BIG Deal Arenado...

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T15D23
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BIG Deal Arenado...

Postby T15D23 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:19 pm

A big bet: What Nolan Arenado’s record-setting deal with the Rockies means for their futures
Nick Groke

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In​ a hallway outside​ a makeshift​ meeting​ room in​ the basement of Coors​ Field​ four years ago,​ Dick Monfort​ could not​​ hide the tears in his eyes. The Rockies’ owner just hours before finally approved the most pivotal trade in his club’s history, jettisoning superstar Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. And he mourned.

“This is a difficult one,” Monfort said then. “It is. And I don’t do a very good job of it. I’m emotional. I love all our players.”

By Tuesday morning, after the Rockies began finalizing the terms of a rich and long-term contract with All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, Monfort put to rest any doubt that he might ever commit again to a superstar player.

Arenado and the Rockies came to an agreement on an eight-year, $260 million contract, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, a record-setting deal that will pay him on average $32.5 million per year. It becomes official by the end of Tuesday, sources said, the highest annual average value contract in baseball’s history for a position player, surpassing the eight-year, $248 million deal Miguel Cabrera signed with the Tigers in 2014 that averages $31 million per year.

Arenado’s deal supersedes the record-setting, one-year arbitration contract he signed last month for $26 million. His new contract will start immediately and take him through 2026. Also included is a full no-trade clause and an opt-out point after three years, meaning Arenado can cut ties before the 2022 season, sources told Rosenthal.

As Monfort opened his payroll to what will shatter his club’s highest opening-day expenditure in their 27-year history, the Rockies made clear they are serious about contending — and continuing to contend — in the National League West. Colorado last season fell one game shy of the division title, losing in Los Angeles to the Dodgers in a tiebreaking Game 163.

The Rockies have never won their division and Arenado’s new contract comes amid a rush of big-money moves, including third baseman Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres signed last week. Now, two of the three richest deals in baseball history were completed by so-called mid-market teams, in Colorado and San Diego, within a week, and in the same division.

On Sunday, the Dodgers sent a group of executives and manager Dave Roberts to Las Vegas for a sit-down with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, who is angling toward a deal that may become the richest in American sports history. The Giants, too, are chasing Harper. The NL West is in an arms race.

So the Rockies decided to press Arenado while they still can, before he was set to reach free agency after this season. There were several teams, at least, interested in Arenado as a free agent, including in the NL West. And when word broke in early February that the Rockies were nearing a new contract with Arenado, the logjam of free agency started to loosen. They may have forced the hand of the Padres into keeping pace by signing Machado.

“Some teams are making more news-making moves,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Our moves are coming from within.”

Even at a record-breaking cost, Arenado’s deal seems worth the expenditure. In his six seasons, the 27-year-old has won six Gold Glove awards as the NL’s best defensive third baseman, four Silver Slugger awards as the league’s best hitter at his position, and is a four-time All-Star. He has crept up the NL MVP voting each of the past four seasons, from an eighth-place finish to fifth to fourth to third last year.

Since 2015, Arenado’s first full season in the majors, he ranks first in baseball with 503 RBIs, third in home runs with 158, third in slugging percentage at .573 and fourth in WAR at 25.3, according to Baseball Reference.

“I can say that, defensively, this is the best third baseman the game has ever seen,” former Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla told Jayson Stark. “I mean, offensively, Mike Schmidt has better numbers. But I think when everything is said and done, this guy is going to be the best third baseman ever to play the game.”

Schmidt, the former Phillies star and Hall of Famer, is the only other player in baseball’s history with six consecutive Gold Gloves and at least three home run titles. Arenado’s run of four Gold Gloves and three home run titles in a four-year span has been matched by only Schmidt, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.

“Nolan has proven himself to be one of the elite players in all of baseball,” said Matt Williams, the Athletics’ third-base coach and a five-time All-Star.

In his first six seasons, Arenado rocketed toward the top of the Rockies’ list of most productive players, with a 33.1 bWAR that trails only Todd Helton (61.2 over 17 seasons), Larry Walker (48.3 in 10 seasons) and Tulowitzki (39.4 in 10 years). And he has proved to be durable, averaging 158 games played the past four seasons.

Tulowitzki at his peak averaged 134 games per season but managed just 88 games after signing a 10-year, $157.75 million extension with Colorado in 2011. That deal became too cumbersome for the Rockies, as they slid into five consecutive seasons finishing last or second-to-last in the NL West. It forced general manager Jeff Bridich into a cold and calculated decision to eject the franchise player in a blockbuster July deadline deal in 2015.

In hindsight, that was the beginning of Arenado’s rise. With outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who signed a six-year, $108 million extension last season, and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, now with the Yankees, the Rockies rallied around three pillars to earn an NL wild-card berth in 2017. In 2018, they reached an NL Division Series, their first consecutive trips to the postseason in club history.

But the Rockies became willing to spend big on Arenado because of a sudden confluence of factors.

First, Colorado has collected its best starting pitching rotation, led by 24-year-old German Márquez and 25-year-old lefty Kyle Freeland. They are what led the team’s recent resurgence. And even 29-year-old right-hander Chad Bettis won’t reach free agency until 2021. That leaves the Rockies with a window of pitching to rally behind for at least several years, and at a reasonable cost.

Second, even with two years remaining on one of the lowest-paying regional television contracts in baseball, a 10-year, $200 million deal that runs through 2020, the Rockies are receiving more annually now than at the beginning of the contract, something in the neighborhood of $40 million per year, Monfort recently told MLB.com. Arenado almost surely makes that deal more valuable when the Rockies begin to renegotiate. The Diamondbacks in Arizona, for example, have a 20-year TV deal worth $1.5 billion that started in 2016.

The business of Arenado’s contract makes sense. The personal nature of an extension, and the long-term commitment that comes with it, was another matter.

The only other player of Arenado’s caliber to play his entire with the Rockies was Helton, whose 17-year run in Denver led to his number being retired five years ago. But Helton reached the playoffs just twice, in 2007 and 2009. And the Rockies finished no better than fourth place in the West in 11 of his seasons.

“I admire Derek Jeter. I admire Todd Helton. Guys who stuck with an organization their whole careers,” Arenado told 5280 Magazine last year. “There’s something to be said for that, for sure. But I also don’t want to be Todd in the fact of only going to the playoffs twice in a 17-year career. That’s not worth it to me. I want to win. I want to go to the playoffs, and that’s what drives me.”

Arenado, then, is betting on the Rockies as much as much as they are on him. Colorado waded through eight years between playoff trips before returning in 2017, the same length of Arenado’s new deal. And if that trend becomes apparent again, Arenado can opt out and leave three years from now and the Rockies can start all over again.

“Big picture, I know I am helping the team,” Arenado said. “I know I come to the park every day and work hard. I know my teammates appreciate that.”
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