Nolan Arenado, 27-year-old third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, is in agreement on an eight-year contract extension in the ballpark of $260 million, sources told Yahoo Sports. It would be the largest per-year contract for a position player in the majors.
Arenado was due to become a free agent after the 2019 season. Instead, the six-time Gold Glove winner who has three times finished top five in National League MVP voting is likely to be a Rockie well into his mid-30’s.
Already approaching Todd Helton, Larry Walker and Troy Tulowitzki as the most productive (and beloved) player in franchise history, Arenado could just have become a Rockie for life, as Helton was.
The contract comes during shifting — some say suspicious — economic times for baseball. Bryce Harper, more than a year younger than Arenado, is still on the market as a free agent. It wasn’t until last week when Manny Machado signed a $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres. The market has been stingy at the top end for a second winter, a fact that perhaps greased negotiations between the Rockies and Arenado. On Jan. 31, the sides had settled their arbitration differences at a record $26 million.
The massive contracts of yesterday — Alex Rodriguez for $252 million over 10 years, then $275 million over 10, Albert Pujols for $240 million over 10, Miguel Cabrera for $248 million over nine, Robinson Cano for $240 million over 10, to name a few — have proven difficult to live with for owners and harder to come by for players. Harper will be well paid in the end, if perhaps not commensurate with previous contracts while also adjusting for inflation and higher revenues. “Market value” has become a debatable concept and is at the core of current discord between owners and players with still three years remaining on the current collective bargaining agreement.
Many players, some of them pending free agents, expressed doubt that last winter’s free-agent freeze would extend into a second winter, particularly in light of the Harper and Machado availability. Free agency was a slog again, however, with fewer teams than expected bidding on the two franchise players, leading to further complaints that broad-scale competitive aspirations are dying concepts in the game. Contracts generally were shorter and less lucrative than expected. The middle class, already in trouble, was being replaced by younger players not yet in their earning years.
Against that backdrop, Arenado and his agents at Wasserman entered into negotiations with the Rockies, a franchise that has improved over each of the past four seasons, has never won an NL West title, and must contend with the well-financed Los Angeles Dodgers. Arenado is their superstar in name, face and deed. He only just entered his prime. He has three times led the league in home runs and four times been an All-Star. The sole knock against him is his production away from Coors Field — .787 OPS versus .984 at home, a disparity that was even greater in 2018 — and the answer to that was a long-term contract, so that he’d always play his home games at Coors Field.
Four years after Giancarlo Stanton signed a $325 million extension with the notoriously unstable Miami Marlins (and a little more than a year after the Marlins proved it again by trading Stanton), the Rockies and owner Dick Monfort made a similar commitment to Arenado, a unique ballplayer they came to know and like and appreciate. Against the trend of resistance to high-dollar, long-term contracts, the Rockies saw value in keeping one of their own. They committed to a team that last season pushed the Dodgers to a 163rd game. They committed to a promising core of players that includes Arenado, Kyle Freeland, Trevor Story, German Márquez, David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and a healthy farm system. They committed to competing, which might seem like the least of one’s contract with fans and the rest of the league, but, turns out, does put the Rockies with the minority.
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