Nolan Arenado’s departure may have only been a matter of time, but that didn’t stop the breath being taken out of every Rockies fan in the world when Ken Rosenthal broke the story:
BREAKING: Cardinals have agreed to acquire Nolan Arenado from Rockies, sources tell @TheAthletic. Deal pending approval from both MLB and players’ union; Rockies sending Cardinals significant cash, believed to be in $50M range, and Arenado will be deferring money.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2021
A few days later, it still seems unreal.
So, how did we get here?
February 26, 2019 —
BREAKING: Third baseman Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies are finalizing an eight-year, contract extension worth more than $255M, league sources tell ESPN. Deal includes an opt-out after three years, would give Arenado the largest per-year salary of any position player.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 26, 2019
This day was supposed to be one of the best moments in Rockies history — a day they finally locked up their franchise third baseman as a Colorado Rockies player for the rest of his career. In hindsight, it might have actually been the beginning of the end.
Despite expressing some uncertainty about the direction of the team a year earlier, Nolan now felt assured that the team was on the right track. It’s easy to see why after coming off back-to-back postseason appearances and coming within a victory shy of their first ever division title. Even though the offseason loss of DJ LeMahieu made fans uneasy, things were still looking up and expectations were high.
The contract itself made sense. The money was thought to be worth it by just about everyone. The length of time was around what most expected, finishing up when Nolan would be 36 years old. But one aspect of the deal stood out: the opt-out clause. We would soon learn it was at GM Jeff Bridich’s insistence that the player opt-out was included after three years.
At the extension press conference, Bridich described it like this:
“It’s a natural appraisal situation, kind of mid-contract where we can continue to communicate about where we’re at and he can honestly evaluate where he’s at three years from now... Hopefully it’s a non-factor.”
2019 Season — Everything about this infamous season is known all too well by Rockies faithful, and it altered how the Rockies are viewed. Colorado didn’t make the leap with their young players like they were hoping to and instead had nearly the entire pitching staff regress, finishing with an NL-worst 5.56 combined ERA. Multiple injuries, combined with the disappearance of both Kyle Freeland’s and the bullpen’s pitching ability, made this a season to forget. After signing his extension, this was not what Arenado expected; he made his sure his feelings were heard.
September 2019 — On Sept. 1st, Nolan spoke with the media and said the now infamous quote: “It feels like a rebuild.”
Near the end of the season on Sept. 28th, Nolan again voiced his disappointment, telling The Denver Post how frustrated he was and how he thought the Rockies had a plan to win. “You go into the season with high hopes, especially after the last two years. But I guess when you look back on it and you see some of the younger players we had to us and some of the inexperience we had, we just didn’t match up with some of these teams.”
When asked if the team required a major overhaul, he explained:
“I really don’t know what it is right now. We are relying on a lot of young guys who are inexperienced. I was a rookie once and I made mistakes, too and I had to learn from them.”
October 1, 2019 — At the end-of-season media availability, Jeff Bridich and owner/CEO Dick Monfort were asked to respond to Nolan’s comment about it looking like a rebuild.
Jeff Bridich: “If we were rebuilding, Nolan Arenado wouldn’t be here to make comments like that.”
Dick Monfort: “I haven’t seen many rebuilds that start with signing your face of the franchise, your best player, to a a $260 million dollar contract.”
Both were later asked if they thought the success of the 2020 season could affect Nolan’s 2021 opt-out decision. Bridich said he wouldn’t want to put words in Nolan’s mouth. Monfort stepped up and said:
“If there’s a list of issues that we need to deal with, that is like number 775 on the page. So, I don’t think any of us are really worried about it. I don’t think anybody’s losing sleep about Nolan’s opt-out at this point in time.”
December 2019 —
Rockies are willing to listen to trade inquiries on superstar 3B Nolan Arenado (and anyone else); they’ve gotten many calls on him since trade deadline. Would shake up monster 3B market (Rendon, Donaldson, Bryant) but no one sees as likely yet. Has full no-trade so up to him.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2019
Rumors begin to fly about the possibility of Arenado being traded. The initial group of teams who were reportedly interested were the Dodgers, Braves, Rangers and Cardinals.
January 20, 2020 — GM Jeff Bridich put the rumors to rest, telling The Denver Post “We have listened to teams regarding Nolan and nothing really has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected—with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman.”
This is where I personally believe the relationship became unfixable. There had to have been some violation of understanding that happened when Bridich announced there wasn’t going to be a trade.
Why do I think this? Because Nolan almost immediately responded. He texted MLB.com’s Thomas Harding, saying he felt disrespected.
“There’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of,” he said. “You can quote that.”
Arenado clarified, “I’m not mad at the trade rumors. There’s more to it.”
11 months after signing his contract extension, Nolan Arenado had enough.
February 14, 2020 — A cold war had ensued between Nolan Arenado and Jeff Bridich. Nolan told Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown,
“To be honest with you, there is a disconnect right now, right? There’s a little bit of a disconnect. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna go out there and play hard for my teammates. Or be a negative presence in that locker room. That’s just not me.”
Spring Training 2020 — Tensions slightly cooled after Arenado reportedly spoke with owner Dick Monfort, who assured him Colorado would be open to adding pieces during the season. This came after the Rockies failed to sign a major league free agent in the offseason, further frustrating Arenado.
COVID-19 of course derailed the MLB season and the entire world. For the next few months, the Arenado-Bridich drama took a back seat.
2020 Season — The Rockies showed promised at the start of the shortened season but soon showed familiar weaknesses. Injuries to a struggling David Dahl and other Rockies made for a frustratingly inconsistent roster. Nolan himself had one of his worst career years while dealing with a lingering shoulder injury.
Just before he finished the season on the IL, Arenado was asked if the team needed to make the playoffs to show they’re heading in the right direction. He answered:
“Absolutely. No question for me. Eight teams make the playoffs and if we’re not one of those eight teams that’s not a very good sign.”
Even with an expanded postseason, the team missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The front office did not speak to the media at the end of the season.
November 3, 2020 — Nolan expressed doubt about what will happen in the offseason while accepting his eighth Gold Glove on ESPN. It ended up being his final public appearance as a member of the Colorado Rockies.
January 29, 2021 – Nolan Arenado was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
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By giving away Nolan Arenado, the Rockies make the dumbest trade in Colorado sports history | The Denver Post ($)
Mark Kiszla sounds off of the trade. Like most people, he’s surprised the Rockies weren’t able to get more for Arenado. He’s more than surprised; actually, he’s outraged. His recommendation to fans is to not spend any more money on the team.
An early look at what a Nolan Arenado-less Rockies team looks like. Answer: It looks strange. It’s safe to assume Ryan McMahon and Josh Fuentes will now split third and first base. That leaves Brendan Rodgers or Garrett Hampson to get more time at second.
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