One of the more undersung parts of the whole “where is Manny Machado going to go and for how much?” saga was what it was going to do for the market of another star third baseman who was on the verge of free agency himself. Nolan Arenado has established himself as one of the best players in all of baseball over the last few years. In addition to playing some of the best defense at third base one is likely to see, Arenado has consistently produced at the plate as well with four straight seasons of 4.5 fWAR+ production. In 2018, he put together arguably his best season to date with a .297/.374/.561 line with 38 home runs and a 132 wRC+ across 156 games. The defensive metrics did not like him as much last season (just 5 defensive runs saved after back to back years with 20), but he still rates highly on other defensive metrics including his range.
It was no surprise, then, that Arenado got PAID in his last year of arbitration eligibility as he and the Rockies settled at $26 million for 2019...the largest sum given to an arbitration eligible player although it is worth mentioning that that record is likely to be broken by the likes of Mookie Betts and others in the near future.
There has been plenty of talk this offseason that the Rockies really wanted to extend Arenado and that he was open such talks. Now, it looks like both sides are close to a deal.
BREAKING: Third baseman Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies are finalizing an eight-year, contract extension worth more than $255M, league sources tell ESPN. Deal includes an opt-out after three years, would give Arenado the largest per-year salary of any position player.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 26, 2019
With Manny Machado setting the market for young, talented infielders with an AAV of $30 million a year, Arenado’s new deal tops that at close to $32 million a year over the next eight years. We don’t know exactly how the contract will be paid out over its course on a year to year basis, but the AAV, as Passan notes, is the highest among all position players in baseball.
The most interesting note is that Arenado does have an opt out available to him after three years. That could feasibly mean that at the age of 30, he could hit the open market again. The free agent market has not been particularly kind to players of late once they hit their 30’s, but the structure of this deal allows Arenado to explore free agency if the market becomes more favorable with the nice fallback that he can stay with the Rockies and remain one of the highest paid players in baseball.