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Why Nolan Arenado is right to feel betrayed by the Rockies

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He’s not alone. The Rockies have betrayed fans, too.

Last night was an emotional time on #RockiesTwitter following, first, Jeff Bridich’s statement that the Rockies did not plan to trade Nolan Arenado (YEA!!!), and then increasingly clear statements from Arenado that he was unhappy (OH NO...).

I was reminded of a Ken Rosenthal article from March 2019 in which he recounted the behind-the-scenes action of the Arenado contract extension. Two passages stayed with me.

First, this one:

Arenado understood the Rockies might think he was waiting on Harper and Machado to set the market, simply because he was taking so long to act. But Harper and Machado were free agents who would base their decisions on different criteria. He needed to ask himself: Can I see myself being here for eight to 10 years? Are the Rockies committed to winning? Do I believe in the team?

“Are the Rockies committed to winning?” Arenado has been clear for years: It’s not about the money for him—it’s about winning. He reiterated this point in his contract negotiations with Dick Monfort and Bridich.

And then this one:

Tulowitzki’s deal had given the Rockies the flexibility to trade him — his only no-trade protection had been a $2 million assignment bonus. 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.”

I’ve quoted at length here to emphasize how clear Arenado was in articulating the importance of winning when deciding to stay in Colorado and the extent to which he took Monfort and Bridich at their word.

The offseason has shown how shallow those promises were. At the October 2 not-a-press-conference press conference, coming off a grim 71-91 season, Monfort and Bridich were clear that fans should not expect any big splashes during the offseason due to limited “financial flexibility.” And, to the Rockies’ credit, they have been true to their promise of frugality. They are one of only two teams that has not signed a free agent to a guaranteed major league contract this offseason, nor have they made any trades. The Rockies are all in on hope as a cost-effective strategy to get them back to the playoffs in 2020.

I’ve written (here and here) about how disappointing this has been for fans who have nothing to look forward to—save the Rockies signing a couple of aging catchers to minor-league contracts.

But what we’re experiencing has to pale next to the level of betrayal Arenado is surely feeling. It wasn’t about the never-ending trade talk, however. Yesterday, he told Thomas Harding, “I’m not mad at the trade rumors. There’s more to it.” Later last night, he texted Troy Renck, “Jeff [Bridich] is very disrespectful. I never talk trash or anything...I play hard, keep my mouth shut. But I can only get crossed so many times.”

Based on what we’ve seen, I’m going to side with Arenado on this one. I don’t have any inside knowledge, but here’s my best guess based on the reporting I’ve read. Monfort and Bridich made a promise to Arenado: They promised the team would work to continue to improve and remain postseason contenders. Nothing that has happened this offseason suggests the front office has honored that promise.

Here’s what I wrote last March after Arenado’s extension:

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.

I should have said, “They’re all in—assuming it works with their self-imposed salary cap.”

Don’t forget that in addition to failing to improve the team in the offseason, the Rockies are also about to enter arbitration with Trevor Story and Tony Wolters, two key players in the Rockies’ future. None of this suggests the Rockies have a commitment to winning, and the front office’s failure to communicate effectively continues to exacerbate an already bad situation. As Nick Groke reported early this morning, “Several players since 2017 have expressed similar discontent with Bridich, relaying their difficulty even talking with the general manager.” None of this is sustainable.

Also early this morning, Jeff Passan reported that Arenado did, in fact, feel betrayed by

the Rockies’ winter of inaction less than a year after the team signed Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million contract extension.

Passan adds that Arenado has spoken with the Rockies front office about the offseason of inaction, including a personal meeting with Monfort. Passsan writes: “The organization is puzzled by Arenado’s questioning of its leadership and future so soon after he agreed to an extension on Feb. 26, 2019, sources said.”

Clearly, the front office has not been reading Purple Row—or any other Rockies-centric publication that has spent the offseason pointing out the problems with the team’s 2020 philosophy.

This morning, Mark Kiszla tweeted this:

I’m very here for a general manager in purple pinstripes who is also a Gold Glove third baseman.

Arenado is right to feel betrayed. So are fans. It’s time for the front office to make some changes—and those changes should not include trading Arenado.