On the latest edition of "Big Time Baseball," RADIO.COM MLB Insider Jon Heyman said that the Colorado Rockies' third baseman Nolan Arenado is as available as Cleveland Indians' shortstop Francisco Lindor this winter, a rather jarring development when you consider that it's seen as a matter of when, not if Lindor is ultimately dealt.
Arenado, who will turn 30 next April, is entering just the third season of an eight-year/$260 million extension with the Rockies. However, Arenado can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next winter, something he may very well do if he's still employed by the Rockies, given that they have failed to keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the National League West.
An eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, Arenado posted 15 defensive runs saved in the shortened 2020 season, continuing to cement himself as one of the most dominant defensive players in the history of the sport. Though you do have to wonder how long he can sustain this level of defensive prowess, there's no reason to think that there will be any decline from him in the field next season.
What is interesting are the home/road offensive splits that Arenado has in his career. In home games at Coors Field, Arenado has put up Hall of Fame-caliber production, slashing .322/.376/.609 with a .985 OPS. However, there's been a noticeable dip away from the altitude of Denver, as Arenado has slashed .263/.322/.471 with a .793 in road games in his career. Certainly, he'll still be a very good offensive player if traded, but there are eight years worth of evidence that suggest he won't be a superstar at the plate if he plays his home games somewhere other than Coors Field.
Still, it's rare that you get the chance to acquire a player like Arenado, and there figure to be quite a few teams that at least check in on him this winter and attempt to get him to waive his full no-trade clause and delay his opt-out. Here are five potential landing spots for the five-time All-Star via trade:
St. Louis Cardinals
In January of 2020 - which feels like a lifetime ago, but is a period we aren't that far removed from - Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported the the Cardinals had "preliminary" trade talks with the Rockies regarding Arenado. Three-time All-Star Matt Carpenter was the Cardinals' primary third baseman in 2020, but hit just .186, perhaps making clearer to the team how strong of a fit they are for Arenado. Tommy Edman could take over the bulk of starts at the position in 2020, but he may also be needed at second base after the team's decision to decline Kolten Wong's option for 2021. While top overall prospect Dylan Carlson isn't going anywhere, the Cardinals could have some pieces of interest to the Rockies. Edman, just 25, could be someone the Rockies ask for, as could third baseman Nolan Gorman and lefty Matthew Liberatore, both of whom MLB Pipeline ranks as top 60 prospects in baseball.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Arenado broke into the league in 2013. Since then, the Dodgers have won eight-consecutive National League West titles, preventing Arenado and the Rockies from ever doing so. After watching them win a World Series, it would only be natural for Arenado, who went to high school in Orange County, to be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to the Dodgers. Such a trade, though, seems less than likely. First of all, the Rockies probably don't want to trade a franchise icon to a division rival. Secondly, the Dodgers probably won't want to take on another megadeal after signing Mookie Betts to a 12-year/$365 million extension. The most likely outcome is that the Dodgers will re-sign Justin Turner to play third base, and Arenado will be traded out of the National League West. Still, it stands to reason that Arenado may like to go to Los Angeles, and considering he possesses a no-trade clause and an opt-out, he may have some say over where he ends up.
In consecutive offseasons, the Nationals lost Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. They were able to overcome the loss of Harper in 2019 and win the World Series because Juan Soto emerged as one of the game's young superstars. They didn't have that same type of success in replacing Rendon, as Carter Kieboom, a former top prospect, hit just .202 with zero home runs in 2020. Kieboom is still only 23 and played in just 33 games in 2020, so it's too early to write him off. However, the Nationals need another star in their lineup to alleviate pressure on Soto and Trea Turner. Arenado would seemingly fit that bill. Kieboom could be part of a return going back to Colorado, or he could compete for time at second base.
Toronto Blue Jays
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has reportedly lost north of 30 pounds this offseason, so the plan now is for him to shift back to the hot corner in 2021. However, he may be willing to stick at first base for a while if the Blue Jays - who attempting to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in the American League East - have the chance to acquire Arenado. Top prospect Nate Pearson, one of the sport's most touted young arms, isn't going anywhere. Austin Martin, selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, probably isn't either. It would be interesting to see if general manager Ross Atkins could build a trade package around shortstop Jordan Groshans and righty Simeon Woods Richardson. What we also don't know is if Arenado would waive his no-trade clause, and potentially push back his opt-out to join the Blue Jays. Seemingly the team has a bright future, but they're stuck in the same division as the Rays, Yankees and Boston Red Sox, so perennial success is hardly a guarantee.
New York Mets
Welcome to the Steve Cohen era, where the Mets will be tied to every noteworthy star that could become available. This one isn't a stretch, though, as the Mets have a need at the position. What makes the Mets so intriguing as a trade partner is that depending upon what other moves they make this winter, so many of their major league pieces - Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Dom Smith etc. - could become trade candidates. That doesn't mean that all will ultimately be on the table in discussions, but the Mets could present a return to the Rockies at least partially built around players that have already been productive at the major league level. Though Arenado may prefer to go to an organization that's had more stability in the last decade, Cohen may be able to sell Arenado on waiving his no-trade clause to help return the Mets to being the Amazins.
The Rangers were in hot pursuit of Arenado last offseason, with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reporting that they wanted the Rockies All-Star third baseman and had reached out to Colorado about a potential deal. Per Grant, The Rangers have been "intrigued, fascinated, maybe even a little obsessed over Arenado for years." Any deal for Arenado would have to include Josh Jung, Sam Huff, Cole Winn or Hans Crouse, the club's top four prospects. Texas could elect to play the long game here and see if he decides to opt out after this season. With several high-level free agents (Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, etc.) set to hit the market next winter, it might behoove the Rangers to do just that.