Baseball is (almost) in the air. As 2019 comes to a close, the baseball hot stove is starting to heat up.
Not surprisingly, Colorado Rockies superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado has already been linked to trade rumors.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, multiple teams have phoned Colorado this offseason regarding Arenado’s availability. Passan reports that the talks have gone nowhere, reinforcing the narrative that the Rockies will not trade the All-Star before Opening Day.
Arenado made headlines last year when he inked an 8-year, $260 million contract to stay with the Rockies and forego free agency. Arenado’s contract does have an opt-out after the third year.
Prior to signing the contract, Arenado expressed his love and desire for the Rockies’ organization. He indicated he is content in Denver, so long as the Rockies are dedicated to fielding a competitive team.
“I always wanted to be here,” Arenado said during Spring Training last year.
At the negotiating table, the Rockies managed to convince Arenado to re-sign based on their success in 2017 and 2018 and reassured their star player that they would try to remain competitive for the foreseeable future.
However, the 2019 season did not go as planned for Arenado and the Rockies as Colorado missed the postseason, finishing with a 71-91 record.
As the club is set to enter a new decade, speculation has ensued about Arenado’s availability. While Arenado’s contract is for eight years total, the opt-out after the third season is very intriguing for both Arenado and the ballclub.
It was disclosed at the Rockies end-of-season media session that General Manager Jeff Bridich was the person who pushed for the opt-out after year three, a puzzling decision from the organization’s perspective.
Why would the Rockies want to re-sign their marquee player, one of the elite players in the league, only to provide him the ability to jump ship after three seasons?
According to Bridich, the motive was financial and stemmed from previous contracts with star players like Troy Tulowitzki.
It’s understandable why the Rockies would want to avoid a situation similar to Tulowitzki’s. However, Arenado is a far more dynamic player than Tulo ever was and Arenado has shown that he can play 162 games a season.
So it begs the question, why would the Rockies push for a three-year opt-out?
There is no doubt the Rockies want to make Arenado a part of their organization for his entire career. But, is the organization willing to dedicate the necessary resources to elevate the club to a World Series contender through the life of Arenado’s contract?
Both Bridich and owner Dick Monfort said at the end of the season that the Rockies’ were hindered financially after diving into the free-agent pool in 2017 and 2018.
With that, how do the Rockies expect to live up to Arenado’s expectations with a limited payroll?
As it stands, the Rockies lineup is sound, but their pitching staff is dysfunctional. Outside of Jon Gray (whose name has also shown up in trade rumors) and German Marquez, the Rockies starting rotation is in shambles. The bullpen is not much better.
Assuming the Rockies make no significant moves this offseason, which appears will be the case, it’s impossible to envision the team contending for a spot in the postseason with their current roster complexion.
While the Rockies are determined to find a way back to contention in 2020, it will be tough to do so with their current budget. That said, Bridich and Co. may decide to get creative and shift some players and money around to create more flexibility.
Regardless, there is not a clear path to the postseason for the Rockies in 2020, and that has to be startling for Arenado.
Arenado loves playing in Colorado, but he has a strong and unwavering desire to win consistently. Last season was tough for the Rockies, and Arenado was frustrated a majority of the time as he put up big numbers while the team failed to live up to its potential.
“As a group, we need to get better,” Arenado said last year. “We have not really put it together, I always felt like we were going to, but obviously we have not so I think that’s a sign it was not meant to be… It’s frustrating for sure.”
Arenado will be all smiles when the Rockies gather for the start of Spring Training, but it will be interesting to see how he responds if the Rockies fail to meet expectations again in the coming year.
The first three seasons in Arenado’s contract are like a trial run. Following 2021 Arenado holds the power to continue playing in the only city he’s ever known or jump ship for a team that can contend for a championship every season.
Should Arenado opt-in to the rest of his deal, he will receive roughly $30 million per season through 2026, a phenomenal set-up for a player entering his 30s. However, if Arenado has yet to sniff a championship by that time, could the desire to win outweigh the financial gain?
Either way, there are some interesting times ahead for the Rockies and their California kid.