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How Donaldson deal impacts Arenado, Bryant

Trade markets for both third-base stars could heat up
@jonmorosi
January 14, 2020

The chances of a Nolan Arenado trade increased over the past week. They inched even higher Tuesday night, with Mark Feinsand’s report that Josh Donaldson had agreed to a four-year contract with the Twins. Many in the industry expected the Braves to retain Donaldson after he hit 37 home runs

The chances of a Nolan Arenado trade increased over the past week.

They inched even higher Tuesday night, with Mark Feinsand’s report that Josh Donaldson had agreed to a four-year contract with the Twins.

Many in the industry expected the Braves to retain Donaldson after he hit 37 home runs with a .900 OPS for them last year. Unless Atlanta makes a big move, the team is poised to open the season with a combination of Austin Riley and Johan Camargo at third base -- and no proven cleanup hitter.

While the Braves have yet to move aggressively to trade for Arenado or Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, that could change in the coming days.

In some ways, the mere possibility of the talent-rich Braves trading for Arenado or Bryant is likely to bid up the asking price on both players, possibly to the level where the Rockies and Cubs, respectively, are comfortable striking deals.

The Braves are a preferred trade partner for the Rockies or Cubs, based on possessing one of MLB’s best farm systems, with a blend of young pitchers and position players at or near the Major League level.

The Nationals -- defending World Series champions and the Braves’ division rival -- are a more likely suitor for Bryant than Arenado, in part because the money left on Arenado’s contract ($234 million over seven years) is viewed as too substantial for the Nationals’ payroll structure.

A Bryant trade is complicated by multiple factors: The Cubs, who are disinclined to begin a rebuild, likely would insist on Major League talent in return; Bryant’s $18.6 million salary for 2020 is cumbersome for some teams to add this late in the offseason; and an arbitrator has yet to rule on whether Bryant will become a free agent after 2020 or 2021, which has a dramatic impact on his value in the marketplace. He is currently slated to be a free agent after the 2021 campaign, but that could change, depending on how his hearing goes.

The Cardinals and Rangers have shown active interest in Arenado over the past several days, but sources say neither team was close to trading for him as of Tuesday evening. Arenado’s opt-out following the 2021 season has made officials with the Cardinals and Rangers wary of giving up top talent for him, sources say.

One source confirmed the Cardinals have no plans to include their No. 1 prospect, outfielder Dylan Carlson, in an offer for Arenado. However, the team’s other top prospects according to MLBPipeline.com — third baseman Nolan Gorman, left-hander Matthew Liberatore or catcher Andrew Knizner — could be in play during Arenado discussions.

The Rangers, meanwhile, are intent on adding a significant hitter to their lineup -- Arenado or Bryant via trade, or Nicholas Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna in free agency. Texas has a number of compelling prospects in its system to offer the Rockies, including catcher Sam Huff, who would address Colorado’s long-term need at the position.

The White Sox have been viewed within the industry as a long-shot possibility to trade for Arenado -- a move that almost certainly would cost third baseman Yoán Moncada or standout second-base prospect Nick Madrigal. It’s also not clear if Arenado -- who has a full no-trade clause -- would approve a trade to the White Sox, given his comfort in playing in the National League and general preference for West Coast cities.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.