Earlier this month, the Colorado Rockies finalized their trade sending franchise icon Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals in what amounts to a salary dump. . That is not the way it was supposed to end for Arenado and the Rockies.
"It was Nolan's choice. He wanted to move on. He just felt it was time for him to try something else out," Rockies chairman Dick Monfort told reporters following the trade. "... We honored what Nolan wanted to do and we made what we thought was the best thing we could do at the time."
Arenado, who signed an eight-year extension worth $260 million in February 2019, had grown frustrated with the team's efforts (or lack thereof) to build a contender around him. They signed one (1) major-league free agent during the 2019-20 offseason (Jose Mujica, who allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in 2020) and opened the 2020-21 offseason by telling fans they were going to cut payroll.
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GM Jeff Bridich essentially alienated Arenado, and once that happened, the writing was on the wall. The only question was when the Rockies would trade him, not if. There is no longer an official mechanism for requesting a trade in baseball, but Arenado forced the team into it with his unhappiness. Bridich's public statements only added fuel to the fire.
Without question, there are other players around baseball who would like to be traded. Maybe they're not happy with their team's direction, maybe they're blocked by another player(s) at the same position, maybe they want to be closer to home. There are countless reasons a player could want out. Very rarely do they go public with those requests, however.
With that in mind, here are four players who wouldn't be wrong to demand a trade a la Arenado. To be clear, we're not saying these players should request a trade. We're saying that if they did request a trade, we'd understand. (Players listed in alphabetical order).
1. Miguel Andujar, Yankees
Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar is no stranger to the trade rumor circuit. The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up has been mentioned as a trade candidate since his days as a prospect, yet the Yankees have held on to him. Now Andujar is a player without a position and without a defined role.
Andujar, 26 in March, authored a .297/.328/.527 batting line with an American League rookie record tying 47 doubles in 2018, but a shoulder injury limited him to 12 games in 2019, and allowed Gio Urshela to swoop in and take the third base job. Last year Andujar went back and forth between MLB and the alternate site, and his agent was none too pleased.
"For him not to be playing Major League Baseball games at this stage of the year, especially after he's just demonstrated that he's still physically capable of giving a higher level higher than average production, it's extremely frustrating to not be suiting up every night in New York," (agent Ulises) Cabrera said. "Although his dream from the very beginning was to do so in pinstripes, that doesn't take priority over just playing baseball. Miguel Andujar should be playing for a Major League Baseball team, and a Major League Baseball game tonight."
"I think any person who's involved in the business of baseball understands that there's a large charade that has continued to be played when it comes to controlling assets, meaning players that are young, and productive," Cabrera said. "It's clear that it's highly beneficial for baseball teams to control high quality assets for as long as possible."
Cabrera played all the hits. He accused the Yankees of service-time manipulation ("there's a large charade that has continued to be played when it comes to controlling assets") and not so subtly suggested Andujar would welcome a new organization ("Although his dream from the very beginning was to do so in pinstripes, that doesn't take priority over just playing baseball").
The Yankees kept Andujar at the alternate site long enough last year to push back his free agency and avoid Super Two status -- Andujar will now become a free agent after 2024 rather than after 2023 -- and it should be noted he recently hired a new agent. He is no longer represented by Cabrera, who made all those angry comments in September.
Yankees' Miguel Andujar has hired The MAS+ Agency. Reunites with Francis Marquez, who repped the young hitter in 2017 and 2018.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 2, 2021
Does the agent change indicate Andujar would like to remain with the Yankees? Unclear. What is clear is he would be best served in another organization. Urshela is a superior defender and has hit .310/.358/.523 the last two years, and he is under team control through 2023, so he's not going anywhere. Andujar is also blocked ...
That's rough. Andujar does not have a clear path to playing time with the Yankees and, to make matters worse, he has a minor-league option remaining, so the Yankees can easily stash him in Triple-A in 2021. He doesn't want that. Andujar is all the way back from shoulder surgery and wants to play every day, and show everyone he's back to where he was in 2018.
Andujar is young enough and talented enough (and under control long enough) that more than a few teams around baseball would have trade interest, especially if they could get him for pennies on the dollar. The Rockies could use a third baseman to kick off the post-Arenado era, for example. The Athletics and Mariners could use a DH. The Orioles could use a little of everything.
If Andujar were to request a trade, the Yankees would be under no obligation to trade him, but clearly a move to a new organization would be the best thing for him. The Yankees don't have much playing time to offer and his rookie season was too good to accept role player status at age 26. No young player on a contender needs a trade more than Andujar.
2. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
How are things going in Cleveland post-Francisco Lindor? Well, team president Chris Antonetti is already recycling the old "we expect him to be with us on Opening Day" line with Jose Ramirez, except he's mixing up the positions.
Chris Antonetti, on any chance the team might trade José Ramírez: “I have every expectation that José will be our starting shortstop on Opening Day.”— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) February 4, 2021
“I misspoke. Sorry, third baseman. I’m used to saying the last one.”
Not great! For what it's worth, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reports Cleveland is not interested in trading Ramirez, which makes sense. Why would you to trade an MVP-caliber performer signed to an affordable long-term contract? Ramirez turned only 28 in September and he's owed $33 million through 2023, assuming his two club options are picked up. He's crazy valuable.
The thing is, if you're Ramirez, why would you want to stay with Cleveland? The team traded franchise player and good buddy Lindor, not to mention clubhouse leader Carlos Carrasco, all while the Twins and White Sox are loading up for 2021. , but did you know Cleveland has lost eight straight postseason games and 11 of its last 13 postseason games? It's true.
