Arenado hopes to be a Card 'for a long time'

February 2nd, 2021

Two trips to St. Louis stick out to . The first was his rookie year, when Troy Tulowitzki instructed him to observe how the Cardinals conduct themselves on the field, doing “the little things to win ballgames.” The second came years later, when his diving stops at third base were met with almost-jealous applause and Charlie Blackmon received an ovation because a miscommunication to those at Busch Stadium made it seem like it was his Major League debut.

Those events grabbed Arenado’s attention, giving him a sample of the “respect for good play” St. Louis holds -- even for opponents. They’re part of what made waiving his no-trade clause to join the Cardinals in the offseason’s biggest blockbuster an exciting reality.

And they’re part of what made him say this:

“I plan on sticking around. That's my goal. I plan on staying here for a long time.”

Cardinals get: 3B Nolan Arenado, cash considerations
Rockies get: LHP Austin Gomber, INF Elehuris Montero, RHP Tony Locey, INF Mateo Gil and RHP Jake Sommers

Arenado holds player opt-outs after the 2021 and ‘22 seasons as part of the contract renegotiation that required special approval and was central to completing this six-player swap between the Rockies and Cardinals. The renegotiation also added a year onto his deal (now through ‘27).

But if there were any doubts about Arenado’s commitment to staying long term, Tuesday’s 40-minute introductory Zoom press conference seemed to quell such fears.

“I said that once in Colorado, but truly, I mean, it,” Arenado said. “I expect to be here for a long time. I'm not worried about that.

“I didn't want to jump the gun and get too excited, but once I heard that it was done, I was thrilled,” he later added. “... Coming to a team like St. Louis with great players and great history, I'm just super excited. I've always admired this organization from afar.”

• Arenado adds one year to his contract (now through 2027)
• Rockies agree to send $51 million to Cardinals for Arenado’s salary
• Arenado waives no-trade clause to facilitate trade, but will attain it back in St. Louis
• Opt-outs after 2021 and ‘22

So induced a collective sigh of relief across the Cardinals fanbase, ending a marathon five days for an organization that vaulted from one of the offseason’s quietest clubs straight into the upper echelon of World Series contenders. Relief for the organization came in the form of a deal that saw numerous complexities to move a superstar east.

“When you have an opportunity to get premium players from other clubs, for whatever reason, it’s incumbent upon us to bring them to St. Louis,” said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. who alluded to similar cases in Matt Holliday, Scott Rolen and Mark McGwire. “Many of them, of course, have contributed to our championships. … And Nolan certainly fits right into that group and is a premium player.”

It wasn’t a simple marriage. The Cardinals have had their eyes on Arenado dating back to last offseason, but when traction picked up this past December, the albatross of megadeal restructuring arose. Doing so required permission from MLB and the MLB Players Association. A hectic weekend passed between first reporting of a trade to final approval.

“You ask the question to Nolan, like how he felt over the last, like, 10 days,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “I can tell you, like the last week or so, I kept feeling nauseous, like I just felt like something was going to go wrong. …

“It just took a lot of patience on everyone's side to get it to where we are, and just grateful for everybody's participation to get a finish line.”

There was a sigh for Arenado, too. His future has long captured headlines, including public sparring with his former club. But now, in St. Louis, there is no more worry about the future. Arenado can just get back to what he does best -- a renowned work ethic and an unadulterated love for baseball.

“I made this decision based on hopefully going to a competitive team, a team that has great tradition,” Arenado said. “And I believe St. Louis has that.”

Arenado plugs two holes for the Cardinals in one move: a Gold Glove to make up for the loss of Kolten Wong, and a bat to protect fellow star Paul Goldschmidt. Close friends and USA Baseball teammates, Arenado and Goldschmidt are under contract together for at least three seasons -- Goldschmidt through 2024 and now Arenado through ‘27. Seeing how the Cards’ roster is built -- and how the club is ready to contend riding 13 consecutive winning seasons -- was enticing to Arenado.

“That's something I'm not worried about with St. Louis,” said Arenado, who experienced just two winning seasons in Colorado. “They always bring up guys that are ready to go, you know, and they always go about producing players that are ready to go and contribute.”

Arenado, however, is coming off a down 2020 season that saw him hit a career-low .253. He was hampered by soreness in the A/C joint in his left shoulder, something that carried into the first month of this offseason but has settled down now.

“I feel really good again, I'm not worried about it,” he said. “... I feel like I'm in a better place now. My swing is better and I can finish high again. I expect to be back to normal and being back to who I am. Last year was a tough year, but I know I'm better than that.”

Arenado cherishes the time he spent in Colorado, the relationships he built, the experiences he endured and the development he saw to become one of the game's premier players. But now it’s time to start anew. He had the power to approve which team he could join. There’s no secret why it was St. Louis.

“I'm excited to join the staff, because this team has more playoff experience than I've ever had,” he said. “I'm just a piece of the puzzle here. And I'm excited to be a part of this group. I know they're going to help me and guide me along, just like I can help them. So it's going to be a lot of fun.”

Of course, Arenado still holds the inherent power of his opt-outs. But he’s now publicly committed long term. No matter how it shakes out, the Cardinals, over the past week, have changed the conversation -- of their follow-through, of their 2021 commitment, of their desire to do what’s necessary to compete.

“I'm sure a lot of teams wish they were sitting where we are today,” Mozeliak said.