It's done! What Arenado brings to Cardinals

February 9th, 2021

The Cardinals’ interest in has been longstanding. And for good reason. With eight Gold Gloves (four of them Platinum) four Silver Sluggers and five All-Star nods, he more than capably fills a lagging spot in the club’s 2021 lineup. Arenado’s renegotiated contract added a year to make it run through '27, and despite opt-outs following these next two seasons, he’s publicly stated his long-term commitment to St. Louis.

That’s what made the years-long effort to bring him east crucial for the Cardinals. Not only do they believe it’s a win-now move, but it's also a win-long move.

“I would call this a red-letter day for the Redbirds,” chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said during Arenado’s introductory Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “... Having a player like Nolan, playing third base and setting an example for particularly some of the young talented players we have -- and veterans as well -- it just uplifts our team overall.”

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

The blockbuster trade with the Rockies -- reported on Friday, made official on Monday and brandished on Tuesday -- catapults the Cardinals into one of the 2021 season’s top contenders.

After an offseason of quiet, with the club not signing its first MLB deal until the same day the Arenado trade was initially reported (Adam Wainwright on a one-year pact), St. Louis was immediately thrust to the forefront of the offseason, crafting a starting lineup that could look like this on Opening Day:

  1. Tommy Edman, 2B
  2. Paul DeJong, SS
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  5. Dylan Carlson, OF
  6. Yadier Molina, C
  7. Tyler O'Neill, OF
  8. Harrison Bader, OF

“When I talk to other players about Nolan and what impresses them about him, it always came back to how hard he works, desire to learn, high baseball IQ,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “And those types of things are just very attractive to a team.”

• Arenado adds one year onto 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

At least for 2021, the Cardinals have found a bat that will complement that of Goldschmidt -- another star acquired via trade -- who will dazzle with the glove across the diamond. What Goldschmidt lacked in '20 was protection; St. Louis’ cleanup hitters slashed just .198/.322/.380 last season.

Arenado said the Cardinals were an ideal club to waive his no-trade clause for because of their commitment to winning -- “13 straight winning seasons” -- and how the roster is set up to compete within his contract’s timeframe. It also helps to have longstanding relationships with Goldschmidt, a former USA Baseball teammate, and vacation partner Matt Carpenter.

“We might not be done,” Mozeliak said. “We're still looking at things that might transpire between now and the time we get down to [Spring Training]. There's always opportunities and we're going to continue to keep looking, but with the addition of Nolan, we think, you know, we went from good to great team.”

Granted, Arenado missed time in 2020 with soreness in the A/C joint in his left shoulder and hit a career-low .253 with eight homers across 48 games. But that was coming off a career-best .315 with 41 homers and 118 RBIs in '19. And he believes that ailment has been put to rest.

“I feel really good again, I'm not worried about it,” he said Tuesday. “... 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.”

The Cardinals retooled without mortgaging their future. Heading to Colorado are left-hander Gomber, infield prospects Montero (St. Louis’ No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and Gil (No. 22), and right-handers Locey (No. 19) and Sommers.

Gomber was set to compete for a rotation spot in the spring, but the remainder of the moving pieces fall outside the Cardinals’ top crop of prospects. Most notably, St. Louis was able to hold onto its most prized prospects -- Carlson (No. 1 in the system, per MLB Pipeline), third baseman Nolan Gorman (No. 2), lefty Matthew Liberatore (No. 3) and lefty Zack Thompson (No. 5). Carlson is expected to impact the big league club in 2021.

Still to be seen is how this move -- bringing in a franchise third baseman with the chance to remain a Cardinal until 2027 -- alters the development of Gorman, the No. 38 prospect in baseball with an MLB ETA of ‘22.

That is just one of the countless questions, discussions and debates to be had over the course of Spring Training and the 2021 season. Questions that didn’t exist at the close of business hours on Friday.

But for now: Soak it in, Cardinals fans. It is real.