Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado isn’t a name many expected to see in trade talks this winter, but The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal speculated that the Rockies could look to move their franchise star this offseason after a nightmare 2019.
In the midst of the National League Wildcard race midway through the season, Colorado have crumbled. Set to finish at the bottom of the division by a substantial margin – with a winning percentage worryingly close to .400 – the Rockies have had a down-year to end all down years.
The impressive young starting pitching of 2018 has vanished. Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela have had terrible seasons. The costly bullpen has been a shambles. Young talents Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson have struggled mightily at the plate, while veterans Daniel Murphy and Ian Desmond have been well below league average.
Arenado, meanwhile, hasn’t been quite his best self. After posting a 132 wRC+ in 2018, that number has slipped to just above 120. A magnificent August was too little too late after the five-time All-Star slumped through July as the Rockies faded into insignificance while the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks surged.
Rosenthal suggested that an Arenado trade could be a way for a franchise reset, allowing the Rockies to bolster their farm after a woeful 2019. Rosenthal acknowledged that there is competition this offseason, however, with Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson both free agents. Colorado would have to pay a substantial amount of the money that they committed to Arenado last offseason to get a notable prospect return.
Finding a trade partner, let alone one with prospects that the Rockies are keen on, would be challenging. Right now, the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Angels are probably the two best spots. Away from Jo Adell, there’s not much in the Angels system that would interest Colorado. The Phillies have Adonis Medina and Alec Bohm, but they would likely be off limits unless the Rockies paid the vast majority of Arenado’s owed money.
The trade package for Arenado would risk being something like what the Miami Marlins got for Giancarlo Stanton. Jorge Guzman was the headline of that deal. Without the same injury concerns, and with a smaller contract, maybe the Rockies can get a bit more, but it’s not going to be transformative.
As Rosenthal mentioned in his article, the Rockies’ use of analytics lags behind much of the Major Leagues. While that continues, so will their problems.
Their player development has been subpar in recent seasons. Prospects have seen time wasted on the Major League bench, decision making has been questionable at times. Raimel Tapia, Hampson and McMahon are yet to become useful Major Leaguers despite being long-term fixtures on prospect lists. Unless something changes, the same fate could await Brendan Rodgers and Colton Welker next season.
Trading Arenado wouldn’t fix Colorado’s issues. The return wouldn’t be huge, and if it was, who knows how the players would turn out after seeing the struggles of McMahon, Tapia and Hampson.
Never say never, of course, but with a no-trade clause and opt out muddying the waters, an Arenado trade will remain no more than speculation well into the 2020s.
There have been times when the Rockies’ front office should have been bolder. This isn’t one of those times – Arenado should remain a building block rather than the cog in a retool.