The Nolan Arenado trade rumors are exhausting. Every day, another team emerges as a potential suitor for the Rockies third baseman.
First, it was the Rangers and Braves. Then, it was the National, Dodgers and White Sox. Now, it’s the Cardinals.
The list of teams interested in the five-time All-Star continues to grow, as the “haves” of the baseball world are more than willing to take on the last six years of his seven-year, $234 million contract, while a “have not” like the Rockies seems adamant about shedding that liability.
It’s all enough to make a Colorado baseball fan want to scream out loud. The team finally has a star, someone who is arguably the best player in the game, and he appears likely to be shipped out of town, whether it’s before the start of this season, at the deadline or before the opt-out portion of his deal hits at the end of the 2021 campaign.
But there’s one part of the story that the national writers seem to be missing. They’re really good at figuring out what teams could use a perennial Gold Glove winner at third base. And they’re the masters at deciphering which franchises have the prospects necessary to make a trade enticing. But they fail to explain why it’s necessary for Colorado or Arenado to go that route.
Obviously, going 71-91 last season was disappointing. That’s the record of a team that seemingly needs to start over or is in the midst of a rebuild. At that point in the process, having a high-priced veteran in his prime doesn’t make much sense for the team or the player.
But is that really the situation in Colorado?
A year ago at this time, the Rockies were coming off of back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in their history. Given that run of success, they were a trendy pick to win the World Series, often cited by many of the same national writers who are now saying they’re about to trade Arenado.
Given this situation, it made sense when the Rockies announced the contract extension for their best player during spring training. He was the key part of a team that was on the upswing. And he would remain a fixture for a contender for years to come.
Fast forward 11 months, however, and everything has changed. Why? Because that World Series contender fell flat on its face in 2019.
This year, because of the contracts they signed with free agents during the past two offseasons who woefully underachieved last year, the Rockies are stuck with basically the same roster. They can’t get anyone to take Wade Davis, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, Ian Desmond or Daniel Murphy off of their hands, and they can’t afford to buy their way out of those mistakes like the “haves” can, so they’re going to have to ride it out for one more season.
That sounds awful, but it might not be. There is a chance that last year was an aberration. There is the possibility that the club everyone expected to be a playoff team in 2019 will reappear in 2020.
Those five free agents could finally live up to their contracts. Kyle Freeland could return to his 2018 form. German Marquez could become a consistent starter with dominant stuff.
It’s not far fetched. Why? Because it’s what everyone expected to happen last year. Eleven months later, it’s not preposterous to think it’s still possible.
That’s why the argument that Arenado is “unhappy that the Rockies haven’t built around him” is ridiculous. From the time he signed his contract until now, literally nothing has happened. Zero.
He inked his deal in part because he thought the Rockies were a contender. Now, he believes that same roster isn’t good enough?
Maybe last year showed him that it wasn’t, but what were his realistic expectations in the interim? Did Arenado really expect Colorado to be able to pivot from a roster that they thought could compete for a World Series to an entirely different squad in one offseason?
Of course not. He knows the drill. He knows the reality in Colorado, where they can’t cover up one mistake by spending more money like the do in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and other big markets.
That’s why the scenario that makes the most sense is for the Rockies to see what they really have in 2020. They need to get back on the field to find out if last year was an aberration or reality.
If Colorado starts off hot, they’ll keep Arenado and try to make a run. If they sputter again, then it’s time to admit that their current group isn’t good enough and look at trading the third baseman before the deadline.
The Rockies need to know for sure. And Arenado needs to know for sure. That’s why a little patience, and understanding of recent history, is necessary in this situation.
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