The last time someone got fleeced in a trade as badly as Colorado Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich did last week, it involved Manhattan Island and a bag full of costume jewelry.
In a trade that read more like an opening narration of The Twilight Zone, Bridich agreed to deal third baseman Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals for one major-league pitcher and a handful of prospects, exactly one of whom appeared on the Cardinals Top-30 Prospects list at the end of 2020.
Imagine if you will, the Colorado Rockies trade …
It was hard not to hear the voice of Rod Serling (because, yeah, I’m that old) when reading the details of the proposed swap of Arenado to St. Louis.
“Imagine if you will, a major-league baseball team possessing a player in the conversation as the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, a player who also possesses tremendous power and prowess at the plate, trading this player for four who-dats and one decent prospect. It is something that can happen only in (insert dramatic music here) The Twilight Zone.”
That is essentially the deal Bridich pulled off on Friday.
The deal is still in the process of being signed off on by both MLB and the MLB Players Association because (a) the Rockies are sending money — lots of it, a reported $50 million of the remaining $199 million on the deal — to the Cardinals and (b) Arenado is both waiving his no-trade clause but also moving some money around in his contract.
First, let’s talk about what the Rockies give up in Arenado. He admittedly slumped badly in 2020, battling through a left shoulder injury to hit just .253 with a .738 OPS in 48 games and 201 plate appearances. Arenado had nine doubles, eight homers, 26 RBI and scored 23 runs with a 7.5 percent walk rate and 10.0 percent strikeout rate.
Entering his age-30 season, that could be a cause for concern … if you subscribe to the theory of ascribing a lot of meaning to numbers from a season that began almost four months later than it was supposed to, encapsulated less than 40 percent of a regular schedule and was played in front of cardboard cutouts.
But just for giggles, let’s look at the numbers Arenado produced the last time there was a non-end-of-the-world MLB season contested. That would have been way, way back in 2019, when he hit .315, posted an OPS of .962 (a career-high), played in 155 games and made 662 trips to the plate, hit 31 doubles and 41 home runs and drove in 118 runs while scoring 102.
That was with a walk rate of 9.4 percent and a strikeout rate of 14.0 percent while also (checks notes) winning his seventh Gold Glove in (checks notes again) seven major league seasons.
Let the record show he added an eighth Gold Glove in season No. 8 last year. In 2013, Arenado became just the 10th rookie to win the award, something no rookie pulled off again until Evan White of the Seattle Mariners and Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox last season.
So, this Arenado can play a bit. We’ve established this.
And in return for this, the Cardinals will reportedly send pitchers Austin Gomber, Jake Woodford and Angel Rondon to the Rockies along with first baseman Luken Baker and outfielder Jhon Torres, according to R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports.
Gomber, a left-hander, worked as both a starter and reliever for St. Louis last season, posting 1 1.86 ERA and 1.172 WHIP in 29 innings, appearing in 14 games overall, four of them starts. He walked 15 and struck out 27. Gomber worked 1.1 scoreless innings in relief in his lone outing against the San Diego Padres in last year’s playoffs.
He returned last season after not making a major-league appearance in 2019 due to biceps and shoulder injuries. Gomber was limited to 49.2 innings in the minors as he recovered. The 27-year-old debuted in June 2018 and was a fourth-round pick of the Cardinals from Florida Atlantic University in 2014.
Woodford, a right-hander, made his debut last Aug. 15 and appeared in 12 games., starting one. He posted a 5.57 ERA and 1.190 WHIP in 21 innings with five walks and 16 strikeouts. The disconnect between the ERA and WHIP can be explained this way — he allowed seven home runs. That’s right, 3.0 homers per nine innings … just what you want to bring to Coors Field, amirite?
The 24-year-old was a first-round pick in the sandwich area, 39th overall, out of high school in Tampa.
Rondon, 23, signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent in January 2016. The Dominican right-hander had not pitched above Double-A, but did spend time last year at St. Louis’ alternate training site and was added to the 40-man roster in mid-November. Rondon was a non-roster invitee to spring training (both of them) in 2020.
In 2019, Rondon was a starter and at the High-A and Double-A levels had a 2.93 ERA and 1.150 WHIP in 28 starts and 160 innings, walking 59 and striking out 159. He was named the organization’s Pitcher of the Year for his efforts.
Baker, 23, was a second-round pick from TCU in 2018 and has not played above High-A. He was a non-roster invitee last spring, but did not last long in the big camp. Baker spent all of 2019 at High-A Palm Beach, hitting .244 with a .716 OPS in 122 games and 496 plate appearances. He had 32 doubles, 10 homers, 53 RBI and scored 47 runs.
His 10.4 percent walk rate was accompanied by a 22.6 percent strikeout rate.
Torres, who will be 21 on March 29, was the No. 9 prospect in the St. Louis chain at the end of last season, according to MLB Pipeline. From Colombia, Torres was originally signed in July 2016 by the Cleveland Indians and was acquired by the Cardinals in July 2018 in exchange for Oscar Mercado and Conner Capel.
In 2019, Torres played at both the Rookie and Class-A levels, hitting .242 with a .747 OPS in 54 games and 208 plate appearances. He had 12 doubles and six home runs, with a walk rate of 12.5 percent while striking out in 31.3 percent of his trips to the plate, so he’s very much a work in progress.
Rockies fans have to be excited — or mortified — at what Bridich might be able to get for free-agents-to-be Trevor Story and Jon Gray this season. Or maybe he lets both just walk into free agency for no return. After the Nolan Arenado debacle, there’s nothing out of the realm of possibility at this point.