The NL Central title looked wide open in the offseason. But most of the team owners stuck to their tear-downs and put their Moneyball-type hopes in the future. The St. Louis Cardinals took advantage. When the Rockies made the baffling decision to part ways with their star third baseman Nolan Arenado, Colorado’s fans were heartbroken.
But the gain from his addition for St. Louis baseball is so obvious that Arenado doesn’t mind moving on.
Why Nolan Arenado doesn’t mind the hate from Rockies fans
As Baseball Almanac reports, the five-time All-Star’s 33.0 WAR marks him as the best at third base in the entire league and third overall. The eight-time Gold Glove winner’s presence on any roster means wins. Pure added value. Apparently, the Rockies didn’t think Arenado was worth the $260 million contract that most other teams consider a bargain in the current market.
This led to instant bad blood between spurned Rockies fans and the man they once pinned World Series hopes on. Some players feel stung by angry fan reactions, hoping instead for a “thank you for your service” comment. Not so for the top third baseman in the game. Arenado told ESPN:
I’ve moved on. That might hurt some people’s feelings over there, but I have. I appreciate the hate. I know that I can look back at my years in Colorado and know that I gave everything that I had. I have no regrets.Nolan Arenado on his move to the Cardinals
The Cardinals adding Arenado could give them the NL Central title
Colorado’s loss looms large in MLB in large part because of the timing. As Sports Illustrated reports, his 33.0 WAR — behind only the likes of superstars Mike Trout and Mookie Betts — would provide immense value to any team. But for an NL Central that took at turn towards being one of the worst MLB has on offer, it could be the Cards’ division to lose.
It’s not as cut and dry as an easy first place, given how much the current roster in St. Louis is projected to regress. The Milwaukee Brewers still have Josh Hader’s arm, and a lineup of young players led by Christian Yelich that are trending in the opposite direction. The Cubs may have lost Darvish, but the addition of Joc Pederson and potential slump-breaking years for Kris Bryant and Javy Baez could keep them viable.
Still, Arenado’s addition is too large to discount. At a time when the Cards seemed to be winding down with the rest of the division, they instead seized the steal of the offseason and changed the narrative around the division entirely. If the rest of the NL Central is playing Moneyball this year and seeing wins as a lucky byproduct, the Cardinals are trying to win it straight-up.
Arenado gets to realize a longtime ambition on the Cardinals
According to MLB.com, Arenado had an easy time transitioning to St. Louis. In part, that’s because he made a move he long wanted to make: away from playing in the same division as the Dodgers. The 2020 World Series champs are his family’s team and his own favorite team growing up. So, being a divisional rival was stressful.
The other is joining up with Yadier Molina, the veteran catcher who commands a great deal of respect. The third baseman told ESPN:
I’ve never been around a veteran player who’s done what [Molina has] done … He’s still locked in like the rookie that just got first year big league camp. It’s amazing to watch, and it’s made me a better player. It’s made me a better person.Nolan Arenado on Yadier Molina
That level of praise does not come cheap from the normally critical Arenado. Rockies fans may be stuck wondering what could have been for the rest of time. But Arenado appears to be exactly where he wants — and perhaps needs — to be in 2021.