Arenado: 'Happy to be here for long haul'

February 27th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nolan Arenado strolled into the Rockies clubhouse at Salt River Fields at 7:20 a.m. like it was just another day at the office.

He shook a few hands and fist bumped a few teammates as he made his way to his locker, but that’s not unusual. He was wearing a hoody, athletic shorts and a black backpack just like he always does.

There was a quick chat with teammates Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Mark Reynolds as he changed into his workout gear, and then he disappeared into the batting cages four minutes after he stepped foot into the locker room.

It’s Wednesday, and Wednesdays for Arenado are for hitting in the cage and early field work like every day of the week is. Two hours later, the Rockies announced Arenado’s eight-year, $260 million deal in a news conference on the concourse, and that’s when it finally hit him.

This was one of the biggest moments of his baseball career.

“I just want to thank God for this unbelievable blessing,” Arenado said. “All the hard work, and I’ve been healthy, and I thank God for those things. For the people that have pushed me and helped me get better, I appreciate it. I’ve had a lot of help. I can’t name everyone because I’ve had so much help, but I’m very appreciative of everything.”

Arenado’s humility and work ethic are part of the reasons why the Rockies want to keep him in their uniform until Cooperstown comes calling. The four-time All-Star is also one of the most talented and prolific players in today’s game.

“I believe, as an organization, we’ve tried to set a standard of honesty, integrity, trust, passion, love of the game, love of the organization,” Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort said. “[General manager] Jeff [Bridich] and the front office lives it every day. [Manager] Buddy [Black] lives it every day. Our players live it every day. Nolan is proof of where this standard will get you in life. He plays the game hard, he works hard, he’s passionate, and most importantly for all you fans out there, he wants to win. And that’s really what we all want to do.”

With his parents Fernando and Millie, along with brother Jonah, a Minor League player with the Giants, and agent Joel Wolfe in the front row, Arenado got emotional when he saw his teammates at the news conference. Somehow, he never noticed the highlights of his career being played on the giant video board behind him above center field. Every once in a while, he did peek over his right shoulder, but that was only to make sure he wasn’t missing batting practice.

“I’m just very happy to be here, be here for the long haul,” Arenado said. “I’m going to do my best to be a great teammate, great leader and try to help this team win and be the best third baseman I can be. To the Rockies fans, I’m not leaving. I just want you guys to know I’m back, and I couldn’t be happier to hopefully spend the rest of my career in Denver.”

Arenado’s deal includes an opt-out clause after its third season -- which would allow him to hit the free-agent market at age 30 -- along with a full no-trade clause. It could keep its superstar in Denver through 2026 and it gives Arenado, 27, the highest average annual salary in history for a position player at $32.5 million, surpassing the $31 million average annual salary benchmark set by Miguel Cabrera’s eight-year, $248 million extension with the Tigers in 2014. He could have become a free agent after the '19 season.

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and believe me, I educated myself a lot on what I really wanted, and I just felt like this was the best thing for me,” Arenado said. “I love playing with this group. I believe we have a great group. I really believe we can win. I wouldn’t make this decision if I didn’t believe that.”

Arenado has led the Rockies to back-to-back playoff appearances and has averaged 40 home runs and 126 RBIs over his past four seasons. He has won a Gold Glove Award at third base in each of his six Major League seasons and has also finished within the top five in National League Most Valuable Player voting in each of the past three years.

He already ranks within the Rockies’ top 10 players all-time in most major offensive categories.

“He’s a complete ballplayer when you break down a player, not only in pure performance and statistically, but now he’s growing as a teammate and as a leader and as player others can lean on,” Black said. “His commitment is what makes those types of players.”

The Rockies originally agreed to terms with Arenado in January on a $26 million salary for 2019 to avoid arbitration (a record for any arbitration-eligible player). The seven-year extension for $234 million starts in '20.

It’s the second year in a row the club has signed a player to long-term deal after reaching an agreement in arbitration. Last year, the Rockies reached a one-year, $14 million settlement with Blackmon in January to avoid arbitration. During the first week of the regular season they announced a six-year, $108 million agreement.

“I hope it sends a message that not only do we value pursuing a championship, but we are trying to do that with the guys that are our best players and have been around in our organization for a long period of time,” Bridich said. “We try to do well by our players, and we are not afraid to make commitments.”