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Finding a fit for Nolan Arenado: Who could swing a trade for the Rockies' star third baseman?

Mike Oz
·6 min read
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Is it finally time for Nolan Arenado to move from the Colorado Rockies?

Arenado, the perennial MVP candidate third baseman, has a deal that would seem to keep him in Colorado for a long time, and yet every year we start to hear grumbles about Arenado wanting to win and Colorado listening to trade offers.

It might be time. The Rockies are said to be looking to tighten their budget. Arenado still has six years and $199 million left on his contract with the Rockies. It’s a lot, but he’s a fantastic player. Any Arenado buyer gets a career .293/.349/.541 hitter who plays spectacular defense. He usually hits around 40 homers with 100+ RBIs. There’s nothing to hate about him.

If a team can afford the contract and put together a trade package that excites the Rockies, they’re getting a player that makes them a much stronger contender. The only catch is that the 29-year-old does have an opt-out after 2021, so there’s not a 100 percent guarantee he’s sticking around. But that contract would be hard to walk away from.

This all makes trading for Arenado a little different than trading for, say, Francisco Lindor, who is a soon-to-be free agent. Part of Colorado’s motive for trading Arenado is salary relief, meaning just taking on their debt is help. It means that the return may not have to match Arenado’s credentials. In other words, if a team can afford Arenado, there may be a bargain (relatively speaking) to be had.

As the Rockies flounder in the NL West, is it time to trade superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado?
As the Rockies flounder in the NL West, is it time to trade superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado? (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Los Angeles Dodgers

Could the Dodgers, the defending champs, go into full super team mode and add Arenado to go with Mookie Betts? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: The Dodgers and Arenado have been linked together for years now. He’s a SoCal guy originally, and now the timing may be right. Justin Turner is a free agent and third base is open. The Rockies are stalled and more open to a possible rebuild. The Dodgers always have the money to spend, but it could limit what they’re able to do in the future when Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger hit free agency.

  • Return: The Dodgers were able to get Mookie Betts without trading their premier young talents — Dustin May, Gavin Lux and Will Smith. Could they do the same with Arenado? It would be quite a steal if so. Lux would almost certainly have to go in this deal. L.A.’s top prospect Josiah Gray would also seem to jibe with Colorado’s needs, but if any team can take on enough money to avoid parting with elite prospects, it’s the Dodgers.

Toronto Blue Jays

Could the Blue Jays, home of a handful of exciting young stars, find their leader in Arenado? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: The Blue Jays seems like a really good fit. They’re young, hungry and coming off a surprising season. They have money to spend, with not many contracts on the books long-term. They’re pretty well situated to absorb Arenado’s contract. And since they moved Vlad Guerrero Jr. to first base, there’s an opening at third waiting for him.

  • Return: While the Jays’ top prospect, flame-throwing starting pitcher Nate Pearson, is No. 6 on MLB Pipeline’s list and likely locked into the Toronto rotation for years to come, they have a few more top 100 prospects (Jordan Groshans, Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson) that could form the basis for a deal. Plus they have major-league talent like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. that could be included if the Rockies are looking to make a faster turnaround.

Atlanta Braves

Could the Braves, still trying to get over the hump in the competitive NL, get Arenado and challenge the Dodgers? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: The Braves have had luck with one-year deals with stars the past few years. Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna added punch to their lineup in a short span, but maybe it’s time to add another star to their mix. Third-baseman-of-the-future Austin Riley had a tough sophomore year, so adding Arenado could make their lineup dangerous from top to bottom. The question is whether the Braves want to take on a big contract like this, or if they like the short-term style that’s brought them success.

  • Return: A deal with Braves would start with Riley, since he’s young, promising and would be expendable. A year ago, a pitcher like Ian Anderson would be the type of player in this deal, but after his stellar debut and postseason performance, the Braves would be reluctant to include him. Cristian Pache and Drew Waters are Atlanta’s top two prospects — with Pache in line to start in center field for the big-league club. There are certainly possibilities if the Braves want to spend the money, but that seems like the bigger question.

Washington Nationals

Could the Nationals, coming off a disappointing encore season, make Arenado the next star they build around? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: The Nationals aren’t shy about spending. Since they didn’t re-sign Anthony Rendon, they could theoretically fill his position a year later with Arenado. Carter Kieboom was the heir apparent for the Nats, but didn’t wow in 2020. Arenado could certainly lead the next generation of Nats, along with Juan Soto.

  • Return: Most of the Nationals best prospects are young — like Single-A and rookie ball young, so there could be an issue there unless the Rockies are playing a long game with their rebuild. You won’t find any Top 100 prospects among them either. Kieboom would seem to be expendable if Arenado comes over. Victor Robles, the former Nationals top prospect, could also theoretically find himself in a potential trade offer.

San Francisco Giants

Could the Giants, retooling for their next postseason run and looking for a new face of the franchise, keep Arenado in the NL West? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: The Giants have money to spend and a clear need — the question is whether this is when they spend it. With Buster Posey entering the twilight of his career, Madison Bumgarner gone and other big contracts about to come off the books, the Giants could decide that Arenado is their next leader. They haven’t had a consistent bat of his caliber since Barry Bonds. They’ve been more about bargains in recent years, but Arenado might be the type of player to splurge on.

  • Return: The Giants finally have some good prospects again after building up a drained farm system, so would they trade a Marco Luciano or Heliot Ramos to get Arenado? Tough to say. A bigger question might be what happens with Evan Longoria, who is their third baseman and still under contract for two more years. He could be part of the return to Colorado, particularly if the Giants eat some of his contract.

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