The St. Louis Cardinals should not trade Nolan Arenado, but he deserves better

Can St. Louis stomach the idea of their team trading away future HOF 3B Nolan Arenado?
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

To say the 2023 season for the St. Louis Cardinals hasn't gone well up to this point is an understatement. Anyone who looked at the teams roster had all but one thing to say before the season started. "Do they have enough pitching?" We can confidently say now, they did not. It has cost them twenty-four blown saves and a whole lot of heartache this season. Now it seems it may cost them...Nolan Arenado?

Hold on. Let me get this straight. Two years ago the St. Louis Cardinals went out and made one of the savviest trades in their franchise history acquiring third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies AND $50 million in cash for prospects, who I'm sorry to say, are not worth a trade for an at the time 29-year-old, five-time All-Star, and eight-time gold glove winner. That same player has come here and embraced the city won two gold gloves, made two All-Star appearances, finished third in MVP voting in 2022, AND chose to opt into the remaining of his 9-year contract. Now you want to entertain the idea of trading him?

News flash to the Cardinals front office, Arenado isn't the problem. Trading him will only cause more problems.

Nolan Arenado chose to come to St. Louis because he wanted to have a perennial opportunity to win. He has a full no-trade clause and he chose to waive that to be a Cardinal. That should say a lot about a team and its image around the league, right? The two cornerstones of your team are at 1B and 3B in Goldschmidt and Arenado with a veteran leader like Yadier Molina. How many other teams can say they are that lucky? Great! Now go get some pitching.

Do you know what else the Cardinals did that 2020 Off-season? Resign franchise icons, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, that's it. Media and fans alike were yelling to anyone who would listen that they needed to do more. Get more pitching, but nope. Come the Trade deadline of 2021 they traded for pitching in J.A. Happ and Jon Lester.

The two slotted perfectly into the rotation to do what any commonsensical fan, media member, or viewer could see, alleviate pressure from the rest of the staff, and provide innings where they weren't before. The '21 Cardinals then went on a historic 17-game winning streak to close out the season and steamroll into the playoffs before getting walked off by the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card game that year.

What about the 2021 off-season? Did the Cardinals go out and get any pitching to help build around their solid lineup and try to make that next-level push that they needed to get back to playing meaningful games deep in October? Sure, maybe? They signed Steven Matz, Drew VerHagen, Nick Wittgren, Packy Naughton and T.J McFarland. All combined to provide the Cardinals with a whopping -0.7 WAR up to this point so far, with two not even on the team anymore.

The Cardinals fielded a competitive team in 2022 again led by the likes of historic seasons from eventual MVP winner Paul Goldschmidt, third-place finisher Nolan Arenado, and Mr. 703 himself, Albert Pujols. At the deadline in 2022 the Cardinals once again traded guessed it, pitching. Acquiring Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana from the Yankees and Pirates respectively. This fortified the weak staff, again, and led them back to a date in the Wild Card series with the Phillies where they would crash out, again.

A lot pointed to the fact that the Cardinals didn't have a pitching staff that could induce a lot of swing-and-miss but instead pitched to contact.

So surely this past off-season they went after more swing and miss guys, right? Nope. They resigned game one starter Jose Quintana? Nope. They looked at the upcoming 2024 season and knew they only had two starting pitchers signed for next year and worked an extension with Montgomery, right? Nope. They signed Wilson Contreras to a five-year contract (which they have handled swimmingly) put their feet up, and lit up a celebratory cigar. Okay, I'm sorry, they signed Wilking Rodriguez, whew.

So here we are days before the trade deadline when alarm bells have been ringing since mid-April to do something about pitching, and not a thing has been done. The once proud and powerful birds of the Midwest sit at 46-59 and are positioned to sell at the deadline for what feels like the first time in a generation. How they got there seems pretty obvious, inept action and hesitation in a business that waits for no one. Because of this they have let trade pieces build up like the aforementioned Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Paul DeJong, Tyler O'Neill, Chris Stratton, Dylan Carlson, Jordan Hicks, Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan, and possibly more. Yet as the clock keeps ticking closer to the deadline and no action has been done yet, Nolan Arenado's name keeps coming up again and again.

As recent as the All-Star game Arenado told reporters of the St. Louis Post Dispatch things like "There's a reason why I opted in" and that he didn't expect to be traded. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said shortly after the All-Star break that he expects the team to be hunting for "Pitching, pitching, pitching" this deadline with an emphasis on still wanting to compete in 2024. Fast forward to Friday's post-game and Arenado acknowledged the elephant in the room that is his name has surfaced to links to the Dodgers in trade rumors. You don't trade away your best player and expect to still compete in 2024.

Arenado wants to win and if he feels like trust has been broken by the front office and their failure to hold up their end of the deal by doing everything they can to put a winning team on the field, then I wouldn't blame him for wanting to go somewhere like LA to pursue a championship. But the Cardinals shouldn't let that happen and need to step up and commit to winning, not in 2023, but for sure in 2024. If they trade a future Hall-of-Famer in Nolan Arenado, fans will turn away, Goldschmidt will want out, Free agents won't want to come to St. Louis and their problems just get a lot worse.