Should the Rockies lock up Nolan Arenado?

Doug Pensinger

Locking up players early is often a good strategy, but it might not make sense for the Rockies to do so with their young third baseman.

ESPN.com baseball analyst and former MLB executive Jim Bowden believes Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado falls under the category of young stars that teams should think about locking up now (Insider only).

Arenado is a client of Scott Boras, so getting him under any sort of control before he's set to hit free agency won't be easy. Then again, Colorado was able to lock up Carlos Gonzalez with several years of team control remaining, so it's certainly not impossible.

Here's what Bowden had to say:

Arenado won the Gold Glove Award last year and has a chance to develop into a middle-of-the-order impact bat. This would be the best time to extend him -- before he shows what he's capable of doing with the bat.

There is some considerable risk here for the Rockies. Yes, Arenado is an absolutely phenomenal defensive player, but the bat isn't there yet; he's not a patient hitter and often makes weak contact. However, as we saw on Saturday, this is a guy who is capable of showing All-Star flashes at any point.

The reason there's risk? Take a look at what Bowden believes it would take to lock up the 22-year-old defensive wizard:

Will have to overpay his bat like Machado, but a lot like Simmons for his Gold Glove. In the neighborhood of six years and $47 million or seven years and $58 million.

This appears to be a realistic deal for the Rockies, but they'd likely have to backload it in order to retain flexibility. Troy Tulowitzki's salary raises to $20 million per season beginning next year and Carlos Gonzalez will begin approaching that figure soon, as well. If the team were to give Arenado $8 million per season without moving a significant chunk of the money toward the back of the deal, they'd be paying roughly $45 million per season for just those three guys.

That doesn't seem like a large amount, but the Rockies are a mid-market team and would likely have problems operating efficiently with that much money tied into so few players.

Luckily for the Rockies, they don't need to make a decision on Arenado for a while. He won't even be eligible for arbitration until 2016 and won't hit the open market until after the 2019 campaign. By then, Gonzalez will be off the books and Tulowitzki will have only one year and $18 million remaining on his deal. A lot can change at that point.

Locking up young players often makes sense, and the Rockies themselves have been the benefactor on several occasions. But doing that with Arenado might not be the best thing considering their current financial obligations as well as taking into account other areas in which the team could spend in order to improve.

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