UPDATE: So... a good portion of the article I worked on Friday afternoon is now trash. I don’t mind. Nolan Arenado is set to become a Cardinal!
I’m honestly in a state of shock about the whole affair. I mean, based on the news that broke throughout the day, it became increasingly likely that this deal was going to happen. But it’s still SHOCKING that it happened. The Cardinals have chased Arenado for several years and the Rockies have been notoriously difficult to consummate a deal with.
Right now, baseball is still waiting on the final details. It is doubtful they’ll come out tonight. Unfortunately, tomorrow is a long travel/work day for me, so I’ll be away from my computer and won’t be able to update this piece as information continues to come out.
As of now, here’s what we know:
Names possibly going to Rockies include LHP Austin Gomber, 1B Luken Baker, OF Jhon Torres. Return also might include RHP Jake Woodford or RHP Angel Rondón. Exact package not confirmed. https://t.co/QJaMyyxLwP— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2021
There are technical details that still have to be worked out. It sounds like the MLB offices and the Player’s Association will have to be involved, since Arenado’s contract might be changing (see below) and money is exchanging hands between the teams.
That list of players is not confirmed yet, but the final deal will likely include some of those names. If that’s the case, Gomber is the headliner, with Baker as an intriguing bat who could be a menace at Coors Field. Then more pitching. I would think the Rox would want Rondon over Woodford, but that’s pretty much a tossup.
The fact that the Cardinals acquired a future Hall of Famer without having to give up Nolan Gorman, Matthew Liberatore, Dylan Carlson, or Zack Thompson just floors me.
I’m a huge Gomber fan but I’m also realistic about him. I would take Thompson and Liberatore over him longterm. And, for ‘21, I would rather see Reyes get a crack at the rotation now that Wainwright is back (much more on that below).
What about the money?
Colorado Rockies would pay at least $50 million of the remaining $199 million left in Arenado's contract, meaning the #STLCards would be paying about $25 million a year for Arenado. Right now, he still would get an opt-out clause in 2021 and 2022, per @BNightengle.— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) January 30, 2021
If you thought the player package was a steal for the Cardinals, wait until you see the financials! if Gomez’s info is right here — and its the best I’ve seen so far (9:30 pm Friday) — the Rockies are going to kick in $50M, essentially cutting Arenado’s AAV down to $25M. That’s right in line with what the Cardinals are paying Goldschmidt.
$25M per is a lot of money, but it’s well within the level of acceptable risk for a player heading into his 30s. With so much money coming off the books after next season, the Cardinals will have few limitations on the rest of the market. Arenado at $25M just will not limit them at all.
What about the rest of the details? Here’s some odd news:
If deal between Rockies and Cardinals is finalized, Arenado will keep his opt out after 2021, get an additional opt out after 2022 and retain his full no-trade clause, sources tell @TheAthletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2021
This is strange. But it makes sense from Arenado’s perspective. He’s not going to want to opt-out after 2021 considering everything that’s happening in the market. Adding in a 2022 opt-out gives him a chance to re-test the market when the CBA dust settles.
It also, for all likely purposes, means the Cardinals will have Arenado for at least 2 seasons.
Lastly, I just heard that there might be an extra year worth $15M tacked on to the end of this deal. That’s insignificant in the greater picture of this move, but if it helps get it done, I am fine with it.
How will Arenado do as a Cardinal? He’ll help. A lot. Especially when compared to projections and expectations for Carpenter at 3b.
I don’t know that he’ll be the offensive powerhouse that he was in Colorado but he provides so much defense that it just isn’t going to matter. Plus, he walks. So, even if the power drops, he’s a 3-5 WAR player no matter what. That likely makes him the best player on the Cardinals, though Goldschmidt and DeJong could challenge him.
Let me pause right there. Goldschmidt. DeJong. Arenado. That’s the Cardinals best defensive infield since ... Pujols. Renteria. Rolen. If Dylan Carlson can channel a little Jim Edmonds... Ok, that’s pushing the whole “stream of consciousness” theme.
Back to the original article (I’ll keep the old Arenado material in here just for giggles):
It was about a month ago that John Mozeliak began to quip, “January is the new December.” January isn’t over yet and the Cardinals are finally making moves.
On Thursday news broke that Adam Wainwright was returning to the Cardinals on a one-year deal. That was followed with some not-so-vague intimations that Molina was soon to follow. Amid the “they’re coming back!” lovefest, Ken Rosenthal dropped a bomb. The Cardinals and Rockies are apparently in trade talks to acquire Nolan Arenado.
I’ll run through what we know, engage in some responsible speculation, and then we’ll have some fun at the end. What a great use of a January Saturday!
Adam Wainwright is returning to the Cards … and the Blues?
On Friday, the Cardinals officially announced that Adam Wainwright was returning to St. Louis on a one-year deal.
I emphasize St. Louis because one unfortunate media outlet ran a bottom-third graphic that had the veteran hurler resigning (not re-signing) with the Blues. This was news to Wainwright, but, in typical fashion, he accepted the news with grace and immediately got to work.
That’s just the best thing ever.
We don’t have all the details on the deal yet, though I’ve put feelers out to all my inside sources (otherwise known as Twitter) to try to get them. It looks like the base deal might be for $5M with another $3M in incentives, for a total of $8M.
That would be about $2M below what Wainwright could have made in 2020 had he maxed out his incentives. Last year’s contract (pre-COVID) broke down as follows:
1 year/$5M (2020) – Performance bonuses: $1.5M each for 20, 25 starts. $2M for 28 starts. $500,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 relief appearances.
I would expect that the upcoming contract will look very similar. Maybe, like this?
