Nolan Arenado won’t have an 11th consecutive Gold Glove Award to place on his mantle, as Rawlings announced that the National League Gold Glove finalists at third base for 2023 are Austin Riley, Ryan McMahon and Ke’Bryan Hayes.
It’s no secret that the Gold Glove Award tends to be based more on a player's reputation than on his actual fielding ability, but while only 25% of a vote for a Gold Glove Award winner is determined by measurable statistics, with the rest being decided by teams' managers and coaches, it still speaks volumes that Arenado was not nominated given his reputation for defensive excellence. But if we look purely at his production at the hot corner this season, he doesn't deserve to be in the conversation.
Arenado was only one defensive run saved above average at third base this year, the lowest in his career. In Ultimate Zone Rating, he finished at -0.9, the first time he has ever been below zero in that statistic. Arenado's defensive downfall could likely be attributed at least partially to back issues that plagued him for much of the season, but it's not unreasonable to think that the 32-year-old's best defensive days are behind him.
Arenado's uncharacteristic fielding issues in 2023 were emblematic of the Cardinals' defense, as the team as a whole declined precipitously in the field this season, finishing seven defensive runs saved below average compared with 67 defensive runs saved above average in 2022.
If the Cardinals are to win a Gold Glove Award this year, they must pin their hopes on utility player Tommy Edman, who was the team's only nominee. If he wins, he will be the second Cardinal in two years to win the Gold Glove Award as a utility player after infielder Brendan Donovan received the award in the utility player category's inaugural season last year.
The Cardinals' defensive struggles weren't something the team expected entering the season, but if Arenado can return fully healthy for 2024, he should still be a well above average defender, which would go a long way toward making the defense respectable again.