OK, let’s talk about Nolan Arenado and the Dodgers

Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

One of the worst-kept secret in Dodgerland in recent years has been their affinity for Nolan Arenado. A local kid, grew up a Dodger fan, one of the best players in the game — and so on.

Arenado, 29, has been stuck in Rockieland for the duration of his career. He brought it upon himself when he signed an 8-year, $260 million extension a couple winters ago. When a team offers you $32.5 million a season to play ball, you usually don’t say no.

However, Arenado has an opt-out clause that he can exercise following the 2021 season, in which would forfeit $164 million for the remaining five years of his deal. His displeasure with the direction in which the Rockies are going is no secret, and the Rockies are now at a crossroads with their superstar third baseman.

Naturally, the Arenado-Dodgers’ rumor has picked up again this offseason.

“One source said Thursday that the Dodgers — who have liked Arenado for years — remain interested in trading for him. If anything, there are more reasons to believe in the viability of an Arenado trade with the Dodgers today than last offseason, when his future was a dominant industry topic.”

Justin Turner is a free agent. Odds are, the Dodgers will likely re-sign him and that would all but end the Arenado rumors. But, the allure of Arenado manning the hot corner for the next half decade-plus might be too much for LA to ignore.

Turner is 36 and has lost a step defensively. That isn’t surprising. Arenado is one of the best defensive third basemen the game has ever seen. Turner is still plenty capable with the bat, but it remains to be seen how long that will last as he gets into his late-30s. In 2020, is isolated slugging dipped below .200 for the first time since 2015, when it was .197. He still hit .307 and got on base a .400 clip, but the power might be entering a decline. I noted his trouble with plus-velocity last month, and that will likely only continue in the coming years.

Now, I’m not saying there isn’t room for both Turner and Arenado — there is. Last winter, there were public reports of the Dodgers potentially asking Turner to slide across the diamond to play some first base as the team pursued Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson. Those signings didn’t come to pass and Turner remained the Dodgers’ every day third baseman. If they did acquire Arenado and re-signed Turner, it would mean he plays mostly first base and Max Muncy plays second. That would free up Chris Taylor to be a potentially more effective Enrique Hernandez, who probably wouldn’t be back in this scenario.

If Turner isn’t keen on moving for Arenado, he could explore opportunities elsewhere. There are teams in need of a solid third baseman and/or right-handed hitter. It would be weird to see him don another jersey at this stage in his career, though.

Back to Arenado. He has, certainly, been helped by playing half his games at Coors Field. His home-road splits are quite drastic.

Nolan Arenado career home splits

AVGOBPSLGwOBAISOwRC+
.322.376.609.409.288128

Nolan Arenado career road splits

AVGOBPSLGwOBAISOwRC+
.263.322.471.334.208108

Pretty distinct difference. He, obviously, can’t help where the Rockies play their home games, so it’s tough to hold that completely against him and his numbers. He did show some good road numbers, especially in the power department. That gives some hope that his numbers away from Coors would not plummet. Getting out of Coors actually helped (according to some guy) DJ LeMahieu, and Arenado is widely regarded as a great hitter, even with the Coors bump. That same guy wrote about this very subject on Friday.

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He was hampered by an inflamed AC joint in his left shoulder in 2020, which led to career-low numbers across the board. It seems he has recovered from the injury.

https://twitter.com/TheAthleticMLB/status/1329639349378543617

Looks pretty healthy, says the internet blogger doctor.

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The Dodgers have close to $75 million coming off the books after the 2021 season. You have to assume Clayton Kershaw will be re-signed, if he still wants to play (and is healthy), and you have to think the Dodgers are keenly interested in retaining NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager, following his age-27 season. Oh, and they’re quite wealthy, no matter what they want to say publicly.

This is my way of saying the Dodgers can re-sign Turner, trade for Arenado and retain Kershaw and Seager following the ’21 season — if they so choose. Money isn’t much of an object (and finances in the country shouldn’t be as bad next year as they were this year). If the Dodgers want all these players, they can have them.

Now, that brings us to the cost to acquire Arenado, outside his contract.

The Rockies aren’t exactly eager to trade Arenado. They certainly aren’t eager to trade him within the division. The certainly certainly aren’t eager to trade him to the World Series champion Dodgers. But assuming Arenado has a normal 2021 season, he’s likely to opt-out of his deal and end up on another team. That would net the Rockies — at best — a compensatory 1st-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft. They would be wise to move their superstar this winter, much like the Red Sox did with Mookie Betts last winter. Of course, they should have never traded a generational talent like Betts, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s get this out of the way: The Dodgers aren’t going to trade the likes of Gavin Lux or Dustin May to get Arenado. They don’t have to. They likely wouldn’t have to deal Josiah Gray, either. Here are some players who might interest the Rockies:

Assuming the Dodgers eat all of Arenado’s deal, the return would be a bit lesser for Colorado. If the Dodgers sent someone like AJ Pollock in the deal to lessen the financial commitment, that could net the Rockies a higher-tier prospect/player. I could see a deal headlined by Ruiz and a couple pitchers. Or maybe Miller (fits Colorado’s MO) and a couple others from above. Any way you look at it, the Dodgers wouldn’t completely fleece the Rockies in a potential Arenado deal, but they aren’t going to have to give up multiple top-tier pieces to get him because of the money involved. Oh, and it goes pretty much without saying that Arenado would waive his no-trade clause to come to LA and would probably agree not to opt-out.

It seems like there’s a deal to be made here, but there are definitely some complications — Turner’s free agency, upcoming big raises for guys like Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler, etc. This is something to monitor as the winter progresses. I’d bet on Turner coming back and the Dodgers not trading for Arenado, but they can basically do anything they want this offseason.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.