With the market showing a big appetite for star third basemen, the Rockies now appear to be increasingly likely to strike a trade involving Nolan Arenado. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports on Twitter that there’s now “roughly a 50/50 chance” of a deal coming together with one of the six teams to have expressed interest.
Oddsmaking of this sort is inherently ambiguous and non-verifiable, so skepticism is well warranted. And we heard just days ago that the Colorado organization hasn’t been especially aggressive in hammering out scenarios involving its biggest star. But if Morosi’s sources have an accurate read on the thinking of the Rockies’ leadership, then it’s at least now highly plausible that a swap could emerge. And that’d represent a notable development given the highly speculative nature of Arenado’s trade availability to this point. GM Jeff Bridich has previously made clear the team is open to considering proposals, but it has never seemed particularly likely that Arenado would be moved.
Notably, Arenado has full no-trade rights. But he has expressed a desire to win and may be willing to facilitate a deal if it means finding a better chance elsewhere. The Rox have decided against further payroll expansion and look to be in a bit of a bind when it comes to finding much-needed roster upgrades.
Even if that’s not a major complication, interested teams will be wary of giving up too much in trade capital for a contract that includes a post-2021 opt-out provision. It’d be one thing if Arenado was simply a high-cost player with two years of control, as is the case for Kris Bryant of the Cubs (another potential trade candidate, at least once his service-time grievance is wrapped up). But what’s worrisome in the Arenado deal is the combination of the threat of losing the player, in the event he performs well enough to opt out, with the fear of what it would mean if he doesn’t.
We just got open-market confirmation that the Rockies paid full boat for Arenado when they inked him last winter. Fellow star third bagger Anthony Rendon landed a seven-year, $245MM pact that just topped the $234MM promise Arenado received for the rights to the same number of would-be free agent campaigns. You could argue for days over which player is preferable — Rendon has outperformed Arenado in recent seasons, but also has had some health challenges in the past and is a bit older — but it seems fair to assess them both in the same general range of value.
Rendon’s deal includes full no-trade protection but no opt-out chances. Other than the cash required, it cost the Angels only some upcoming draft compensation. Given that, it’s a bit difficult to imagine an organization that came up short on Rendon would be particularly anxious to part with major young talent to acquire Arenado.
There is certainly some interest, though. The Rangers have perhaps been tied most closely to Arenado; the organization was highly disappointed to see Rendon land elsewhere in the division. The Braves are also said to have reached out, but it remains difficult to imagine that organization suddenly opening the books for such a massive deal. Morosi hints that the Dodgers have had some level of interest, but also says they’re not the primary suitor. It seems the Rox are not enamored of the idea of placing Arenado in the NL West. We might presume that the reputed pursuers of free agent Josh Donaldson — along with the Braves, the Twins and Nationals — are going to have at least some level of interest in Arenado. It seems there’s at least a mystery suitor or two floating around as well. Arenado is, after all, good enough to displace even a solid existing regular.
Morosi suggests (Twitter link) that the Nats have indeed spoken with the Colorado organization about Arenado. Unsurprisingly, the report indicates that the Nats aren’t keen to part with young center fielder Victor Robles for Arenado — or for the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. That more or less goes without saying, at least with regard to Arenado, for all of the reasons noted above (particularly since Rendon was the Nats’ own free agent). Robles has some things to iron out, but he’s also still just 22 years of age, can be controlled through the 2024 season, and just turned in a 2.5 fWAR / 4.1 rWAR campaign.
It’s tough to imagine a deal in which another team offers up significant assets to take on the entire Arenado contract. But the Rockies presumably won’t be interested in a deal that doesn’t feel like a win, both internally and to the fanbase. It’s interesting to ponder whether involving additional players — the Rox have a mix of surplus-value talent and underperforming contracts — might help form a more plausible structure than a classic veteran-for-prospect deal.