After the last pitch of the World Series in 2018, the eyes of the baseball world turned to the free agency of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The media and the fans followed both stars throughout their quest for new contracts on a daily basis. The two finally signed with the Phillies and Padres, respectively, and their contracts drew major attention. While both were great signings, they may not have been the best. That honor may fall to third baseman Nolan Arenado.
He’s one of the NL’s best sluggers, leading the Colorado Rockies to a resurgence since he arrived in the majors. But what makes this signing the sleeper hit of the 2019 offseason? Let’s take a closer look at Nolan Arenado as a player, and why his deal that flew under the radar might be the best 2019 offseason signing you may have missed.
Who is Nolan Arenado?
Arenado is the starting third baseman for the Colorado Rockies. He’s played for the Rockies since his major league debut in 2013. The 27-year-old attended El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California. He has a brother, Jonah, who currently plays in the San Francisco Giants minor league system.
This offseason, the Rockies signed Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension.
What are Nolan Arenado’s numbers with the Colorado Rockies?
Since entering the league, Arenado’s performance with the Rockies has been consistently great and improving on an upward trajectory.
For his career (six seasons in Colorado), Arenado has a.291 average with a .346 on-base percentage, and a .539 slugging percentage. He has 186 home runs with 616 RBIs. He’ll soon surpass 1,000 hits in his career, as he starts 2019 with 975.
Where does Nolan Arenado rank among baseball’s best hitters?
Arenado compares favorably to MLB’s best. In 2015 and 2016, he led the NL in both home runs, RBI, and total bases. In 2017 he led the NL in doubles with 43. Last season his wins above replacement (WAR) total was 5.6, good for 23rd overall in MLB.
Arenado has been selected to play in the last four All-Star games. In each of those four seasons, he has finished top-10 for the NL MVP award, finishing higher each year.
Defensively speaking, Arenado is certainly no slouch. He’s won the Gold Glove at third base every year he’s been in the league.
How does Nolan Arenado’s deal compare to 2019’s other high profile signings?
Nolan Arenado signed for less money and fewer years than both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Machado inked a 10-year deal while Harper signed an astounding 13-year contract.
History has not been kind to these megadeals. Whether it was Alex Rodriguez hanging on near the end of his career with the Yankees or Albert Pujols and his declining production with the Angels, deals that long usually leave the team feeling regretful near the end.
Arenado’s deal is relatively team-friendly in that regard. It’s an eight-year extension, which means Arenado may still be close to his prime years when it expires. While the $260 million price tag is no small amount, it pales in comparison to Machado’s $300 million and Harper’s $330 million. It seems unusual to say that spending $260 million on a player represents a steal, but that may be true in Arenado’s case based on his advanced production levels.
Why is Nolan Arenado’s signing the best 2019 offseason signing you might have missed?
There are several reasons Arenado’s signing may be the best of the 2019 offseason.
According to Baseball Reference, in 2019 Arenado is projected to hit .292 with a .363 on-base percentage, 32 home runs, and 103 RBI. This shows a slight regression towards the mean for his age 28 season, but these are still All-Star caliber numbers. He will more than earn his high salary.
Some may argue that Arenado’s offensive production benefits from playing 81 games a year in the thin air of Denver. While this may be true, that means the extension is an even wiser decision for both Arenado and the Rockies. It ensures he will continue to hit in the hitter-friendly Coors Field, and the team locked up a key cog long before he hit free agency.
The bottom line is that while the Rockies invested a significant amount of money in Nolan Arenado, it is not a relatively high amount compared to some of 2019’s other deals. From both an economic and baseball standpoint, it may have been the best signing of this year’s offseason.