1 year/$5M (2021) – Performance bonuses: $1.5M each for 20, 25. $1.5M for 28 starts. $500,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 relief appearances in
Wainwright confirmed that the Cardinals’ offer was not the best he received in terms of price. It did offer him the chance to come home, which is what he valued most in the end.
On a Zoom call with local media, Adam Wainwright said he had 3-4 offers in his hand this week, including the #STLCards.— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) January 29, 2021
"I'm just really glad that it worked out the way it did because I'm coming home. I love being a St. Louis Cardinal."
What does Wainwright’s presence mean for the Cardinals? There’s value in sentiment and legacy. It will motivate many in Cardinals Nation to watch games and buy tickets. Good vibes around the club are a good thing, and they were in short supply before this signing.
Sentiment aside, Wainwright does a lot for this squad. His age is concerning; not many pitchers can avoid injury, collapse or both at age 40. However, if I was looking for a 40-year-old pitcher who might be able to dodge time for one more season, I would look for someone who threw a dominant breaking pitch with excellent command and control. Then I would put him in a pitcher’s park.
Well, Wainwright and Busch check all the right boxes. As Wainwright has lost velocity, he has also lost the ability to limit home runs and hard-hit balls at an elite rate. He can still get ground balls, though, and he doesn’t kill himself by loading up the basepaths with excessive walks. He is very much reliant on his curveball but most of the league can’t hit curveballs well. As long as he can throw that pitch for strikes, he will have a chance.
Wainwright’s presence relieves so much pressure for the staff. They can project five starters today without having to trust in an unproven arm: Flaherty, Wainwright, Kim, Mikolas, and Martinez. Martinez is pitching now in the Caribbean and looks good. Mikolas is working out in Jupiter and all the news is good. If anything goes wrong, the Cardinals can immediately turn to one of several intriguing players who should be able to adequately cover a rotation spot for a spell, including Austin Gomber, Alex Reyes, Johan Oviedo, and Daniel Ponce de Leon (in that preferred order).
Most likely all of those arms will see starts but none of them will have to throw 180 innings. It’s a good situation for the Cardinals.
Yadier Molina’s Return Now Appears Imminent
Meanwhile, as Wainwright was singing on, Yadi was continuing his frustrating habit of posting cryptic messages on Instagram. This time it was a black and white of him and AW walking away together.
It elicited another round of griping about Yadi’s use of social media and plenty of speculation about what his message meant! Are Yadi and Waino leaving together! Are they both going to San Diego! Are they both retiring together?
Nope. Looks like they are both coming back!
Wainwright signed that afternoon. Reports immediately surfaced that Yadi is waiting until his brother’s team is finished playing in the Caribbean World Series to sign his deal. On Friday, Wainwright indicated in his press conference that more good news was on the way! It’s clear he’s referencing his battery-mate.
Ok, so Yadi is coming back. Seems like the whole "when he is done playing in the Caribean" timeline is relatively accurate. https://t.co/yuatHEIc0A— Jason Hill (@JPHill_Cards) January 29, 2021
I think we can expect Molina to sign a one-year deal about a week. His contract will likely be worth a bit more than Wainwright’s and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s for just one year.
I’ve been wishy-washy on Molina’s return all offseason. At this point, though, I think it is the right move for the club. The rest of the catcher market dried up. Molina is the last intriguing name standing. I would like to see Knizner start regularly, but I always wanted that to come in a competition with a more proven backstop. That’s not Tyler Heineman.
With few remaining ways to create that competition, pivoting back to Molina is the best choice. He’ll push Kniz to the backup role and there won’t be someone like Wieters around to steal his roster spot. Molina is an age 38/39 catcher with a declining percentage of games played every season since 2016. Knizner is a good bet to see 60 games in a starting role behind the plate (assuming a 162 game season). If he performs well, he could see more and there will be little that Molina can do about it. It’s a good enough situation for both players considering the circumstances and the market.
Arendado Rumors are Heating Up … Again
Oh boy. Here we go again:
How much stock do we put in these rumors? Many trusted reports are expressing doubt. Fan-favorite Craig Mish, on the other hand, is fanning the sparks into flame!
Craig is the absolute best. It appears he is being at least somewhat serious here.
The local reporters have tried to throw water on the fire but they just can’t do it! Rumors are persisting and they aren’t all coming from the usual sources.
What do I even say about that?
What does this even mean?
Nothing! Everything! Something!
I have tried to avoid the Arenado rumor mill. It’s a waste of words, and you all know that I would NEVER waste words. (By the way, I have 156,000 words written – the length of two decent sized novels – since last January. The Cardinals played 61 regular season games. No, I would never waste words.) I’m just presenting to you what is out there. Run with it if you wish. Discount it if that makes you happy. I’m going to remain skeptical but secretly excited.
And no, I don’t even think that Arenado is that smart of a move by the Cardinals. It’s never a great idea to take on the back end of a mega deal. I just don’t really care about the financial ramifications of acquiring a Hall of Famer.
The Cardinals have nothing to spend their money on after 2021 except bad decisions in the FA market. If revenue recovers from COVID after this season and the game doesn’t destroy itself negotiating the next CBA, the Cardinals will have around $80-100M to spend to return to their previous payroll levels. Yes, Arenado makes a ton of money. Yes, the Cardinals can absorb the hit a couple of times over. Why not give it a go when the Rockies are desperate to clear payroll space?
Meanwhile, this whole Arenado-thing provided fodder for @Cardinalsgif to have the best day on the internet I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s his best:
the same team also discussed the realistic possibilities of the earth being flat https://t.co/32MpkQC6c8— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) January 29, 2021
Well done, gifs. Well. Done.
Enjoy spending your Saturday refreshing Twitter.