Tag: Nolan Arenado

Yankees Trade Target: Nolan Arenado

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Bobby did a nice job yesterday covering the Nolan Areando situation and how the Yankees could be a trade partner. Today, let’s dig deeper into Arenado’s qualifications and the Yankees’ interest.

Background

Arenado, who turns 29 this April, hails from California. After an illustrious high school career, he committed to Arizona State University but did not wind up attending. Instead, the Rockies drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft and signed him away from his committment.

By the numbers, Arenado had a pretty linear development path through the minors. He climbed the ladder gradually and made his big league debut in 2013. Two years later, Arenado established himself as Colorado’s best player and a bonafide superstar.

Ever since, Arenado has been a steady hand for a Rockies team that’s gone through ups and downs. The third baseman led the Rockies to back-to-back Wild Card spots in 2017 and 2018, but otherwise, the team has been mired near the bottom of the NL West.

Things were looking up for Colorado following 2018, a year that they won 91 games and toppled the Cubs in the Wild Card game before elimination against the Brewers in the Division Series. To keep the good vibes going, the Rockies locked up Arenado to a big extension last February, just a year before he was going to be a free agent.

Oh how things have changed in a year, though. The Rockies won 71 games and finished fourth in the division. Now, Arenado and Colorado’s GM Jeff Bridich are openly feuding and a trade seems inevitable.

Performance

Arenado is a lifetime .295/.351/.546 (125 DRC+, 120 wRC+) hitter. He’s got an impressive combination of contact (15.2 percent strikeout rate) and power (.251 ISO). He’s also an elite defender by all accounts, including the recently unveiled Outs Above Average.

Simply put, Arenado is one of the best all-around players in the game. His trophy case says as much:

  • Seven Gold Gloves (he’s won every year of his career)
  • Four Silver Sluggers
  • Five All-Star Games
  • Five Top-8 finishes in MVP voting

The third baseman has been remarkably consistent, too. Ever since he broke out in 2015, here are the lowest marks he’s had in a few different categories:

  • Games played: 155 (2019)
  • Plate appearances: 662 (2019)
  • Batting average: .287 (2015)
  • On-base percentage: .323 (2015) and no lower than .362 since 2016
  • Slugging percentage: .561 (2018)
  • Home runs: 37 (2017)
  • fWAR: 4.5 (2015)

Not only is that an incredible floor during his age 24 through 28 seasons, but it’s also an impressive display of durability.

Of course, everyone is going to ask if he can continue such performance outside of Coors Field. Do we need to re-litigate DJ LeMahieu’s transition all over again?

There’s no question that Arenado has been better at home (130 wRC+) than on the road (109 wRC+) during his career. However, there are a couple of seemingly anomalous seasons that bring down his road splits. Take a look:

YearRoad PARoad wRC+
201325768
201421799
2015331119
2016344116
2017350126
2018343104
2019327118

Clearly, his first two seasons in the league (before he broke out) bring down his lifetime mark. He’s an excellent hitter no matter where he plays.

Even before we saw LeMahieu blossom in pinstripes in 2019, there was a history of players leaving the Rockies to great success. I have no doubt that Arenado would have a smooth transition to any new team offensively.

Finally, let’s look at Arenado’s projected performance for 2020.

  • ZiPS: 646 PA, .298/.367/.567 (126 OPS+), 37 HR, 4.5 WAR
  • Steamer: 657 PA, .296/.371/.571 (124 wRC+), 40 HR, 4.9 WAR

It’s going to be a terrific season for the soon-to-be 29 year-old regardless of where he plays.

Injury History

Arenado has only gone on the disabled list once in his career. Moreover, it was a freak injury. In 2014, his sophomore season, he broke his finger sliding into second base in a game. He spent a little more than a month on the shelf, but has had no big issues otherwise.

Contract

As mentioned, Arenado signed a big extension before last season. The deal is through 2026, though he can opt-out after the 2021 season.

Arenado is due $70 million through 2021 and another $164 million thereafter should he stick around. If he opts out, it’ll be in advance of his age-31 season. Can he beat five years and $164 million at that time? I think so.

To complicate matters (for the Rockies if they really do want to trade him), the contract includes a no-trade clause. That takes away a lot of leverage from Colorado, similar to the Giancarlo Stanton situation a few years ago.

Does he make sense for the Yankees?

The Yankees don’t *need* a third baseman. But is Arenado better than the team’s internal options? As good and promising as Gio Urshela and Miguel Andújar are, neither hold a candle to Arenado.

Of course, Urshela and Andújar are far cheaper than Arenado. Urshela will earn $2.475 million and Andújar not too much more than the league minimum. The Yankees are already well-above the third tier of the luxury tax, so who knows how willing the team is to expand payroll any further.

What would a trade look like?

First, let’s look at what the Giancarlo Stanton trade cost the Yankees. Stanton was due $295 million over ten years at the time, though the Marlins are on the hook for $30 million provided that he doesn’t opt-out after this season. In return, the Yankees sent Starlin Castro (with two years and $22 million remaining) and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers.

Guzman was a back-end top 100 prospect who had topped out in short-season A-ball before the deal while Devers was still in rookie ball. Castro’s inclusion was more to offset salary than anything else.

With all that in mind, I’m sure the Yankees would want to include JA Happ in any deal to level out the 2020 payroll to some extent. After that, it would come down to haggling over prospects. But again, the Rockies don’t have much leverage here if they want to dump a significant portion of Arenado’s deal. Especially because Arenado has a no-trade clause. As a result, I don’t think the Yankees would need to include any prospects close to the majors. I’m not going to do a proposal because MTPS, but I’d assume parameters not all that different than the Stanton deal.

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Thoughts Two Weeks Before Pitchers and Catchers Report to Camp

It’s Wednesday, and it is exactly two weeks before pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa for Spring Training. That is very exciting, to me. It’s simultaneously been a very long and very short offseason, if that makes any sense at all. I’m definitely ready for the season to get started. Here’s what’s on my mind.

1. Welcome Aboard, Josh Thole: If you had any doubts left that we’re mired in the depths of the offseason, I’m leading off this thoughts column with the signing of a Triple-A catcher. So, yeah. That’s where we are these days. Anyway, the Post’s Joel Sherman last night reported that the Yankees and Thole agreed to a $600,000 MiLB deal:

As Joel noted, the Yankees also added Erik Kratz and Chris Ianetta this offseason, so they’ll have some Triple-A depth here. Remember, Austin Romine signed a deal with the Tigers, so there’s a bit of a competition for the backup catcher position here. My money has always been on Kyle Higashioka in that competition and it’s still there today. Even more so, really.

Anyway, Thole — who brings back memories of R.A. Dickey’s tenure in Toronto — is a career .242/.313/.306 (73 wRC+) hitter who hasn’t played at the MLB level since 2016. He spent last year in the Dodgers’ and Angels’ farm system. (For what it’s worth, Statcast’s framing metrics have him pegged as a bad framer from 2015-16, though his sample is limited.) My guess is that he mans the Triple-A roster, which we will break down in detail before the season begins, and serves as much-needed depth at an important position. Welcome aboard, Josh.

2. Keeping J.A. Happ: You know, I’m now 100% convinced that the Yankees should just keep J.A. Happ. Sure, if there’s a chance that unloading Happ can bring someone back like Nolan Arenado — unlikely! — then you definitely do it. No doubt about it. But right now, the way I look at it is like this: the only reason to move Happ is to save money. That’s a fair concern! His salary isn’t peanuts for a 5th, 6th, or even 7th starter, but it’s not prohibitive money for the Yankees by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. (By now, you should all know where I stand on the CBT.) But I’m going to play with a much-repeated pitching prospect line and tweak it a bit: There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Pitching Depth.

Besides, I’m still oddly convinced that last year’s weirdness with the ball was a major factor in his struggles. I mean, look at his HR/fly ball rate over the last 5 seasons, with league averages in parentheses:

  • 2015: 9.2%
  • 2016: 11.1%
  • 2017: 12.3%
  • 2018: 13.4%
  • 2019: 18.3%

Now, let’s be real: that’s an actual bad trend. No amount of playing with the numbers can change that. He is an aging pitcher — the end can come really quickly and out of nowhere — with less velocity and spin on his fastball. Not to mention, this is not the most encouraging spray chart I’ve ever seen:

That is all true and can’t be waved away. However, with that said, that’s a huge jump. Huge! I think it would be irresponsible to say that the ball wasn’t a factor in that. (As for whether or not the ball will be the same next year, who can say? Another bang up job by MLB, that is.)

Finally, I think it’s pretty clear at this point that there’s not much coming back for Happ, which is to be expected because of the above paragraph. That’s why I think it makes sense just to hold on to him and see if there’s a dead cat bounce in there. If there isn’t, they can always trade him at the deadline after it’s clear next year’s option won’t vest. No harm, no foul.

3. Bring Me Nolan Arenado: The other day, The Athletic’s Jim Bowden wrote a piece (subs req’d) about the prospect of a Nolan Arenado trade, specifically mentioning the Yankees as a potential landing spot for the superstar 3B. Now, let’s be clear: this is definitely, 100% not happening. I will be shocked if it did. On the other hand, and bear with me here, what if it does?

You don’t have to squint that hard to see parallels to the Giancarlo Stanton situation back in December 2017. Arenado is owed a lot of money, though not quite as much as Stanton — $234 million over the next six seasons compared to $284 over eight seasons for Stanton — and also owns a full no-trade clause. To boot, he’s expressed his displeasure with the direction Colorado is taking, giving him a significant amount of leverage moving forward. That’s why I think so many of the trade proposals we’re seeing on social media, including from Bowden, are a bit absurd.

When was the last time one of these superstars commanded what we thought they would? Remember how the Stanton situation ended: with some low-level prospects and Starlin Castro being sent back to New York with $30 million for the reigning NL MVP. It’s not likely, but it is possible that, if Colorado feels that they have to move now, a similar filtering type situation may occur here, too, with only a few teams realistically positioned to take on that money and therefore mitigating the prospect drain. (The Yankees already have a huge payroll, so I repeat that it’s unlikely, but it’s January. Let me dream.)

Arenado is one of those players that you make space for, as a career .295/.351/.546 (120 wRC+) hitter with stellar defense. You just make room for a guy like that. I’m sure that there would be handwringing about his home/away splits, but it’s insane that we’re still doing that after DJ LeMahieu. Anyway, Nolan Arenado: bring him to me, please and thank you.

4. Mookie Betts and the Red Sox: So, it looks like the Red Sox are really going to trade Mookie Betts, huh? Here’s the latest from Jon Heyman:

Incredible. It’s hard to think of a more self-defeating move than Boston doing this right now (which, by the way, is coming a few weeks after ownership blamed the media for “playing up” the salary issue). Mookie is a bonafide superstar player who has a real argument for being baseball’s second-best player behind only Mike Trout. I mean, look at the fWAR leaderboard from 2017-19:

  1. Mike Trout: 25.2 fWAR
  2. Mookie Betts: 22.4 fWAR
  3. Christian Yelich: 20.0

Betts is incredible. It’s amazing to me that they’re considering moving him at all and not just locking him up. He’s a homegrown superstar who just formed the foundation of the best season* in franchise history, for crying out loud. Besides, I know they’re currently under investigation, but Boston is only one (1) year removed from the best season in their history. They could be good again this year!

Anyway, a people are saying that the Sox trading Betts is bad for the Yankees. To that I say: what? I guess you can make the argument that holding Mookie increases the likelihood that Boston loses him for nothing after the season, but I really don’t care about that. The other argument is that this will allow Boston to restock its depleted farm. I don’t see that happening — again, when was the last time these guys commanded what we thought they would in a trade — and even if it does, I don’t care. Mookie gone means the Yankees have a much, much better chance at winning the division this year. That matters a lot. It’s basically all that matters to me right now, actually.

The 2020 Yankees are, in my estimation at least, the best Yankees team heading into the season in a very, very long time. Their title window is right now. It will never get more open than this. If one of their biggest inter-divisional threats wants to blow it up, more power to them. No Yankee fan should lose sleep over that (unless, of course, you care about one of the league’s richest, most prestigious organizations trading a superstar over made-up financial concerns. But that’s a different story altogether.)

Right now, the only thing stopping me from buying Betts a farewell gift is the fact that the Boston media hasn’t completely committed to a character assassination yet. Once that happens, it’s all over.

5. Re-Litigating Robinson Canó and the 2013 Offseason: I missed the original article, but WEEI’s Lou Merloni had an interesting tweet yesterday. Check it out:

There’s a lot going on there for sure. As a reminder, the Yankees offered seven years and $170 million ($24+ million per year) and he signed a ten-year, $240 million deal with Seattle ($24 million per year). In other words, the Yankees were in the financial ballpark in some respects. It was the length with which they had an issue. Even before considering his decline, I think that was a reasonable decision. Less reasonable is the idea that Cano’s demands were outrageous. Check out his place in the history books for second basemen with 90% of their games logged there:

  • Home Runs: 324 (1st)
  • bWAR: 69.6 (5th)
  • Hits: 2,570 (5th)
  • OPS+: 125 (minimum 3,000 plate appearances)

I could go on and on. The point is that Canó was, at the time, on an inner-circle path to the Hall of Fame — a path he has absolutely continued, even now that he’s slowing down. And he had one of the prettiest swings I’ve ever seen:

The Yankees offered that guy, a homegrown superstar, $20 million and change more than they offered Jacoby Ellsbury. Let that sink in. (I know Canó tested positive for steroids. We can’t ignore that, of course.) Anyway, I am extremely happy with the way the Yankees are set up now. It’s not worth being very angry over this. That said, the Canó situation was absurd at the time and continues to be absurd now. He was worth that deal, and I still think the Yankees should have given it to him.

6. MiLB Coaching Tree: Finally, the Yankees announced their MiLB coaching tree yesterday. Check it out:

I don’t have anything to add to this right now. We’ll do a full preview of the system this year as Opening Day gets closer and that will include the coaching staffs for each level. For now, though, I just wanted to share this. Here’s the good news: this is yet another sign that Spring is just around the corner.

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