Per a report from MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is the superstar most likely to be traded this offseason, and Colorado’s front office has begun to exchange names with the Cardinals’ brass as trade talks intensify:
"The Cardinals do have the right mix of pieces, I believe, to potentially entice the Rockies to make this deal."@jonmorosi breaks down the latest in the Nolan Arenado sweepstakes on #MLBNHotStove. pic.twitter.com/TJa2hGHuqP— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 14, 2020
Arenado, who turns 29 in April, would give the Cardinals a huge boost, likely making them the clear frontrunners for the NL Central title. The five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner has posted a bWAR of 5.6 or better in five straight seasons, including a 5.7 in 2019. He hit .315/.379/.583 with 41 homers and 118 RBI last season, though his defense was a bit less impressive than expected for a second straight season as he posted eight defensive runs saved — still very good, but a major drop-off from the 20.8 per season that he averaged from 2013-17.
While the Cardinals can still expect significant production from Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of the lineup, they currently lack another elite bat. Left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who hit 52 homers while playing in St. Louis over the past two seasons, is a free agent and could still potentially come back and provide some punch to the Cardinals’ offense, but his return is far from a sure thing. The addition of Arenado would lessen the expectations on players like Paul DeJong, who has 19 or more homers in each of his first three major-league seasons but has a modest .318 career OBP; Dexter Fowler, who has been up-and-down for most of his three-year tenure in St. Louis; prospect Dylan Carlson, who is expected to make his major-league debut at some point this season after posting a .914 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and guys like Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman who have elite contact-hitting potential but are better cast as table-setters than run producers.
Morosi mentions right-hander Dakota Hudson as a pitcher who could be of interest to the Rockies, and though his major-league-leading 86 walks in 2019 could be a potential concern, his appeal to the Rockies is obvious, as he posted a 128 ERA+ (3.35 ERA) in 2019 and did a great job of turning ground balls into outs.
Morosi writes that the Rockies “don’t appear to be mandating (the) inclusion” of infielder Matt Carpenter in a potential deal, and that’s frankly unsurprising considering that the 34-year-old is owed a guaranteed $37 million over the next two seasons and lost his starting job to Edman down the stretch in 2019. While Carpenter is expected to receive a chance to rebound in 2020, it’s possible that the Cardinals could attempt to deal him in order to keep their payroll under control. That would require the veteran infielder, who has been in the Cardinals organization since he was drafted in 2009, to waive a full no-trade clause.(Arenado, for that matter, would have to waive a full no-trade clause in order to make a deal happen as well.)
Unsurprisingly, Morosi indicates that the Cardinals would have to include “at least one” of their top four prospects, three of whom are ranked within MLB Pipeline’s top 100: Carlson (24), infielder Nolan Gorman (38), recently-acquired left-hander Matt Liberatore (41), and catcher Andrew Knizner. Any of those acquisitions would be huge for the Rockies who only have two prospects ranked within Pipeline’s top 100, infielder Brendan Rodgers (14) and left-hander Ryan Rolison (84).