After an offseason focused on potential trades for Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor, it now appears Nolan Arenado is the most likely superstar to get moved this offseason.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the news. Both Betts and Lindor recently came to terms with their respective clubs on arbitration contracts, so that likely impacted the pecking order of the trade market.
Arenado is arguably on the market in large part due to mistakes made by the Rockies front office. His eight-year, $260 million contract has an opt-out clause after the 2021 season, and it seems likely Arenado will opt out and look for an even larger contract.
With only a two-year window and the club floundering, the Rockies have begun to explore their options of retooling the roster by trading their best player.
The St. Louis Cardinals have emerged as the most likely suitor for Arenado, per Morosi. His admiration of the franchise and friendship with Paul Goldschmidt are seen as factors that would push Arenado to agree to waive his full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals could request Arenado agree to not opt out of his contract as a parameter of the deal. MLB rules prevent such agreements without a player receiving additional compensation, so there would have to be some sort of raise involved to make that happen.
While the Cardinals have a combination of young MLB-ready players and prospects to make a deal that's palatable on paper, it's hard to find a justifiable reason to trade Arenado. The 28-year-old has emerged as one of baseball's best and most consistent players over the last half decade, hitting at least 37 home runs and driving in no fewer than 110 runs during that span.
Arenado's 26.9 wins above replacement is the eighth-most among position players over the last five years. Only Kris Bryant and Josh Donaldson have been more productive among third basemen, per FanGraphs.