Colorado Rockies: What would a trade for Nolan Arenado look like?

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies bats against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fifth inning at Oracle Park on September 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies bats against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fifth inning at Oracle Park on September 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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It has been reported that the odds of the Colorado Rockies trading star third basemen Nolan Arenado are now 50/50. This would be a seismic trade and Call to The Pen is taking a look at what a trade would look like.

Nolan Arenado is an undisputed superstar and one of the top third basemen and players in all the Majors. In the 2019 season, he was the 13th best player by fWAR and has been top 10 since 2015. Arenado is also getting compensated as one of the best players in baseball, with 7 years, $234M left remaining on the mega deal he signed with the Colorado Rockies.

Before we can trade Arenado, we have to estimate his total value. Performance wise, Arenado will turn 29 this season, so the acquiring team is getting prime years. Let’s assume Arenado is a 5.5 WAR player each of the next two years before his opt out. Now let’s assume he ages like Josh Donaldson, which is incredibly optimistic, but Arenado has established such a high level of play, this is a possibility. We will assume Arenado will rack up 22.5 total WAR over the last 5 years or 4.5/year as he enters his 30s and natural decline phase.

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Using Spotrac, we can see he’s slated to make $35M each year until 2025 and then deescalates to $32M and $27M. The opt-out in his deal represents an additional variable that is difficult to quantify because the acquiring team may only end up with 2 years of control instead of the 7 remaining on the deal. This is important because a 31-year-old Arenado will be making a decision whether to test the market or opt-in to a 5 year, $164M deal. Anthony Rendon at 29 just locked in 7 years, $245M so if Arenado performs he could be in line for another monster 5 or 6 year deal valued at $190M+.

The opt out is going to create problems in valuing the trade. The Rockies are going to want premium talent for Arenado but the acquiring team will want the price to reflect that Arenado could walk after 2 seasons. Another scenario is Arenado rapidly declines and the acquiring team gets saddled with the remaining $164M of a player who isn’t quite worth it.

Nolan Arenado Value

2020 and 2021 – 11 WAR – $88M Total Value (assumes $8M/WAR)) – $70M Salary

2022 through 2026 – 22.5 WAR – $180M Total Value – $164M Salary

Total – 33.5 WAR – $266M Total Value – $234M Salary

So in this analysis, you are guaranteed two years of Nolan Arenado at a surplus value of around $20M and another $16M. Even if you assume Arenado won’t opt out and that he has ~$36M in surplus value, by pure value that nets you a 55 FV prospect. So if Atlanta was the team to pull this off an even exchange would be Nolan Arenado for AAA RHP prospect Ian Anderson. If Rockies made that sort of deal there would be riots among fans. Atlanta would do that deal 110 times out of 100.

Simply put, the value isn’t there. Arenado’s contract eliminates the surplus value that teams will give up premium prospects for. The Dodgers aren’t going to send Gavin Lux or Dustin MayVictor Robles and Carter Kieboom are off the table from the Nats. The Braves won’t be giving up Drew Waters, Cristian Pache, or any of the MLB ready arms. The Twins won’t be selling Royce Lewis, Alex Kiriloff, or Trevor Larnach. The Rangers don’t even have a premium guy that would begin to spark interest.

The last contract of this magnitude that was moved would be when the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton and his 13 year, $325M contract in a salary dump. The Marlins got back Starlin Castro to offset some salary for the Yankees and a pair of unheralded prospects in Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers.

With trade alternatives like Kris Bryant (assuming he has 2 years of control once his grievance is settled) and free agent Josh Donaldson, those interested in an elite third basemen have options that only cost money or come with more certainty and less downside risk. Arenado also has a full no trade clause to further complicate matters. He would likely nix any trade unless it was to a clear contender.

Next. Rockies top ten prospects. dark

The Colorado Rockies can say a Nolan Arenado trade is “50/50” but that is more than likely smoke. No team is going to give up the value the Rockies want and assume all of the downside risk in Arenado.