The other day I asked a baseball executive I trust about the chances of the Mets making a trade for Nolan Arenado, who would be the greatest Mets third baseman since David Wright, who was the best third baseman in team history.
“Long shot” was the answer.
It may well be. But without a guarantee from new owner Steve Cohen and returning president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson that the Mets will add at least one big name this offseason -- and maybe more -- fans have been led to believe, especially by the new owner, that the team will do precisely that. Catcher James McCann is a very nice acquisition. Fans are thinking bigger than that.
They're thinking Trevor Bauer, George Springer or DJ LeMahieu as free agents. They're thinking about Francisco Lindor in a trade.
Or Arenado in a trade. Long shot or not.
Of course, any team making a trade for Arenado -- who had Hall of Fame numbers for five years before the short season of 2020 -- has to be willing to take on the remaining $199 million on his contract, one that includes an opt-out clause after next season. But it's also worth remembering that before Arenado battled a left shoulder injury and hit just eight home runs in 48 games in '20, he hit 199 home runs between '15-19.
Over that same time frame, only Nelson Cruz (204) hit more. Mike Trout hit 187. Even taking into consideration that Arenado plays at Coors Field, that is still a lot of home runs.
Everyone knows that Arenado is more than a terrific third baseman -- he is brilliant, and he can do everything at the hot corner that Manny Machado (pretty brilliant himself) can do. Since 2015, when the world began to see the kind of two-way skills Arenado has, he has been the best player in baseball that people don’t talk about nearly enough.
There was a wonderful article on MLB.com in which Andrew Simon, Sarah Langs, Mike Petriello and Manny Randhawa had a really fun roundtable debate about whether Arenado or Trevor Story was actually a better trade piece for the Rockies. The majority opinion was Story. But I believe Arenado, at 29, is a better trade piece for the Mets.
Rockies manager Bud Black still believes that both Arenado and Story will be playing for his team on Opening Day 2021.
"You know how I feel about both of those guys," Black said this week. "They're great players, and they're great Rockies. I anticipate them being on the team. I think you said it best about the rumors and speculation: In most cases, what we hear, what we read, I think is 90% of that -- rumors."
Black felt that way when there were rumors that the Dodgers might be thinking about getting Arenado to replace free agent Justin Turner -- someone who has been, in the words of his manager Dave Roberts, “a great Dodger.” Black feels that way now, too. It doesn’t change the speculation that the Rockies might be willing to move Arenado and the money remaining on his contract, as much as Black loves having Arenado play baseball for him.
“What a player,” Black told me on Thursday. “An All-Star on both sides of the ball, a good baserunner, great baseball instincts. And he wants to excel.”
Is Springer still a better bet for the Mets? Sure. He’s the center fielder they’ve been looking for since Carlos Beltrán was in his prime. He’s a free agent. All he costs is money (and a Draft pick). Cohen has said all the right things since buying the Mets. It doesn’t change the fact that Mets fans are looking for more than big talk. They are looking for a very big guy.
If the Mets don’t get Springer, then the best free-agent hitters on the market are LeMahieu and Marcell Ozuna. But the Mets have enough problems on defense, so Ozuna doesn’t help them there. After that, the two bold-face names reportedly on the Hot Stove trade market are Lindor and Arenado. And if the Rockies are seriously listening to offers for Arenado, they know that the money left on his deal and the opt-out are going to scare off some potential suitors.
Just not Cohen. He is a lifelong Mets fan. He is tired of the Mets being the other team in New York City, as all Mets fans are -- even if their team has been in a World Series (2015) more recently than the Yankees have ('09). Cohen isn’t going to tell Alderson and new general manager Jared Porter to make a loud, noisy, splashy play just for the sake of making one. It doesn’t change the fact that their fans are expecting one, and sooner rather than later.
I believe that Arenado would come to New York and do what another ex-Rockie -- LeMahieu -- has done on the other side of town. That means show everybody, on the New York stage, what he can do. Long shot? Maybe. Worth a shot? Definitely.