This was a great week for the Cardinals. Their winning streak came to a close at 17, the very night that they clinched their return to the playoffs – for the third straight season.
The Cardinals are locked into the Wild Card spot.
Their core players are getting some well-deserved rest.
The stadium is starting to fill up again at the end of the season.
There are good vibes all around this team after a summer of pain.
As I said earlier on Wednesday, the Cardinals rarely disappoint. They certainly didn’t this week.
That team-wide good news came with some equally exciting individual news. Nolan Arenado made it clear that he would not be opting out. Barring an intervention from his agent, the Cardinals’ All-Star third baseman (and future Hall of Famer) will be back for a second season in red.
Of course, he is.
There was never any threat that Arenado would opt out after this year. Not with a labor war looming. Not with a contract that locks him into $35M next season and $144M guaranteed until 2027.
The financial arguments for Arenado remaining with the Cardinals are overwhelming. It’s just good money sense, at least through 2022 when his second opt-out kicks in. Even then it’s hard for me to imagine that he’ll be able to get more money or longer terms on the open market.
Most player acquisition issues boil down to dollars and years. It’s easy to presume that’s the case here with Arenado. It’s not. Well, mostly not.
Entering the 2020 offseason, Arenado had his money. Now he wanted to win. The Cardinals, with a hole at third base and perennial playoff aspirations, provided him the best of both worlds. He could still get paid. And he could routinely play in the postseason.
So, he quietly worked a trade from the Rockies to the Cardinals. It was a mutual courtship. The Cardinals needed a superstar bat and a figurehead for the post-Molina/Wainwright era. The Rockies were desperate to clear future payroll and rebuild. Arenado wanted to go to an annual contender. The final numbers look like a steal of a deal for Mozeliak, but, really, all three parties got what they wanted out of the trade.
Nolan Arenado spent eight seasons with the Rockies – including the abbreviated 2020 season. During that span, he produced 32.4 fWAR. Colorado is not an old franchise but it’s had its share of elite performers. Still, Arenado’s fWAR ranks fourth in franchise history among hitters. He’s just a bit behind former Cardinals’ (never consummated) love-interest Troy Tulowitzki at 33.9. He certainly would have passed former Cardinal Larry Walker’s 44.4 fWAR with the Rockies had he stayed in Colorado.
Man, the Cardinals love them some Rockies stars.
Todd Helton leads that franchise with 54.9 fWAR earned. It’s possible and perhaps likely that if Arenado had stayed with the Rockies, he would have finished his career as the best player in franchise history. He should have been Colorado’s version of Stan the Man.
All that production, though, never led the Rockies to real contention. In his eight seasons playing a mile high, Arenado’s teams never finished higher than second in the NL West. He reached the postseason two times and only won one game.
In 2017, the Rockies finished in third place in the division, 17 games behind the 104-win Dodgers. But they did win 87 games that year and reached the Wild Card game, where they lost 1-0.
In 2018, the Rockies had their second-best season in franchise history. They won 91 games, one short of the franchise record, and were just one game from the division championship. They went on to lose in the Division Series 3-0.
That’s all the postseason action that Arenado, despite Hall of Fame-caliber production, has seen. Two appearances as a Wild Card team. One failed shot at a division crown.
Arenado did his part. The rest of the Rockies and their front office didn’t do theirs.
During the rest of his tenure in Colorado, the team has been an afterthought. They did not finish above .500 in another season. Their low in wins was 66 in 2014. Their high win total in non-playoff seasons was just 75 wins.
Let’s color that with a shade of red.
The Cardinals haven’t won less than 75 games since 1999. That was 22 years ago.
As Arenado has sat at home nearly every October of his career, he’s watched the Cardinals reach the postseason five times and play in a World Series. Their lowest win total during that stretch was 83 wins. They’ve won their division four times.
That’s just what’s happened while Arenado has been in the big leagues. We know the incredible history and wild success the franchise had before then.
That’s why Arenado is a Cardinal. And that’s why he’s staying a Cardinal. The Cardinals win. A lot. And Arenado wants to be a part of that, while continuing to get paid.
This season is a perfect microcosm of what I’m talking about.
Most of this summer sucked. The Cardinals were playing miserably. They were mired in mediocrity. They were setting team records for walks. The offense was stalled. As spoiled fans of this prestigious franchise, it was a hellscape.
For Arenado, it was pretty good!
The lowest point of the season was when the Cards fell to 4 games under .500. We were writing articles condemning the coaching staff and front office.
The Rockies only finished better than 4 games under two times.
Arenado walked around the All-Star festivities in Colorado telling people to watch out; the Cardinals were going to make the Wild Card game.
The low point for us Cards fans was still a pretty high point for Arenado. With Goldschmidt and Flaherty around him, plus some up-and-coming players, a GM who can get things done (despite the complaining on social media), and an owner who is willing to spend (again, despite the complaining on social media), it’s easy for Arenado to believe that there will be plenty of even higher points going forward.
Arenado can get paid. And he can have the chance to win. And play in front of adoring fans and a packed stadium most of the time. This is why Arenado is a Cardinal. And it’s why he’ll stay a Cardinal.
Hmm…. The Cardinals have just announced a 2 pm press conference. This is a stream of consciousness article, so I’m just going to shift gears right in the middle.
What are they going to announce? Let’s play a little Nostradamus and prognosticate it. By the time you read this, obviously, you’ll know. But I promise I won’t edit this post.
If I had to guess, the press conference will be to announce an extension for Adam Wainwright. That’s the only transaction they could make that would necessitate a formal press conference this close to the end of the season.
They’ll probably also take the opportunity to publicly throw cold water on Mike Shannon’s Busch-beer-fueled pronouncement that DeWitt and family were looking to sell the team.
We’ll get to that. For now, back to Wainwright.
And… checking Twitter… eating lunch… Yup, Derrick Goold at the Post-Dispatch broke the news about an hour before said press conference. Wainwright is back! There is much rejoicing!
I’ve already said my piece about Wainwright and his season. (See here.) Bringing him back at his likely price is an absolute no-brainer and likely a steal. Combine him with another upper-end starter and the Cards should have an excellent rotation next year, with plenty of depth to fall back on.
Now, on to the juicier news for you gossip mongers.
Apparently, during Thursday’s game, the soon-to-be-retired Shannon implied that the DeWitts were looking to sell. That was confirmed here by former Birdo and current host of the best Cardinals podcast on my iPhone: Cardinals Off Day. (You know where to mail the check, Ben and Ben.)
Did Mike Shannon just say "word on the street is [the DeWitt's] are going to sell the @Cardinals?"— Ben Godar (@bengodar) September 30, 2021
Of course, the Cardinals immediately denied it.
Might Shannon be telling the truth? I just don’t see it. Sure, Bill DeWitt is looking pretty old. At the post-clinch celebration, he was showing his age – he’s 80. But 80 isn’t what it used to be and it’s hard to imagine the family selling the team before Bill DeWitt III gets his shot at the big chair.
Yes, the franchise is worth gobs and gobs of money. The DeWitts could sell and then construct their own Scrooge Tower to swim in their gold.
It’s more fun to run a baseball team, though. Those gold coins chaff. I’m not saying that from experience.
Anyway, Arenado is staying as a Cardinal. Probably forever. So is Adam Wainwright. There’s a meaningless but always fun series against the Cubs this weekend. And a huge Wild Card game coming up this week.
I’ll have my thoughts on that game on Wednesday. Enjoy your weekend!