Infield shift: Arenado taking on greater role
Third baseman welcomes leadership responsibilities in wake of Tulowitzki trade
DENVER -- Even before the shock of the trade of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays wore off, third baseman Nolan Arenado was answering questions about potentially being the heir apparent to Tulowitzki as the face of the Rockies' franchise.
"If that's the case, that's the case," Arenado said. "I play hard. I want to be a guy that wins. I want to win, and I want to win here. That's important. If people want to look at me as that guy, I'm not afraid to take that on. I'm OK with it."
Arenado, 24, hasn't campaigned for such a status. But if the traits for qualification to be a franchise's shining light and Arenado's attributes were compared, they'd match:
Accomplishments: Two National League Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, an All-Star Game appearance this year and, through the weekend, 86 RBIs (tied with the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt for the NL lead). Check.
Identification with the team: He was selected in the second round of the 2009 Draft and has been entrenched at his position since debuting on April 28, 2013. Check.
Availability: Arenado will likely be eligible for arbitration this offseason as a Super Two player, meaning he'll qualify despite having less than the three years' service time normally required for arbitration and will be under the Rockies' control through 2020.
Arenado acknowledges that outfielder Carlos Gonzalez -- a two-time All-Star with three Gold Gloves and an NL batting title -- "has been here a little longer and done more in this game." Gonzalez has been and will continue to be a subject of trade rumors as Colorado tries to control payroll ("CarGo" is owed $37 million from 2016-17) and improve weak areas.
The idea of identifying Arenado as the heart and soul of the Rockies is natural enough that manager Walt Weiss has already addressed it with the third baseman.
"It's going to come naturally because of how good a player he is, but my advice to him was, 'Don't change anything.'" Weiss said. "But he's got a good head on his shoulders, so he'll be fine."
These final months of a difficult season are a test. Much will be revealed through Arenado's ability to compete and produce while Colorado is evaluating its options in hopes of coming out better next season.
Arenado carried a .293 batting average into the All-Star Game and slumped immediately out of the break. Still, he has a .278 average with 29 home runs to go with his RBI total. Since the Tulowitzki deal, Arenado has hit .253, but with power -- four homers, three doubles and 12 RBIs in 19 games.
The Rockies have been held back lately by poor starts and poor hitting on the road. But Arenado said the club's attitude and effort are intact, and he wants to help keep it that way.
"We're trying to have fun, trying to enjoy what we're doing," Arenado said. "We don't like to lose. It takes a toll on everyone. I think this clubhouse understands that the main goal is to win. These young guys coming up, they may be showcasing and trying to win a spot for next year. But if they don't win games or give us a chance to win, they're not going to have a spot."
Arenado said he also has plenty of energy for all that comes with being the player Rockies fans may identify with most.
"If anything, I appreciate their support and I always have a lot of love for them, especially through these tough times," Arenado said. "I appreciate it."