The chances of a Nolan Arenado trade this offseason have climbed to around 50 percent, multiple sources told MLB.com in recent days.
But the Dodgers -- Arenado’s favorite team while growing up in Southern California -- are not the most likely destination for the All-Star third baseman.
The Rockies, sensitive to the public perception of trading a franchise player less than one year after he signed a contract extension, are wary of compounding the potential frustration of Colorado fans by dealing Arenado to a division rival.
One source said that as many as a half-dozen teams are in contact with the Rockies regarding the possibility of an Arenado trade. The Braves, Rangers and Nationals are believed to be among the group. The Cubs also loom as a possible suitor, especially if they trade former National League MVP Kris Bryant in a move to obtain young pitching.
In order to part with Arenado, the Rockies likely need to obtain a controllable first baseman or center fielder. Nationals center fielder Victor Robles is an ideal fit, but it does not appear the defending World Series champs are willing to move him in a deal for Arenado or Bryant.
One source said the Braves don’t plan to move aggressively on an Arenado trade unless free agent Josh Donaldson signs elsewhere. On paper, Atlanta is perhaps the best fit for an Arenado trade. The Braves have enough pitching to send a young starter to Colorado, and their top position-player prospects -- outfielders Cristian Pache (ranked No. 1) and Drew Waters (No. 2) and corner infielder Austin Riley -- line up with the Rockies’ areas of need.
Arenado, 28, has significant influence over where -- and if -- he moves this offseason. He has a no-trade clause, and he’s likely to leverage it in order to make sure he lands in a preferred destination, both competitively and geographically.
Arenado has spoken favorably of his experience playing for the Rockies, with whom he reached the postseason in 2017 and ‘18. In the NL West, he plays frequently near his hometown of Lake Forest, Calif., on road trips to Dodger Stadium and Petco Park. He’s not desperate to leave Denver and is likely to evaluate options carefully in the coming weeks.
Arenado has seven years and $234 million remaining on his contract, which translates to an average annual value of $33.4 million. The Nationals appear unlikely to take on all of Arenado’s remaining salary, after failing to match a similar price for their own free-agent third baseman, Anthony Rendon, who landed a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Angels.
Arenado’s opt-out clause after the 2021 season is another obstacle in talks. Suitors will be reluctant to part with high-end prospects for Arenado if they’re only going to control him for two years. It’s possible Arenado will waive the opt-out in exchange for receiving another guaranteed year on the back end of the contract.