SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Declining to say whether he pushed to be traded, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado vowed to push past an offseason of friction between him and the front office.
“I’m just more concerned to play -- play hard and play for my teammates,” Arenado said on Sunday, as position players reported to Spring Training, with the first full-squad workout set for Monday. “Go out there and compete. That’s why I’m here. That’s what my job is to do.
“I’m excited for that, obviously. There are some things going on. I’m not too worried about them. I’m worried about going out there, getting ready for the season and doing the best I can.”
Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million contract last spring, but the Rockies -- coming off the first consecutive postseasons in club history -- crashed to 71-91. From the end of the season, fractures appeared in the club-player relationship to the point that Arenado criticized the front office and general manager Jeff Bridich for what he called “disrespect.”
But unspoken in that period was whether Arenado -- frustrated with an offseason that so far has not seen the Rockies make trades or free-agent signings for players who have Major League experience -- demanded or tried to force a trade.
Since revealing during the Winter Meetings that he was listening to teams’ proposals, Bridich has refused to discuss any aspect of the Arenado situation. Arenado -- who said, “I don’t feel I need to apologize,” for his criticisms of how he felt treated -- didn’t offer details on Sunday.
“There were different talks,” Arenado said. “I wouldn’t say it went to those lengths, but there were different things we did talk about, for sure, about where we’re headed. Other than that, I wouldn’t get into details about what was said from them or from me. I don’t think that’s fair. Those are private meetings, meetings between us two. That’s how we’ll keep it.”
Arenado did say he felt compelled to do a group text with his teammates.
“There are a lot of things I discussed with them,” Arenado said. “There were a lot of things that were thrown out there that weren’t true. … I explained it to them, and they understand.”
Arenado signed his contract, rather than waiting out the season to become a free agent, when the market was full of uncertainty. Manny Machado (Padres) and Bryce Harper (Phillies) were still waiting on their deals.
But this offseason's contracts to third basemen Anthony Rendon with the Angels (seven years, $245 million) and Josh Donaldson with the Twins (four years, $92 million) suggested Arenado might have found a deal better than the one he signed.
Arenado referred to his slow start in 2019, when he didn’t homer until the season’s 16th game. Although he dealt with the early slump, foul balls off his left big toe, shoulder pain and pitches that hit his left arm, he earned his seventh straight National League Gold Glove Award and put up his usual standout numbers.
“You don’t know. … I don’t know how, mentally, I would have been -- like, this is my career playing [out], my contract year,” he said.
Saddled with problematic contracts that they’ve been unable to unload in order to restructure the roster, the Rockies -- whose 2019 payroll set a club record, and whose 2020 payroll most likely will top that -- are counting on bounce-back seasons from some poorly performing players. The club points to a mostly young lineup and a starting pitching staff that has had good years and is still youthful.
At the end of last season, Bridich, owner Dick Monfort and manager Bud Black participated in a press conference and espoused the club’s position: Tight money meant no offseason splash. Monfort said Arenado’s ability to opt out of the contract after 2021 was “No. 775” on his list of issues. In response to an Arenado quote that the end of last season felt like a rebuild, Bridich said that if it were a rebuild, Arenado would not be on the team, and Monfort said the Rockies didn’t spend that money to rebuild.
No one knew the relationship would deteriorate. But Arenado and the Rockies remain together.
“We’re here,” Arenado said. “They believe it. They’ve said some things in the paper that they believe we can win, so I have to be optimistic. I can’t just sit here and just mope about this. I’m optimistic. It’s Spring Training. You never know what can happen.”
Does Arenado believe he deserves a voice in the plan?
“At times, I think that, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Arenado said. “And I’m OK with that. I’m not worried about being a voice. I’m more worried about being a voice to my teammates than anything else. As an organization, they’re going to do what they want to do. I don’t think I have a whole lot of say in a lot of things the organization is going to do, and that’s all right.”