In a National League Central Division short on spending this offseason — the Cardinals decision to bring back Adam Wainwright nearly tripled the offseason cash outlay this winter — any sort of bold move could push a team to the top of the heap.
St. Louis Cardinals rumors had been dormant until this week
To say the Cardinals had a quiet offseason up to this point would be akin to saying Hank Aaron was a hitter with moderate power. It’s been radio silence for most of the winter from St. Louis until the Wainwright signing, with the team yet to re-sign franchise icon Yadier Molina and declining Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong’s $12.5 million option.
Ken Rosenthal and Nick Groke of The Athletic reported on the possibility of an Arenado trade, pointing out however that the teams are not close to a deal. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reinforced the rumor while also reporting that Arenado’s shoulder — a chronic issue for him in 2020 — is fully recovered.
But for a team that seemed allergic to spending for much of the offseason, adding Arenado would require some serious cash going back to Colorado to get done.
Arenado has six years and $199 million remaining on the massive deal he signed in February 2019 and is due $35 million this season. However, he does have an opt-out clause after this season.
But would he be an upgrade at third base for St. Louis? Consider that in his eight-year career, Arenado has won eight Gold Gloves. Yeah, one for each season.
He’s also a four-time Silver Slugger winner and five-time All-Star who struggled in the shortened 2020 season in part due to the shoulder discomfort. He hit .253 with a .738 OPS in 201 plate appearances over 48 games. The average was the lowest of his career, while the OPS mark was the worst since a .706 mark as a rookie in 2013.
He notched nine doubles, eight homers, 26 RBI and scored 23 runs with a 10.0 percent strikeout rate and 7.5 percent walk rate.
But Arenado is a three-time NL home run champion and has led the majors in RBI twice. In his last full season in 2019, he hit .315 with a .962 OPS — a career-high — in 155 games and 662 plate appearances, belting 41 homers, 31 doubles with 118 RBI and 102 runs scored.
From 2015-19, Arenado averaged 40 homers and 124 RBI a year while hitting .300 with a .937 OPS. Not bad production if you can get it. And for concerns about him being a product of Coors Field, he has a career .793 OPS on the road in his career — not the .985 he has at home, but solid just the same.
But to make a deal work, significant money would have to go the other way. Infielder Matt Carpenter is due $20.5 million this season with a $2 million buyout for his 2022 team option. Dexter Fowler is at $16.5 million for 2021 and Carlos Martinez is scheduled to make $12 million with a $500,000 2022 buyout figure.
Rosenthal and Groke reported Arenado would be both willing to waive his no-trade clause and could be open to pushing back the opt-out date to get a deal done.
As far as long-term commitments in St. Louis, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has four years and $104 million remaining on his contract and tight-hander Miles Mikolas is owed $51 million for the next three seasons.
However, given team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.’s comments last June about baseball’s lack of profitability — even before a pandemic ravaged gate revenues — there are at least reasons to question whether or not he’d be willing to green-light a massive increase in payroll.