I love to be right. I love to come out on the right side of debates.
In the case of Nolan Arenado, however, I wish I hadn’t been right.
When the Rockies signed Arenado to a $260 million contract that seemed to insure he’d finish his career in Colorado, the move was universally celebrated. I had some misgivings, though.
I said the deal only made sense if the Rockies continued to be aggressive in building around Nolan. I had seen massive contracts handed out to Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki become financial boulders that paralyzed the team from making subsequent moves.
Naturally, my concerns were shouted down. But, yet, here we are.
Arenado is currently frustrated by the Rockies’ stand-pat, do-nothing offseason and he wants out. While he hasn’t out and out gone public and demanded a trade, he has resorted to announcing he feels “disrespected” by the Rockies.
I don’t blame him. This has nothing to do with money or the perks that go with a huge contract. This is about winning. This is about Arenado feeling like he’s been sold a bill of goods by the Rockies.
We have observed Nolan throughout his career. He plays with passion and winning matters to him. Remember two summers ago when he let loose after a frustrating series in San Francisco, saying he didn’t know if he wanted to stay in Colorado if the franchise wasn’t committed to winning? A wild card run eased those concerns.
Throw in some pledges from the front office and Arenado was willing to sign the big contract.
Then came last year. It was a terrible season that revealed how many mistakes general manager Jeff Bridich has made, handing out bad contracts to the likes of Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee.
Mistakes do get made. That’s understandable. What is hard to forgive is a franchise mentality that throws up its hands and says there’s nothing we can do because we’re stuck with these contracts.
They can do something. They can get creative in trying to move contracts. They can eat money to facilitate a deal. What they can’t do is do nothing and hope that last year was just a bad year and everything will miraculously improve this season.
Arenado didn’t sign up for this. Before you go off and say, “For $260 million, he should just shut his mouth and play,” remember that he was going to get his money no matter what. Either the Rockies would pay him or someone else would.
If Arenado became a free agent, he would’ve been courted. He would’ve been given assurances about what kind of team would be built around him. It would be part of the recruiting process.
For $260 million, a player the caliber of Arenado should have a say in what’s happening around him. The Rockies were his team, but they were still trying to recruit him, as well.
So, doesn’t it figure that whether it was the Rockies or another team that made promises, Arenado is within his rights to expect that team to live up to its end of the bargain?
Let’s look at this another way. On one hand, you have Nolan. One of the greatest Rockies of all-time who genuinely seems to care about winning. On the other hand, you have Dick Montfort and Jeff Bridich. Bridich is a Dan O’Dowd disciple. The O’Dowd model hasn’t worked, yet Bridich seems to be secure in his job. Why?
The answer is Montfort doesn’t like change and is quite content to continue to print money at Coors Field. His response to a Rockies’ season ticket holder was revealing. It talked about how the Rockies avoided arbitration with Arenado and gave him the big contract and even gave him access to a private plane during the All-Star Game.
There was no mention of winning. No mention of doing whatever it takes to give Rockies fans a winner. It was the kind of response I’d expect from someone who equates baseball success with the size of a party deck in right field.
I am encouraged by the overall response from Rockies fans. They seem to be on Team Nolan. Rockies management hasn’t exactly built up a reservoir of goodwill over the years. Fans don’t trust them. Frankly, neither do I. Frankly, neither does Nolan.
The Rockies plan is so Rockies. They will shut down trade talks. They’ll force Nolan to attend spring training and face teammates that he doesn’t think are good enough. Bridich and Monfort will hold out hope that this season can be special. When that likely fails to happen, they’ll trade Arenado by the middle of the summer.
Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 11.