ST. LOUIS -- In an offseason that figures to have plenty of moving pieces as the Cardinals retool their roster to replace retiring icons Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, the club’s first order of business was taken care of as superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado informed the team that he would not be opting out of his contract to become a free agent.
Arenado, who is up for his 10th consecutive Gold Glove and is coming off a seventh season with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, told the Cardinals that he is committed to them long term, the team announced on Sunday.
Arenado, who turns 32 in April, has five years and $144 million left on his contract, which takes him through the 2027 season. The Rockies, who Arenado played with for eight seasons prior to a 2021 trade to St. Louis, will pay $31.5 million of that remaining money, including $16 million in 2023.
Per the terms of his contract, Arenado had until five days after the conclusion of the World Series to decide whether he wanted to opt out and become a free agent.
Arenado was a part of a division-winning squad for the first time in his 10-year career in 2022, slashing .293/.358/.533 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs. His 7.9 WAR according to Baseball Reference was tops in the National League -- just ahead of teammate Paul Goldschmidt’s 7.8 -- and second only to Aaron Judge (10.6) among MLB position players.
Last week, Arenado was announced as a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, which he has won in each of his nine MLB seasons.
Cardinals president John Mozeliak said earlier in the week that he traveled to Southern California to talk with Arenado. Mozeliak said Arenado wanted to know about a potential rise in the team’s payroll, and what the plans are to rebuild the roster following the losses of Pujols and Molina.
“He’s just trying to use his time and sort through some things,” Mozeliak said of Arenado on Wednesday. “He asked questions of how we’re thinking about the club, what we’re thinking about in the future and topics like, ‘How are we going to deploy our resources?’ It was a very positive conversation.”
Veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright, who announced earlier in the week that he would be returning for the 2023 season before heading off into retirement, said he and Goldschmidt had spent recent weeks lobbying Arenado to return to the Cardinals. Wainwright said the team's tendency to contend for the playoffs and for a championship on a yearly basis ranked high on Arenado’s wish list. Arenado also liked that the Cardinals drew 3.3 million fans to Busch Stadium this past season -- second only to the Dodgers -- and that Pujols and Molina were showered with ovations throughout their final seasons with the Cardinals.
“Nolan wants to be here, and he wants to win,” Wainwright said. “We give him a great chance to win the World Series every year, and not many teams can say that. ... We have that year in and year out, and it’s a rare thing. He knows that, and he loves playing in front of our fans. I never get in the way of [free agency], but I do always try to work to get him back here because he’s a special talent. There’s not many like him in the world.”
Like many of his teammates, Arenado struggled in the playoffs as the Cardinals lost two straight games to the Phillies in the Wild Card Series. Despite hitting several balls hard -- including a drive into the left-center gap that left the bat at 107 mph and fell just short of the wall in Game 1 -- he was 1-for-8 with two strikeouts. The Cardinals' 2-0 Game 2 loss to the Phillies was the only time all season that Arenado and Goldschmidt both struck out at least twice in the same game.