The final grades to the Nolan Arenado trade

Blockbuster requested, and blockbuster most certainly delivered. 

After the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals discussed and agreed to a blockbuster revolving around Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado over the weekend, the trade became official on Feb. 1. 

Much to the excitement of Cardinal fans and potential chagrin of Colorado ones, the trade sent significant ripples throughout the fabric of the MLB landscape, especially in regard to possible playoff ramifications. 

What other pieces were involved in the franchise-altering deal? What about the financial side of the transaction? Perhaps most importantly, who came out ahead, now that all knee-jerk reactions of the deal are out of the way? Well, let’s dig into the trade specifics and how they affect both teams. 

Date of trade: Feb. 1 

Teams involved: St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies 

St. Louis receives: 3B Nolan Arenado, cash considerations

Colorado receives: LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Tony Locey, RHP Jake Sommers, INF Mateo Gil, INF Elehuris Montero 

Talking about the St. Louis side first makes sense, as they received the obvious headliner in this deal. Defensively, not much needs to be said about Arenado’s glove work, considering it speaks for itself. After all, Arenado vast range, powerful arm strength and glove-to-hand transitioning has netted the 29-year-old eight straight National League Gold Glove Awards (2013-20) and four straight Platinum Glove Awards (2017-20). Since the Platinum Glove Award is a relatively newer award (its inaugural season was 2011), it should come to no one’s surprise that Arenado currently holds the record for most consecutive Platinum Glove Awards won. His eight Gold Gloves, meanwhile, already ranks in the top three among all third base gold glove winners ever (Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt won 16 and 10, respectively). Even when taking awards out of the mix, just watch his glove do its thing and you will not be disappointed.

Arenado’s offensive prowess, meanwhile, leaves more room open for interpretation. Let’s start with the basics. In eight years of MLB action, Arenado owns a career .293/.349/.541 slash line for an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .890 and a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 118 (where 100 is average). While this is precisely the production one would expect out of a star player, let’s glimpse at the home-road splits. In 543 career games at his former home ballpark in Coors Field, Arenado possesses a .322/.376/.609/.985 slash line and 128 wRC+. Definitely electric, right? Most definitely. Meanwhile, the road slash (.263/.322/.471/.793) and wRC+ (108), while definitely above league average, is nowhere close to the home totals, and adds more fuel to the fire in regard to the debated “Coors Factor” when discussing players hitting at altitude. 

Regardless of what the park metrics say, Arenado is precisely what the Cardinals were missing in their lineup. Since 2015 (when the Cardinals went 100-62), the offense collectively possessed a 99 wRC+ (13th in the majors). While this certainly does not sound bad, last season’s club scored 240 runs, third worst in the entire majors and the worst among all playoff teams. Sprinkle in the fact that Arenado is a career .278/.337/.511/.848 hitter in 24 games at Busch Field, and St. Louis’s lineup, right off the bat (no pun intended) has improved. 

Financial specifics (St. Louis received $51 million in the trade to help cover financial parts of the contract) and potential opt-outs aside, the Cardinals, given what they gave up and what they could be getting for this upcoming year and beyond, made out extremely well. Even if Arenado takes a step back with the lumber, the defense and the production he should still be able to put up will be anything and everything St. Louis has been yearning to get for years. 

St. Louis grade: A

Buckle up, Colorado fans. This might (no, will) get bumpy. To start off, the left-handed Gomber (the most recognizable name in the return) could become a solid asset in an always shifting Rockies’ rotation. In 43 total games at the MLB level (15 games started), the 27-year-old maintains a career 3.72 ERA in 104.0 innings pitched and has been able to limit the home run in an era where they are aplenty. His home runs per nine innings pitched (HR/9) currently sits at 0.69. With relatively equal home-road ERA numbers (3.54 and 3.88 ERA, respectively) and five years of team control remaining, the Rockies have a pitcher who, with more playing time, could blossom into something more. 

The prospect quartet, meanwhile, are as raw as they come, as only one (Montero) has played a game above A-ball (Montero played 59 games in AA during the 2019 season and slashed .188/.235/.317/.552 there). While Montero and Gil look to be future infield options, the path toward the majors is still a long one, and the growing pains to wait might be fruitless anyway given their raw tools that have already been exposed. The path for Locey and Sommers might prove to be more difficult, as the duo have combined to only pitch 68.2 innings of professional baseball at close to its lowest level. While the four players are lottery tickets that could cash in when given a fresher opportunity, none of the four are considered blue-chippers, and in a trade involving a player of Arenado’s magnitude, there is more “if” in these players than “get” in regard to the talent they bring to the baseball field. 

Let’s keep this honest. When you have a star at your disposal, and you are looking to trade him, you aim for the stars. Perhaps you only get the moon in the return, but the negotiations at the trading table should always start on the terms of the team with the star. Could there be gold found in this deal? Sure, the raw potential is always there, and a change of scenery can do wonders. Even still, this was an extremely minimal return, even when taking Arenado’s soured relationship with ownership that could have lessened a return package anyway. 

Colorado definitely received something when they easily could have received nothing once Arenado opted out during one of his future opt-out years. This, however, is the only variable keeping Colorado from getting a flat out “F.” Although Coors Field is 5,000 feet above elevation, the Rockies should have aimed much higher. Yikes. 

Colorado grade: D

Leave a Reply