One week ago the St. Louis Cardinals were in a state of uncertainty. This week they’re a World Series contender thanks to their recent blockbuster trade for star third baseman Nolan Arenado.
According to MLB Network’s Mark Feinsand, the Cardinals will send the Colorado Rockies left-hander Austin Gomber, right-handers Tony Locey and Jake Sommers, and infielders Elehuris Montero and Mateo Gil for Arenado. Meanwhile, Colorado will reportedly eat $51 million of the remaining $199 million on the third baseman’s contract.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact this trade has on the Cardinals: it’s monumental from every aspect of the game.
The Cardinals are getting one of the five best position players in Major League Baseball. Arenado is an overpowering and highly productive hitter from the right side. From 2015-19 he posted 199 home runs, 621 RBIs, a .300 batting average, and a .937 OPS. He’s an elite hitter.
Arenado is as good as it gets at the hot corner. He’s exceptional at fielding groundballs in the hole and has a cannon for an arm. Arenado leads MLB third basemen in DRS dating back to 2015 (90).
He’s a well-rounded star and precisely what the Cardinals needed.
Manager Mike Shildt has a veteran positional core that has underperformed over the last two years from a production standpoint (the Cardinals were 28th in MLB in runs last season and 19th in 2019). We’re talking about an offense that includes Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Paul DeJong, and Tommy Edman. Now they have Arenado, who forms the best corner infield duo in MLB with Goldschmidt. Plus, if they hit back-to-back, teams can’t pitch around one of them. They’ll provide protection for each other.
The Cardinals are a fundamentally sound defensive team and are getting a premier fielder to man the hot corner while adding a potent threat in the batter’s box.
This offense is putting up runs for a well-versed and proven starting rotation.
Albeit he was shaky in the sport’s 60-game regular season, Jack Flaherty has the makeup of an ace. He blows his fastball past hitters, gets considerable movement on his slider and curveball, and pitches deep into games. Flaherty is a budding star.
Dakota Hudson has been efficient and consistently escaped trouble over the last two years. The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.77 ERA across eight starts last season while old reliable Adam Wainwright had a stellar campaign, posting a 3.15 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP across 10 starts.
Daniel Ponce de Leon has had his moments over the last three seasons. Maybe Miles Mikolas can return to form with health? Meanwhile, the likes of Genesis Cabrera, Tyler Webb, and John Gant, among others, make for a reliable bullpen.
Barring a series of unforeseen transactions, the Cardinals are the clear-cut best team in the National League Central. The Chicago Cubs are in a rebuilding/retooling shuffle thing, and the Milwaukee Brewers have done close to nothing to upgrade their roster this offseason. While respectable forces, both teams aren’t as well-equipped as St. Louis to get to the playoffs and go on a run thereafter. Concurrently, the Pittsburgh Pirates are selling, and the Cincinnati Reds appear to be doing the same.
The reigning-champion Los Angeles Dodgers are the safe bet to win the NL with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres on their heels. Aren’t the Cardinals on the Dodgers’ heels, too?
This is a ballclub that’s a year removed from going to the NL Championship Series and won 88-plus games in 2018 and 2019. They were already a prime candidate to bounce back from their yawning 30-28 season which was low-lighted by a Wild Card Series loss to the Padres. Imagine what the Cardinals can be with Flaherty back on track and their offense performing at a mere competent level.
St. Louis brain trust took advantage of the Rockies. They were able to acquire a star player without surrendering a highly touted prospect, and Colorado is paying part of Arenado’s salary. In essence, the Cardinals are on the hook for a six-year, $148 million contract. That is a steal for a player of Arenado’s caliber.
Think of it this way: Anthony Rendon, a fellow star third baseman, is corralling a $35 million average annual salary with the Los Angeles Angels. The Cardinals are paying Arenado roughly $10 million less per year than the Angels are paying Rendon over the time remaining on their respective contracts.
This is the third time in four offseasons that the Cardinals swung for the fences on the trade market. Three offseasons ago they traded for Marcell Ozuna, which was followed by a move for Goldschmidt the ensuing offseason. The Cardinals develop young pitchers and make prominent moves for position players. They finally got on the better end of one of these deals and have the tools to snatch their third World Series of the 21st century.
The St. Louis Cardinals are back, and Nolan Arenado is the impetus.