St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado isn’t worth the price
The St. Louis Cardinals are rumored to be pursuing star third baseman Nolan Arenado. While he would likely improve the team, it probably won’t reap the rewards many expect.
Nolan Arenado has drawn comparisons to players like Brooks Robinson, one of the best fielding third basemen of all time who also wielded a threatening bat. If the St. Louis Cardinals were to acquire the 28-year-old superstar, they would likely be National League favorites for 2020. But while it appears glamorous, a trade could cripple the team for years to come.
The most glaring issue is Arenado’s batting splits. It’s no secret that most Rockies hitters fare better in the high-altitude confines of Denver than they do in other parks. Arenado is no exception. In his career at Coors Field, Arenado has amassed an impressive slash line of .324/.380/.615. But his batting stats aren’t nearly as eye-popping on the road, where he has hit .265/.323/.476.
These road stats don’t quite measure up to former Rockies greats Larry Walker and Todd Helton. Those two weren’t as prolific with the long ball as Arenado, but in the homer-suppressing air of Busch Stadium, players who hit for a high average are more valuable than those who hit a lot of home runs because home run frequency seems to be more susceptible to the environment than average does.
So if Arenado’s power is likely to diminish at Busch Stadium, why acquire him? An argument could be made for his elite glove. But the Cardinals aren’t in need of a huge defensive upgrade. The team had the fewest errors in the league last year, and while incumbent third baseman Matt Carpenter has a subpar arm, his overall defense at third is adequate. With players like Harrison Bader, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong and Paul Goldschmidt flashing the leather regularly, Arenado seems like an unnecessary addition.
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This becomes doubly true when deciding whom to trade away. The Rockies are always looking for pitching, and Jack Flaherty would be an enticing option. The young star could anchor Colorado’s rotation for years. Other possibilities could be relievers Jordan Hicks or Ryan Helsley. These young pitchers could be key cogs for the Cardinals next year.
We also need to look at the farm system. The Cardinals’ minor league system isn’t especially deep, with Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson being the only top-tier prospects. Gorman, a third baseman, has a few years before potentially arriving in St. Louis. He has the possibility of becoming elite at the plate and steady in the field.
While Gorman will likely never show Arenado’s defensive wizardry, I wouldn’t trade a potentially great stick in the lineup and others who can provide value on the mound for what would essentially be a great but unnecessary defensive upgrade and an improvement to the offense who will likely move the needle less than many people think.
This year, Carpenter will be looking to bounce back, and he should be given the opportunity. While age is always a factor, a decline of last year’s magnitude should be seen as an aberration until he proves it isn’t. And if Carpenter isn’t the answer at third next year, there are others outside the organization who can fill the gap and cost far less than Arenado.
I have never been big on trading away the farm for a star in his prime, and much of this is likely from being a Cardinals fan. I am used to seeing the farm prosper and generate homegrown talent for the Cardinals. However, other teams have caught up in the scouting and development process, and the Cardinals might have to make a move like this to stay competitive. But Arenado is not my first choice.
Arenado is a great player, but he is far more valuable to the Rockies than he is anywhere else. Any team willing to send a bunch of solid major leaguers and prospects to Colorado for him will likely regret it. I’m fine with the Cardinals either sticking with Carpenter or making a smaller trade for a third baseman if Carpenter doesn’t show improvement from last year. But cutting down the farm and the current team for Arenado isn’t worth it.