Arenado Makes St. Louis a Serious Contender
This past Monday, February 1, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies.
This past Monday, February 1, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies. Arenado is widely regarded as the best third baseman in baseball on both offense and defense; he has won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award in all eight of his seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) and has led the league in homeruns (HR) in 2015, 2016, and 2018. Aside from 2020, which did not have an All-Star game due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Arenado has been selected to the All-Star game every year since 2015. Over that five year span, Arenado has batted .300 and had an average of 40 HRs and 124 runs batted in (RBIs) per season.
St. Louis’s acquisition of Arenado makes it title favorites in the near future. Arenado will bring his elite offense and defense to third base and play alongside former All-Star shortstop Paul DeJong and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in the infield. The Cardinals let second baseman Kolten Wong sign to the Milwaukee Brewers in free agency, so they will likely move Matt Carpenter, who played third base for them last year, to second base. Despite the Cardinals having a lack of depth in their starting rotation and not many big names in their bullpen, the addition of Arenado to this infield, along with young outfielders Dylan Carlson, Harrison Bader, and Tyler O’Neill, creates a very good offensive lineup. In the upcoming season, many should expect the Chicago Cubs and the Cardinals to be competing for the National League (NL) Central Division title. However, the Cubs will have to deal with veterans Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant all going into free agency after the end of the 2021 season. With the Cardinals having their “big three” of Goldschmidt, DeJong, and Arenado under contract until 2024, 2025 (club option), and 2027, respectively, the Cardinals are poised to be the front-runner in the division for a healthy duration.
The Cardinals acquired Arenado by sending five players, four of them minor leaguers, to Colorado. St. Louis also received cash in the deal to help pay for Arenado’s contract in the upcoming season. The Rockies seemed to have gotten almost nothing for a player of Arenado’s caliber, but this move seems to be more of a contract dump for the Denver club rather than an exchange of talent. In February of 2019, the Rockies signed Arenado to an eight year, $255-million extension, with an opt-out clause at the end of the 2021 season. After that extension was signed, though, relations between the third baseman and the Rockies organization took a turn for the worse. The Rockies likely dealt Arenado in fear that he would elect to use that opt-out clause at the end of this year, so they chose to save some money and at least get some young players that could emerge later in return for the superstar. Colorado is also in a division with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the defending World Series Champions, and the San Diego Padres, who many would argue are the two best teams in baseball right now, making the Rockies’ current chances of winning in the short term very slim. Arenado’s departure suggests that the Rockies will be rebuilding, hoping to effectively start from scratch. Rockies’ All-Star shortstop Trevor Story will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this 2021 season, so there is a strong possibility that he may be dealt as well. The Rockies may have lost this trade on paper, but if it can also acquire youthful assets for Story, they will become a much younger team with a lot more money to use towards other young stars they may be interested in.
As far as the Cardinals are concerned, the window for them to challenge to be one of the best teams in baseball is now open. The Cards have substantial offensive talent under contract for the next handful of years, and if they can add more high-level pitching in their starting rotation and bullpen, the addition of Arenado can make them the perennial favorites in the NL Central Division in the future.