Nolan Arenado might be the best player in baseball who nobody talks nearly enough about. As long as he has been playing third base for the Rockies at such a (Rocky Mountain) high level, he does not turn 30 until next April. Arenado is one of just three players in the game with 200 or more home runs in the last six seasons -- the other two being Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout. Arenado has won eight straight Gold Glove Awards at third base, and in 2019 he made just nine errors. You know who else won that many Gold Glove Awards at that position? Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.
Arenado has not just been good in Denver -- he has been great. It is why the Rockies signed him to an eight-year, $260 million contract in February of 2019. Arenado has the ability to opt out of the contract after the upcoming season and he has a no-trade clause built into it, even as we all start to hear that this may be the time when the Rockies are seriously considering moving him, even within their division and even to the Dodgers, as Jon Paul Morosi reported here as a possibility last week.
And if the Rockies are thinking about moving Arenado, he goes to the top of the list of the best position players -- and best two-way players -- out there, and that list includes Francisco Lindor and MVP Award-winner Kris Bryant. Arenado is just the one who’s out there with nearly $200 million left on a contract and who is due to make more than $30 million in 2021.
Lindor has played on baseball’s greatest stage in a World Series, and did it against Bryant’s Cubs in 2016. The Rockies played their only World Series back in '07. Since Arenado went to third base for them, Colorado has had two winning seasons and has made it as far as the National League Division Series once.
Trout, who has played fewer postseason games than Arenado, isn’t going anywhere. I wrote the other day about what a game-changer Lindor could be for a contending team, just as Mookie Betts was a year ago when the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers.
No more than Arenado could be for a team that sees itself as being one star, two-way player away.
It is why the idea of Arenado to the Dodgers is so intriguing. They, with Betts playing the part of game-changer, just won the World Series. The Dodgers are loaded with a core of young talent in Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Walker Buehler. Betts and Bellinger are MVP Award winners and Seager -- who will be eligible to be a free agent after this season -- just won the MVP Award for both the NL Championship Series and World Series.
“There hasn’t been a group of four this talented, approaching or in their primes, in a generation,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told me a couple of weeks ago. “The three position players play both sides of the ball at an elite level.”
So too, does Arenado.
When I mentioned on Sunday that Arenado might be one of the most underrated players, Rockies manager Bud Black agreed.
“But inside the baseball world we all know his special talent,” Black said. “The greater public, maybe not so much. But I do think that is changing some. Time zone theory is a big reason.”
You know what adding Arenado to the Dodgers coming off a World Series victory would feel like? It would feel like the Golden State Warriors adding Kevin Durant to the mix of Steph Curry and Draymond Green after they had already won their first NBA title.
Durant was a free agent at the time, which means it was his choice to own the band. It’s always more complicated when it’s a trade for not just a star player, but for said player's long-term contract as well. But Arenado becoming a Dodger, joining that baseball band, with that amazing core that Roberts spoke about and we just saw in October, would have the same rich-getting-richer feel to it.
And remember something: The Warriors went after Durant after they’d just lost the NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Cavaliers, and then proceeded to win two more. The Dodgers just won, and look poised to be the same kind of super-team, and attraction, that the Warriors were when they won three titles in four years, and were likely on their way to making it four in five before everybody got hurt.
Imagine putting Arenado with that group in Los Angeles, even for one season. He only hit .253 with eight homers in 48 games this season, hampered by a sore left shoulder that is, by all accounts, now healed. Before that, he hit 42 homers with 130 RBIs and a .287 average in 2015, 41 homers and 133 RBIs and .294 the next year, 37 homers and 130 RBIs and .309 the year after that, 38 and 110 and .297 the year after that, 41 and 118 and .315 the year after that. All while winning eight consecutive Gold Glove Awards.
There is no bigger player out there than Arenado if the Rockies really are ready to move him. There is no scarier thought for the rest of baseball that they might be moving a baseball Durant to Dodger Stadium, where everybody would be talking about him.