushes his opt-out back, as he’s reportedly willing to do, it could help facilitate a deal by providing more control and certainty to the Cardinals (or whomever).

Another key detail here is that the Cardinals would send “one high-priced veteran” contract back to the Rockies to help offset the significant money owed Arenado. Perhaps third baseman Matt Carpenter ($18.5M due in 2021, $18.5M club option in 2022 with a $2M buyout) would fit the bill? Just a guess.

In any case, trading for Arenado might actually be enough to make the Cardinals favorites in a particularly weak NL Central this season – ZiPS has Carpenter at 1.7 WAR for 2021 and Arenado at 4.1 WAR, for what it’s worth. So this is a deal I’d rather not see happen (and, yes, I’m aware of Arenado’s down 2020 campaign and perceived weaknesses away from Coors … I still don’t want him in St. Louis this season). And, of course, there’s also the possibility that St. Louis could become Arenado’s permanent home, even after trade/opt-out, which I’d also rather avoid.

Now, there’s a whole OTHER aspect to this that we need to address: The market for Kris Bryant.

If Arenado gets traded to the Cardinals that could be a good thing for Bryant’s market (assuming a fair enough return*), because it takes pretty similar competition (a right-handed hitting, expensive 3B) off the market, while sending him to a team that was definitely NOT going to be trading for Bryant. And notably, Rosenthal mentions that the Braves had also checked in on Arenado. Perhaps, then, we can include them more seriously on the list of possible trade partners for Bryant (which, remember, we expect to take off as soon as Justin Turner signs his deal).

*Hopefully, the Cardinals are forced to give up a HAUL … for the obvious reasons that I want them to overpay in any trade (for once), but also for the attendant KB trade market improvement. 

Of course, if the Rockies do free up enough money to extend Trevor Story (and if the Mets extend Francisco Lindor, as I expect them to), maybe Javy Baez sees much lighter shortstop competition on the market next winter and decides to hold out on an extension with the Cubs. Or maybe I’m just being too pessimistic because everything has been rough lately. 

In any case, nothing has happened yet, and even Rosenthal concedes that a deal isn’t necessarily close. Then again, this feels like the sort of report that comes out just before things get serious.

We’ll probably be tracking this very closely tomorrow. Goodnight.

UPDATE: Local (St. Louis) reporter Derrick Goold confirms the talks, but does seem to preach caution, given Arenado’s opt-out and large remaining salary.

UPDATE II: And now a local report out of Denver is pumping the brakes on the deal, and reintroducing the Braves as a possible suitor. Is this semantics? Legitimate pushback? Suspiciously useful information being leaked systematically for the sake of preserving leverage? We’ll see!

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami