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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7 Comments

  1. Rodney McCray

    Luxury tax, SMUXURY TAX! It’s been 10 years.other teams are cheating to win. Everybody else complained about the money we spent. At least we stayed within the guidelines. As much as I love Anjuar, and Goi, I trade those two AND Happ for Arenado QUICK FAST & in a HURRY for Talent that will help us go on a run not seen since the 90’s. Only other player I’d risk that much in a trade would be Mookie. IJS, If Dodgers get HIM, we gonna NEED Nolan Arenado. Especially if Stanton proves, like a lot of other big names, that the BEAST, aka NYC, is too much to bear. GP GET HIM CASHMEN!!!

  2. RetroRob

    The answer is it always makes sense to bring in a stud player, still in his 20s, like Arenado. I’m a realist, though. MLB teams now manage to the luxury tax, and they have to do multi-year planning. With the Yankees existing commitments, and the looming pay increases for Judge, Sanchez and others, this doesn’t seem like where the Yankees will go. Sad, but true.

    • I'm Not The Droids You're Looking For

      You are both a realist and correct. Definitely not going to happen unless ownership approves a $300mm payroll which would be necessary to keep Judge, Sanchez, etc.

  3. chip56

    I will throw out a trade even though MTPS:

    Urshela, Abreu, Happ, Gil, Periera

  4. The Original Drew

    If the Yankees somehow get Arenado I would faint like a fat lady at church on a hot summers day.

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