Arenado breaks his silence on rumors

December 24th, 2019

DENVER -- Until Monday, Rockies third baseman had been silent.

Starting with the Winter Meetings, teams have asked about his availability in trades. The club has listened. The baseball world has speculated about possible trades, the rest of the seven years and $234 million remaining on a contract that includes a full no-trade provision and an opt-out clause after 2021, and how he feels about the club’s quiet offseason.

Ready for what he had to say?

“I’m getting ready like I do every year,” said Arenado.

That’s as much of his soul as he chooses to bare publicly.

Actually, he did speak Friday, the best way he knows: through the team’s Twitter account.

The Rangers are reported to be fascinated with the idea of him serving as the heir to future Hall of Famer Adrián Beltré, who spent much of his career in Texas (and was a player Arenado patterned himself after).

But as far as observers know, the Rangers are like other teams who have spoken to the Rockies. The talks lack the fire that comes with actual discussion of the haul the Rockies would no doubt demand, what the Rockies would be willing to do for a trade partner in terms of finances, or even what problematic contracts the Rox could unload.

And by commenting solely on the fact he is preparing -- as the tweet shows -- Arenado stayed out of the fray.

The Rockies haven’t backed off from public pronouncements that they expect to contend rather than reboot -- that they’re more accurately viewed as the team that was contemplating additions at the Trade Deadline, not the one that fell apart out of the All-Star break.

Owner Dick Monfort, general manager Jeff Bridich and manager Bud Black ended the season by insisting that they didn’t sign Arenado for all that money just to rebuild less than a year later. Because the Rockies have not made a move toward someone who could replace Arenado’s prodigious production, even the most breathless stories come to the conclusion that a trade is unlikely.

The key part of their strategy is expecting bounce-back performances from starting (Kyle Freeland) and relief pitchers (Wade Davis among them), better health from first baseman Daniel Murphy (.279, 13 home runs in 78 games) at the end of his two-year, $24 million deal, and the benefit of another year’s experience from outfielder David Dahl (.302, 15 HR, 61 RBIs in 100 games) and second baseman Ryan McMahon (.250, 24 HR, 83 RBIs in 141 games).

The problem with that pronouncement is few 71-91 teams expect to get better while remaining largely the same. Example: the White Sox finished 2019 a game better, and have signed pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, and catcher Yasmani Grandal. The Rockies, meanwhile, have not signed a co-catcher for Tony Wolters, with a tight payroll being speculated as the reason.

But in one important way, the Rockies and White Sox aren’t the same.

The Rockies went to the postseason in 2017 and '18 while the White Sox went through a total rebuild. Of the key players then, only Charlie Blackmon (34) will be in his 30s in 2020, meaning Arenado (age-29 season), Trevor Story (27) and Dahl (26) presumably are either in or entering their prime years, as are key starting pitchers German Márquez (25), Jon Gray (28) and Freeland (27).

What’s left to conjecture is whether the Rockies …

a) were surpassed on the talent scale by the D-backs (who signed pitcher Madison Bumgarner) and Padres (who traded for outfielder Tommy Pham and made some free-agent pitching pickups).

b) lost ground to the seven-time defending National League West champion Dodgers, who ran away with the division in 2019 but had to play a 163rd game against the Rockies to claim the '18 crown. Dodger fans, who saw pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu reach a reported deal with the Blue Jays on Sunday and free agent Rich Hill likely out until June, all while fretting over bullpen depth and the extensive history of postseason shortcomings, may disagree.

The wildly divergent beams that emerge from the Rockies’ prism create tension. The team’s assessment. The fan base’s fear that it’s all falling apart. Speculation over whether Arenado feels the Rockies’ young core of position players and starting pitchers are good enough to justify this quiet winter. These have all combined to make this trade speculation Denver’s favorite baseball chew toy.

By making Monday’s simple statement, Arenado chose not to bite.