Third basemen Anthony Rendon signed a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Angels this offseason. Mike Moustakas, a long-time third baseman, signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Reds, though they intend to play him at second base. Josh Donaldson is still entertaining multiple offers after a standout bounce-back year with the Braves.
But the list of teams interested in impact third basemen is still robust, and trades could happen. Kris Bryant is rumored to be available, though nothing will be done until his service-time dispute with the Cubs is sorted out. There are no such complications with Nolan Arenado, the Rockies’ perennial All-Star and MVP candidate — he’s finished in the top eight of the NL MVP voting each of the past five years for the Rockies.
The Arenado rumors started in San Diego, during the Winter Meetings, and were reheated as the calendar flipped to 2020.
Sources: Nolan Arenado has roughly a 50/50 chance of being traded, with a half-dozen teams having checked in, as I just reported on @MLBNetwork. The #Dodgers are *not* the most likely destination, as #Rockies prefer not to trade Arenado in the division. @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 2, 2020
Trading Arenado won’t be simple, of course.
Let’s start with this: Arenado has full-no-trade protection, a perk of the eight-year, $260 million deal he signed with the Rockies. He’s not waving that right for anything other than a small number of franchises that are set up to be a regular World Series contender, something that doesn’t look likely in Colorado.
And there are seven years and $234 million remaining on that deal, with is no small amount for a team to take on, even though he’s been as consistent and productive and healthy as any superstar in baseball over the past five years. Also, finding a balance between the amount of money the Rockies are willing to include in the deal and the level of elite prospects another team is willing to include would be tricky. Oh, and he has an opt-out clause after two years, so teams would have to be aware of the possibility of selling the prospect farm for him, only for him to walk after two years.
So chances are, he’s not going anywhere. Teams are calling because Arenado would make them better, and the Rockies are listening because they’d be silly not to. But that doesn’t mean they’re actively shopping their All-Star at the hot corner.
But they’re listening, which means a trade isn’t impossible. Let’s look at five teams that should/could be interested.
Why this could work: Even though the Rockies, as Morosi points out, would rather not trade Arenado within the NL West, we can’t ignore that the Dodgers have the prospects and the money and the motivation to make this happen. The Dodgers have been the best team in the National League over the past few years, but they fell short in the World Series in 2017 and 2018, and then fell short of even making the World Series in 2019 despite a dominant regular season. And this offseason has been a series of frustrations, with free agents choosing to sign with other teams. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said in San Diego that this was as aggressive as he’s seen the front office on the free-agent market, but that goes for the “upgrade by any way possible” discussion, too. Incumbent third baseman Justin Turner has already agreed to move positions, a conversation that happened because they were heavy into the Rendon rumors, and they’ve shown interest in Donaldson as well. So, of course, Arenado makes sense, too. The Dodgers could easily make that payroll number happen.
Why this could work: The Rangers’ interest in Anthony Rendon was well-known. They’re moving into a new stadium for 2020, and future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre retired after the 2019 campaign. The hot corner in Texas needs a superstar third baseman. Now that Rendon has chosen the Angels, Arenado fits the same profile.
Why this could work: Speaking of Rendon, if the Nationals’ playoff hero chose to continue his career elsewhere, so the reigning World Series champs will need a third baseman. The common thought it they’ll try hard to sign Donaldson, but they’re not the only team with their eyes on JD. And replacing a superstar third baseman with a different superstar third baseman isn’t a bad Plan B.
Why this could work: Not to be a broken record, but if the Braves don’t bring back Donaldson, they’ll need a third baseman, too. Sound familiar? With Arenado, at least, there’s the possibility of a lesser financial burden than Rendon would have guaranteed. Could be that the Braves choose to send more to the Rockies in the way of young players/elite prospects, and the Rockies would respond by paying more of Arenado’s salary than they would in a deal with a lesser prospect package. And make no mistake: The Braves are loaded with young players/elite prospects and could absolutely make this happen.
Why this could work: This is the year the rebuilding White Sox plan to jump into contention, and they’ve made several moves toward that goal so far: Signing free agents Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, while trading for Nomar Mazara. But you really want to inject a competitive, driven superstar into that lineup? Trade for Arenado, then move Yoan Moncada back to second base. Like the Dodgers and Braves, the White Sox have plenty of young players/prospects to send to Colorado.
Why this could work: They haven’t really been connected to Rendon or Donaldson, but the Cardinals’ interest in Arenado over the years hasn’t exactly been a secret, and they have the payroll flexibility to take on his contract. They’d have to adjust their budget, but they could make it happen. And it just so happens that, heading into 2020, they need a cleanup hitter and they could probably use a third baseman — Matt Carpenter’s best days seem to be behind him, if 2019 is any indication, and Tommy Edman’s versatility is incredibly valuable.