After a weekend of haggling, Nolan Arenado is officially a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals and Colorado Rockies completed the six-player trade Monday night, and to entice Arenado to waive his no-trade clause, a second opt-out was added to his contract, as was another guaranteed year at $15 million. Arenado can now opt out after 2021 and 2022.
"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, including MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, on Tuesday. "... We honored what Nolan wanted to do and we made what we thought was the best thing we could do at the time."
The Cardinals have a history of acquiring big name players and keeping them in St. Louis. They traded for impending free agent Mark McGwire in 1997, then signed him long-term. They traded for impending free agent Scott Rolen in 2002, then signed him long-term. They traded for impending free agent Matt Holliday in 2009, and signed him long-term too. Notice a pattern?
"I plan on sticking around. So, that's my goal," Arenado told reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, during his introductory conference call Tuesday. "I plan on staying here for a long time. I've said that once in Colorado, but truly, I mean it. I expect to be here a long time. I'm not worried about that."
For all intents and purposes, Arenado is an impending free agent, it's just that his contract for 2022 and beyond has already been negotiated. The opt out allows him to walk away after the season. Arenado says he plans on staying with the Cardinals and that's great, though he kind of has to say that. You can't come out and say you're planning to use your opt out on Day 1.
History suggests Arenado will fall in love with St. Louis and remain with the team long-term though, and I expect it to happen. He's a perfect fit for the Cardinals, that's for sure, and the Cardinals are a good fit for Arenado. He wants to win a championship and St. Louis puts a competitive team on the field every season. (The NL Central is not exactly a powerhouse division either.)
The Arenado trade makes the Cardinals the NL Central favorites on paper and also according to the projection systems. SportsLine says the team's division title odds increased a healthy 8.2 percentage points with the trade ...
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... and FanGraphs projections have St. Louis as the best team in the division. The Cubs (Yu Darvish trade) and Reds (Trevor Bauer likely leaving as a free agent) have taken a step back this offseason, the Brewers haven't really done anything, and the Pirates are in a full-blown rebuild. The division title is there for the taking.
"We might not be done. We're still looking at things," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters, including MLB.com's Jon Morosi, on Tuesday. "... With the addition of Nolan, we went from a good to great team."
The Cardinals re-signed Adam Wainwright and are expected to re-sign Yadier Molina, but as our Dayn Perry noted, St. Louis needed to do more than simply bring back two franchise icons. Trading for Arenado certainly helps. The Cardinals could still use help in the outfield though, as well as in the bullpen, and they have two weeks until spring training to add more reinforcements.
"Hopefully we get the best catcher back, and we'll keep it moving," Arenado said Tuesday, according to Goold. "That's enticing enough to me. I know they care about winning, and I believe they do everything we can to win."