MLB Rumors: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman, is not exercising his opt out clause, per reports. Arenado has five years and $144 million left on his deal.
I think the consensus for a while has been that Arenado wouldn’t opt out, and my initial reaction when seeing this was, well of course he isn’t opting out, he wasn’t going to do better than that. However, Arenado was better in 2022 than I realized or remembered...he had a down year (for him) offensively in 2021, with his 119 OPS+ being the worst he has put up in a full season since his sophomore season with the Rockies in 2014. He bounced back in 2022, though, with a .293/.358/.533 slash line and career bests in OPS+ (154) and bWAR (7.9).
You may recall that, once upon a time, Nolan Arenado was the player that the Rangers were wanting to go all-in for when he hit the free agent market. Arenado was slated to be a free agent after the 2019 season; however, during spring training, 2019, he signed an 8 year, $260 million extension with Colorado that crushed the hopes and dreams of the Rangers. They pivoted to Anthony Rendon that offseason and lost out on him to the Angels, which in retrospect falls under the category of bullet dodging.
Things almost immediately went south between the Rockies and Arenado after the extension was signed, with Colorado having a bad 2019 season, and then failing to make the sort of efforts to improve the team that Arenado felt they had represented they would make when he signed the extension. Complicating matters for the Rockies was the fact that Arenado had an opt-out after the 2021 season — an opt-out that Arenado supposedly didn’t ask for, but that the Rockies offered him anyway — and thus were faced with the possibility of Arenado leaving in the near future.
Colorado ended up trading Arenado, who had full no-trade rights, to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to spring training in 2021 for an underwhelming package of five players, the most notable of which currently is Austin Gomber. Compounding their mistake, the Rockies agreed to pay the Cardinals $51 million if Arenado did not opt out of the deal.
To help facilitate the trade, Arenado agreed to defer $50 million of his salary, and received a second opt out after the 2022 season. The Cardinals agreed to add an additional year to his contract at $15 million for the 2027 season.
Arenado is slated to make $35 million in 2023 and 2024, $32 million in 2025, and $27 million in 2026, with $6 million per year deferred at 0% interest to be paid out at $3 million per year from 2034-41, along with the $15 million in 2027. Arenado either felt he couldn’t do better than that on the free agent market, or felt like whatever improvement he might be able to make on his current deal wasn’t worth the risk of hitting the market and possibly ending up in a location he found less appealing that St. Louis.
It would have been interesting to see what he ended up with, had he hit the open market...he’s considered a high makeup guy, he’s coming off his best season, and its a weak third base class. On the other hand, Arenado is entering his age 32 season, and there are four very good shortstops — Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson — who are all hitting the market this offseason, and who are all younger than him, which would have impacted his market.