Over the last several days the MLB hot stove has been ablaze with rumors about a Nolan Arenado trade. Like many teams, the Rockies are looking to cut salary. Being that Steve Cohen became the Mets owner after the 2020 season, he is not hemorrhaging money due to lost revenue. Additionally, Cohen bought the Mets for less than he originally offered earlier this year and has been clear that he will spend. It is for this reason that a trade between the Rockies and Mets appears logical.
The problem is that the Rockies are not only looking to shed salary. They also want to restock the farm system. In a September article by Jonathan Mayo, MLB’s draft and prospect expert, he ranked the Rockies as having the third worst farm system. They have a grand total of one prospect on the top 100 list, and he isn’t projected to reach the majors until 2024. With the Dodgers and Padres in win-now mode the Rockies are not expected to be more than a third-place team. That is why a rebuild should be in order.
The Mets by comparison are ranked 20th by Mayo, but have 3 players on the top 100 list, Others are not far behind. The Mets upper levels on the minors are thin. This means that in 2021 we shouldn’t expect to see many impact players graduating the system. However, from 2022-2024 the Mets could see quite a number of good young players coming to Queens. Ronny Mauricio (SS), Francisco Alvarez (C), Brett Baty (3B) and Pete Crow Armstrong (OF) are the main prospects expected to reach the show. Do the Mets really want to add a player who is entering his age 30 season on a long expensive contract?
This gets to the main issue. Arenado has an enormous contract. Prior to the 2019 season, the Rockies locked up Arenado to a massive $260 million deal for 8 years. However, they did not set it up to pay him $32.5 million each year. They back ended the deal so to save money on the first season. Bottom line is that Arenado is currently owed $199 million for the next six seasons. This can increase based on incentives. While, Steve Cohen can afford this, even the richest owner has to say what he wants to invest in.
In terms of production, Arenado is right now at his peak. Some might even think that he is starting to decline. It is hard to make the case that he will get better out of Coors Field. From ages 24-28, the man was an absolute monster. His numbers are off the charts awesome as seen here.
Not only is he a great hitter, but he always wins the gold glove award. The problem is what to make of his 2020 stats. He was great defensively, but his offensive numbers took a nosedive in the short season. When you try to project his numbers for a 162-game season, they aren’t too impressive.
Baseball Reference predicts that this season he will improve over his 2020 stats but will not return to his old form. So while Arenado is still a good player, he is not the expected to maintain that superstar status we are familiar with.
However, there is one major factor that makes an Arenado risky. His splits show that he is definitely benefiting from hitting into that Rocky Mountain air. When in Denver, the guy is a stud. Outside, he is a good but not a great hitter. This is what has many teams worried. When you see a 50+ point drop in batting average and OBP to go along with a 100+ point drop in slugging, it is a red flag.
When you compound these factors, you have to ask the obvious question. Is he worth it? Do the Mets want to trade away top prospects for Arenado? While Arenado was great through his age 28 season, 2020 raised some questions. He is certainly still a great defender but the bat is a question mark. Arenado has always been a much better hitter at home and Citi Field has never been known to be hitter friendly. While he probably has some more good seasons left in him, the question is how many and how good? The winning formula generally calls for a good core of young everyday position players and not aging veterans. The Mets have some solid prospects coming up in a few seasons but they could be blocked by Arenado.
Unfortunately, the Mets still have two more seasons with Cano’s gargantuan contract. The wise move would be to not add another one. The future of the DH in the NL is unclear. Smith and Alonso are holding down the fort at first base. This doesn’t leave anywhere from Arenado to move when the defensive decline eventually hits. The money needed to get Arenado would be used more wisely locking up our own stars like Conforto or even Syndergaard.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)