SAN DIEGO — Third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson are coming off incredible seasons for the Nationals and Braves, respectively, and they’re both generating plenty of interest on the free-agent market.
Mike Moustakas, a long-time third baseman, signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Reds, though they intend to play him at second base.
And now, rumor has it that another third baseman could potentially make a huge impact on the offseason landscape. Nolan Arenado, who has been an All-Star and finished in the top eight of the NL MVP voting each of the past five years for the Rockies, just might be available in a trade.
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Trading Arenado would be complicated, of course.
Let’s start with this: Arenado has full-no-trade protection, a perk of the eight-year, $260 million deal he signed with the Rockies. He’s not waving that right for anything other than a small number of franchises that are set up to be a regular World Series contender, something that doesn’t look likely in Colorado.
And there are seven years and $234 million remaining on that deal, with is no small amount for a team to take on, even though he’s been as consistent and productive and healthy as any superstar in baseball over the past five years. Also, finding a balance between the amount of money the Rockies are willing to include in the deal and the level of elite prospects another team is willing to include would be tricky. Oh, and he has an opt-out clause after two years, so teams would have to be aware of the possibility of selling the prospect farm for him, only for him to walk after two years.
So chances are, he’s not going anywhere. Teams are calling because Arenado would make them better, and the Rockies are listening because they’d be silly not to. But that doesn’t mean they’re actively shopping their All-Star at the hot corner.
But they’re listening, which means a trade isn’t impossible. Let’s look at six teams that should/could be interested.
Why this could work: The Dodgers have been the best team in the National League over the past few years, but they fell short in the World Series in 2017 and 2018, and then fell short of even making the World Series in 2019 despite a dominant regular season. That’s motivation. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Tuesday that this was as aggressive as he’s seen the front office on the free-agent market, but that goes for the “upgrade by any way possible” discussion, too. Incumbent third baseman Justin Turner has already agreed to move positions, a conversation that happened because they’re heavy into the Rendon and Donaldson rumors. So, of course, Arenado makes sense, too. The Dodgers could easily make that payroll number happen, and they have a fertile farm system full of trade pieces.
Why this could work: The Rangers’ interest in Anthony Rendon is well known. They’re moving into a new stadium for 2020, and future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre retired after the 2019 campaign. The hot corner in Texas needs a superstar third baseman. If it’s not Rendon, Arenado fits the exact profile.
Why this could work: Speaking of Rendon, if the Nationals’ playoff hero chooses to continue his career elsewhere, the reigning World Series champs will need a third baseman. The common thought it they’ll try hard to sign Donaldson, but who’s to say Donaldson will wait to see what Rendon does? And replacing a superstar third baseman with a different superstar third baseman isn’t a bad Plan B.
Why this could work: Not to be a broken record, but if the Braves don’t bring back Donaldson — he’ll be cheaper than Rendon because he’s a couple of years older — or pony up for Rendon, they’ll need a third baseman, too. Sound familiar?
With Arenado, at least, there’s the possibility of a lesser financial burden. Could be that the Braves choose to send more to the Rockies in the way of young players/elite prospects, and the Rockies would respond by paying more of Arenado’s salary than they would in a deal with a lesser prospect package. And make no mistake: The Braves are loaded with young players/elite prospects and could absolutely make this happen.
Why this could work: Of the teams mentioned in the Nightengale tweet, the Angels seem the least likely to get involved. They’ve already been snubbed in their quest to bring Gerrit Cole back to Southern California, and if they’re ranking priorities this offseason, the rotation takes the first, second and third spots. And they don’t exactly have the kind of farm system that’s going to win a prospect bidding war. But they are motivated to get back to the postseason at some point in Mike Trout’s career, and teaming Trout with Arenado in the lineup would be pretty darn impressive.
Why this could work: They haven’t really been connected to Rendon or Donaldson, but the Cardinals’ interest in Arenado over the years hasn’t exactly been a secret, and they have the payroll flexibility to take on his contract. They’d have to adjust their budget, but they could make it happen. And it just so happens that, heading into 2020, they need a cleanup hitter and they need a third baseman — Matt Carpenter’s best days are behind him, if 2019 is any indication, and Tommy Edman’s versatility is incredibly valuable.
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