Cleveland has such good pitching and just enough offense that FanGraphs projections have the team within striking distance of an AL wild card spot. Winning with Ramirez is doable, but, with the club slashing payroll and the next Lindor not walking through the door anytime soon, I wouldn't blame Ramirez for wanting to play for a team with a better chance to go to the World Series and, frankly, a deeper commitment to winning. (The Braves are an oh so obvious trade partner.)
History suggests Cleveland will trade Ramirez at some point. Maybe not this year, maybe not even next year, but at some point before he becomes a free agent. They've traded away everyone from Lindor to Mike Clevinger to Corey Kluber to Shin-Soo Choo to Cliff Lee to CC Sabathia to Bartolo Colon to Roberto Alomar. On and on the list goes. Ramirez will be next and it would be understandable if he wants to get it over with sooner rather than later.
3. Trevor Story, Rockies
The Rockies had the seventh-worst winning percentage in baseball from 2019-20 and they didn't figure to be any good in 2021 even with Arenado. Without him, forget it. It's ugly. FanGraphs projections have them as a bottom-two team at every position except right field (Charlie Blackmon), shortstop (Trevor Story), and the rotation (sixth worst). Yikes.
Story is a star. He turned only 28 in November, and he's put up a .292/.355/.554 batting line while playing in 361 of 384 possible games since 2018. Adjusted for the zero gravity of Coors Field, and he's still been 22 percent better than the league average at the plate those three years. Also, Story is sneaky great defensively. His plus-45 defensive runs saved since 2016 are third most among all shortstops, trailing only Andrelton Simmons (plus-93) and Nick Ahmed (plus-71).
Here's the problem for the Rockies: Story is a year away from free agency and why in the world would he want to sign a long-term extension after having a front row seat for the Arenado fiasco? Sure, put $300 million in front of him and he might change his mind. Absent that, it's hard to think Story is eager to sign with Colorado long-term. Escaping the dysfunction and playing for a contender figure to be his top priorities as a free agent.
And, truth be told, Story requesting a trade would be beneficial for him and the Rockies. He's the only player in this post who would help his team by requesting a trade. The Rockies are reportedly unwilling to discuss Story in trades ...
So far, the indication from the Colorado Rockies is that they're not willing to discuss shortstop Trevor Story in any trade proposals. Yet. He'll be a free agent in the fall.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 3, 2021
... even though they should. They're going to be bad with or without him in 2021, and you don't want to lose him for nothing (nothing but a dinky compensation draft pick, I should say) as a free agent next offseason. As painful as it may be, the Rockies should be looking to trade Story for a bushel of prospects right now. They already pulled the Arenado band-aid off, right? Why stop there?
Nearly all the clubs that needed a shortstop this offseason have already added a shortstop, though Story is so good that I reckon more than a few teams would happily bring him aboard and figure out how the pieces fit later. The Reds badly need a shortstop. Contenders or postseason bubble teams like the Athletics, Blue Jays, Brewers, Giants, and Marlins could all make room for Story. Trading him now would be the best thing for Story and the Rockies.
4. Mike Trout, Angels
The mother of all "I'd understand if he requested a trade" players. The Angels have played three postseason games during the Mike Trout era, and they were all losses during the 2014 ALDS. Seven years ago now. The Halos have not had a winning record since 2015, and what have they done to reinforce the pitching the last few years? This:
- 2019: Signed Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill.
- 2020: Signed Julio Teheran and traded for Dylan Bundy.
- 2021: Signed Jose Quintana and traded for Alex Cobb.
Bundy worked at very well! General rule of thumb though: Orioles castoffs won't solve your pitching problems, yet the Angels went back to that well with Cobb. Cahill, Harvey, and Teheran all actively hurt the team, and Quintana and Cobb are the kind of moves that would have been great in 2014. In 2021? Eh.
Similar to Arenado, Trout made his bed by signing long-term with the Angels. And, similar to Arenado, Trout has every right to be underwhelmed by the club's efforts to build a contender around him. To be fair, the Rockies never gave Arenado an Anthony Rendon, but I refer you back to that list of pitchers the Angels acquired the last few winters. The Astros won't have George Springer or Justin Verlander in 2021, and the A's have taken a step back. The AL West is winnable, and that's Anaheim's plan? Really?
"The biggest thing is getting to the playoffs. You guys see it. I see it. It sucks being out of it. It's time. We got to get to the playoffs," Trout told reporters, including Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, after the team was elimination from the postseason race last September. "I don't like losing. I want to get to the playoffs. I think that every time we come into spring, our main goal is to get to the playoffs and bring a championship back to Anaheim. That's just the mind-set. You come up short and you're that close, it sucks."
Trout turns 30 in August and chances are we are closer to the end of his reign as the best player in baseball than the beginning, and that should scare the heck out of the Angels. It should scare Trout too. He is not a generational player, he is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and his team has been unable to build a contender around him. Trout is a legitimate 10-WAR player. All the Angels have to do is put a .500-ish team around him to get to October, but that has proven to be a bridge too far.
If Trout ever voiced his displeasure with the Angels and essentially forced a trade, the Angels would have shockingly little leverage in talks. First and foremost, Trout has a full no-trade clause, so he is in complete control of his situation. And second, he is owed $35.45 million a year from 2021-30. He has 10 years and $354.5 million remaining on his contract and only a few teams can afford that (or are willing to afford it). The trade market for the best player on the planet may not be as robust as you'd expect.
Point is, the Angels have not been to the postseason in seven years and have not had a winning record in six years, and their offseason to date has been decidedly meh. If Trout is growing frustrated with the team (how could he not?) and wanted out, I would not blame him at all. It would be in the game's best interests to get Trout into the postseason every single year. Maybe MLB should make the trade request on Trout's behalf, for the good of the game.