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What Nolan Arenado’s contract means beyond years and money

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It shows a commitment to winning

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It’s been just over a week since Nolan Arenado signed his 8-year, $260-million dollar contract. While Rockies fans celebrated and parsed the specifics, The Athletics Ken Rosenthal began putting together the story behind the deal. If you haven’t read “Tense Moments, Heart-to-hearts, and Mr. October: Inside Nolan Arenado’s Record-setting Deal,” I recommend it. Everyone but Dick Monfort spoke to Rosenthal about the negotiations, which suggests this is the definitive account.

The story is fascinating, but there’s one passage that’s especially revealing:

Arenado would require not only a full no-trade clause, but also a three-year opt-out and verbal assurances that the team, coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, would try to remain strong.

Monfort and Bridich told Arenado what he needed to hear.

“First of all, when you give someone a certain amount of dollars, you’re not just going to give them that to lose,” Arenado said. “There has to be some (aspect) of trying to win, or it would make zero sense.

“They explained to me we’re going to try to win, we’re going to do what we can, that’s why we want you there. We have a good core. There are some other guys one day in the future they might try to lock up also. It meant something to me.”

This leaves me very encouraged about the Rockies’ future for a few reasons:

  1. Dick Monfort and Jeff Bridich assured Arenado the Rockies intend to keep winning. Arenado has always been clear that being on a winning team matters more to him than money (As he put it, “Winning is the No. 1 thing for me, and I’m only getting older”). Before signing this deal, he needed to know that the Rockies are as committed to winning as he is. Monfort and Bridich provided that assurance. Arenado believes enough to stake his dreams on this contract.
  2. The contract has a three-year opt-out clause that significantly empowers Arenado. After three years, Arenado can choose to leave the Rockies, which gives them a strong incentive to keep winning. In adding this clause (which was, apparently, at the insistence of his agent, Joel Wolfe), Arenado has given himself considerable leverage over the Rockies to ensure that they hold up their end.
  3. Dick Monfort is willing to spend. The ways in which an institution allocates resources indicates its values. The Rockies have shown that they value players, giving lucrative contracts to Bud Black (3 years), Charlie Blackmon (6 years, $108 million), Wade Davis, (3 years, $52 million), Jake McGee (3 years, $27 million), and Bryan Shaw (3 years, $27 million). Regardless of your feelings about spending that much on relievers, it reflects the Rockies’ values, which is especially significant at a time when some teams are choosing to tank. After years of hearing “The Monforts are cheap” and “They just want another Party Deck,” it’s clear that the Rockies’ ownership, despite the considerable financial risk, is serious about winning. Nolan Arenado’s contract embodies that commitment.
  4. The Rockies are trying to lock down other players they see as essential. According to Arenado, Monfort and Bridich said they are trying to extend other key players, presumably Trevor Story, Kyle Freeland, and German Márquez. This is another sign that the Rockies are committed to winning. To quote Arenado, “It meant something to me.”

It should mean something to fans, too. Yes, this is a win for Nolan Arenado: He’s going to get paid and have some control over his future. Yes, it’s a win for the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (Arenado is currently featured on their website). Yes, it’s a win for the Rockies, who keep their best player and the face of the franchise. But it’s also a win for fans. In negotiating this contract, Arenado used his power to try to ensure continued success at Coors Field.

With Arenado’s contract, the Rockies have made clear that they’re all in.