Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado hits a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Los Angeles. (by Mark J. Terrill, the Associated Press

Franchise Star on the Move: Nolan Arenado to St. Louis

In a month dominated by breaking news story after breaking news story, that the St. Louis Cardinals traded for Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado on the penultimate day of January just may yet register as the most shocking turn of events. While the move is still pending approval from the league office, the framework of the deal is largely in place. The Rockies will ship off one of the best players in franchise history to St. Louis in exchange for a handful of mid-to-low level prospects and roughly $50 million. The ramifications of this deal are significant for both organizations and for Arenado himself. Let’s take a moment to break down the deal for each party involved.

A New Favorite in the NL Central?

For St. Louis, this move was a coup. They managed to acquire one of the game’s premier talents without giving up any of their top prospects. The Cardinals have been a perennial contender coming out of the NL Central since the turn of the millennium, finishing as either division champions or runner-up in sixteen of the past twenty years. However, since the departure of Albert Pujols in 2012, the one thing that the Cardinals have lacked is a true run producer in the middle of their lineup. Sure, they’ve gotten some great production from players like Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, and Kolten Wong, but Albert Pujols levels of production? Nah, there hasn’t been any of that in a long time.

So, what exactly are the Cardinals getting in Arenado? Well, let’s start with these numbers…

Granted, Coors Field has historically inflated offensive numbers. Playing a mile high will do that. However, the perception of Coors Field as some over-the-top, hitter-friendly environment is overblown. It’s a myth based on the historical precedent set by the Rockies teams of the 1990s before the organization installed a humidor to store their baseballs in. Prior to the humidor’s installation, the Rockies averaged 847 runs per season. After the installation? 787. Is Coors Field still a hitter’s park? Sure, but offensive numbers are much more in line with the rest of the league.

Throughout his MLB career, Nolan Arenado has won four Silver Slugger awards at the hot corner, nabbed the Gold Glove eight consecutive seasons, and finished in the top-10 for MVP five of the past six years. He’s damn good and, when you combine him with Paul Goldschmidt across the diamond and super utility-man Tommy Edman and up-and-coming outfielder Dylan Carlson, the Cardinals have transformed into one of the most potent offensives in the division.

A Rocky Future Ahead

In most trade situations, both teams ideally put themselves in a position to benefit from the move. Sometimes, though, you have winners and losers. In this case, we have winners, losers, a chasm about a million miles wide that includes organizational failures like the Houston Texans, the New York Mets, and the New York Jets, and then we have the Colorado Rockies. How the Rockies let themselves get to this point. With an organizational value of nearly $1.3 billion, how did the Rockies let money interfere with them retaining arguably the best player in franchise history?

Committing big money to players is a daunting task. You aren’t just committing money to a player now, you’re committing to the continued effort to improve the team. To continually spend more and more money so as to compete for a World Series championship year after year. The Rockies clearly felt that they made a mistake when they signed Arenado to an eight-year/$260 million extension prior to the 2019 season. They dipped their toes into the waters of big spending, didn’t like it, and are retreating from that approach as fast as possible. If shipping off Nolan Arenado isn’t the Rockies symbolically waving the white flag, I don’t know what is. You have to imagine that Colorado is, essentially, open for business at this point. Don’t be surprised if Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, or German Marquez are shipped off in the coming months as well.

It has to be a shocking turn of events for a Rockies fanbase that has seen their team star in the postseason two of the last four years. While they took incremental steps back in 2019 and 2020, this was a team that had been steadily on the rise since they bottomed out at 96 losses in 2014. With Arenado, the Rockies had hope of, at minimum, being competitive on a day-by-day basis. Now, if anything, this deal proves to us one thing:

A New Start for Nolan Arenado

For Nolan Arenado, escaping Denver represents something of a fresh start for a career that, despite numerous individual accolades, has stalled out. The Colorado Rockies clearly aren’t going anywhere as an organization. At various points in their organizational history, the Rockies have been blessed with the prime years of Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Dante Bichette, Troy Tulowitzki, Charlie Blackmon, Matt Holliday, and Nolan Arenado. How many divisional titles has this team won? 0. It’s a case of poor roster management and an indifferent attitude when it comes to fielding a team capable of winning it all.

Getting out of that environment is a blessing for the talented third baseman. Nolan Arenado just jumped ship from one of the league’s worst run organizations to, historically, one of the best. Will his offensive numbers probably take a dip now that he won’t be playing half of his games in Colorado? Probably, but he’ll be playing on a better team, in a better organization, with a director of baseball operations in John Mozeliak who is committed to winning. What’s not to be excited for?

Three Up, Three Down is a weekly roundup of three news stories from around Major League Baseball. The focus of each edition will rotate on a divisional basis. This week’s top news stories are the acquisition of Joc Pederson by the Chicago Cubs, the trade of Rockies franchise icon Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals, and the continued teardown of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.