Though reports of Nolan Arenado’s availability initially seemed far-fetched, there is a growing belief that he’ll be moved in the next few weeks. Several teams have been mentioned as having interest, including the Cubs, but MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported Sunday that the Cardinals have emerged in talks for the superstar third baseman.
That fits with what Bruce Levine shared on 670 The Score Saturday afternoon, when he named righties Dakota Hudson and Carlos Martinez, outfielder Tyler O’Neill, and recently acquired pitching prospect Matt Liberatore as the return being discussed. Morosi mentioned Hudson and Liberatore as well, but added highly-touted third base prospect Nolan Gorman as someone in whom the Rockies are interested.
Makes sense that they’d want to at least make it a zero-sum game for guys named Nolan, but St. Louis isn’t going to want to part with its top talent unless Arenado provides assurance that he won’t opt out after 2021. That would probably require the Cards to kick in more guaranteed money, something they should be able to do given the lack of other long-term commitments they’ve got on the books. And this of course all hinges on Arenado waiving his no-trade clause, which isn’t a guarantee.
Another potential factor in the Cardinals’ willingness to trade top prospects and take on the full weight of Arenado’s contract is the inclusion of Matt Carpenter in the deal. The noodle-armed corner man is owed $39 million over the next two seasons and has a no-trade clause that kicks in on Opening Day, so moving him would help St. Louis offset salary and clear roster space.
Even if they don’t end up with Arenado, Morosi makes it clear that the Cardinals are seeking a big talent upgrade heading into the season.
St. Louis intends to add one star-level position player before Spring Training begins next month, and Arenado is an appealing option if the Cardinals don’t re-sign free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The Rangers are competing in a similar sector of the market as the Cardinals, having shown interest in trading for Arenado or signing Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanos in free agency. At this point, it appears both the Cardinals and Rangers are more serious about Arenado than the Braves, who checked in with the Rockies about him at the Winter Meetings.
If it sounds strange to characterize the pursuit of Arenado as a fallback option should they not re-sign Marcell Ozuna, consider what the Cards would have to give up in the deal. Though one player is very clearly superior to the other, the talent and additional money they’d have to part with might give St. Louis pause. Then there’s the compensatory draft pick they’d forfeit if Ozuna doesn’t sign elsewhere, a selection they’d undoubtedly find a way to trade for a top prospect next year.
Jokes aside, the Cardinals have the potential to completely shift the balance of power in a division that has seen only the Reds make meaningful upgrades this winter. Should they be able to pair Arenado with Paul Goldschmidt, they’ll have the second-most formidable pair of corner men in the NL Central and they’ll have said pair locked in for several years.
There is a bright side to this, however, at least for those who’ve been jonesing to see Kris Bryant traded. Arenado being moved could further entice one of the teams in the third base market — Rangers, Braves, Nationals, Twins, Dodgers, MC Serch — to get more aggressive in talks with the Cubs. And if the Cards do take that big leap forward, the Cubs might be more willing to accelerate their whole retooling thing. I don’t even like mentioning that, but it can’t really be avoided at this point.
You know it’s going well when the only things a Cubs site can find to write about are how other teams’ moves will impact the Cubs. What a time to be alive.