The Rockies and Nolan Arenado have taken what could be the first step in reaching an agreement on a multi-year deal that will keep Arenado from either being traded in late July or becoming a free agent in October.
The parties avoided an arbitration hearing when they agreed on a one-year deal that sources report is worth $26 million, the largest one-year contract in Major League history. The previous record of $23 million was set a year ago when the Blue Jays signed Josh Donaldson, who avoided an arbitration hearing as well.
Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
After a lengthy face-to-face session involving Arenado, Rockies owner Dick Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich, and Joel Wolfe, Arenado’s agent from the Wasserman Media group, the one-year deal was agreed upon.
A year ago, Charlie Blackmon agreed shortly before his expected arbitration hearing to a one-year deal worth $14 million, which became the basis of a six-year deal finalized during spring training, and announced during the first week of the regular season. It guaranteed $108 million, but also gave him the right to opt out of the deal in any of the final two seasons.
It’s not out of the question a similar process could develop this year, although at much higher stakes. Among other things, Arenado is nearly five years younger than Blackmon. Arenado turns 28 on April 16, 76 days before Blackmon turns 33.
And the Rockies are not set to open the season with the highest payroll in franchise history.
Source: Cots Baseball Contracts
What seems obvious is the Rockies have no intention of trading Arenado in the off-season, and would move him shortly before the trading deadline only if they weren’t in post-season contention, and if Arenado had made it apparent he did not want to sign a multi-year deal with the Rockies.
If they are a legitimate factor in the post-season battle, the Rockies would likely keep Arenado, knowing that if he did become a free agent, they could make a qualifying offer for one year, and if he declined that offer the Rockies would at least get a draft choice for compensation.
Arenado is one of the game’s elite players, who did not get called up until the end of April in 2013, which means he was less than a month shy of the six years needed to have become a free agent this off-season.
He is the only third baseman in history to have won a Gold Glove in each of his first six big-league seasons, and in each of the last four years has won a Silver Slugger as the best offensive third baseman in the NL, been selected to the All-Star team four times, and has finished eighth (2015), fifth (2016), fourth (2017) and third (2018) in NL MVP voting.
He has hit .297 over the last four years with 158 home runs and 503 RBI. He led the NL in home runs and RBI in 2015 (42 home runs, 130 RBI) and 2016 (41 home runs, 133 RBI) and home runs again in 2018 (38).
And with the $17.75 million he was paid last year, he now has two of the top 10 single-season salaries in Rockies history.