Could the Toronto Blue Jays pull off a blockbuster trade with the Colorado Rockies involving Nolan Arenado this offseason?
Here we are. November is underway and the Winter Meetings are about five and half weeks away. Oh, what a wonderful thing it is: the uncertainty of the MLB offseason. The madness is going to ensue over the next few weeks which means now is a better time than any other to make a bold offseason prediction.
As the title suggests, my bold prediction is that the Blue Jays are going to acquire perennial 40 home run threat and 7-time gold glove winner, Nolan Arenado. Obviously, a lot has to happen for us to be in this situation like the following:
1.) The Rockies must shop Arenado (they shopped him last offseason, just one year after his lucrative extension)
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Both of these things in my eyes seem likely. Firstly, Arenado has no business beginning next season on the Rockies. The Rockies were abysmal this year, finishing with a team OPS of .716 (equating to an OPS+ of just 80), and finishing in dead last in OPP runs per game. With the Rockies window of winning starting to slip outside of Arenado’s contract, there is no reason they shouldn’t retain some valuable farmhands out of the contract.
With an opt-out clause available for Arenado in the 2021 offseason, there is definitely a reason to speculate that he may opt-out of the last 5 years of his contract after this season in exchange for a 10-year deal elsewhere. At just 30 years old (barring an abysmal performance in 2021), Arenado could secure another bag, potentially at a higher AAV than his current contract. The big elephant in the room is Arenado’s no-trade clause but he has been very clear about his desire to play for a winner in the past.
In a recent interview, Arenado quoted: “I want to be on a winner. If that’s in Colorado or somewhere else, I want to win”. It wouldn’t be so far fetched to believe Arenado would accept a trade to the Blue Jays and perhaps opt-out after one season to check out the free-agent market.
The second thing that needs to happen for a framework to be worked out is the Blue Jays willingness to shop a blue-chip prospect which they seem to always have an abundance of. The Atkins-Shapiro front office hasn’t been exactly the best candidates for this sort of trade but the Jays are in a very different position now than the last few years when the Jays were coming off losing seasons. After a winning one, fans expect a winning roster next year and the ‘let’s wait until these prospects are ready’ spiel just won’t cut it.
The clock for when the Jays have to break the bank has started ticking for young ‘build-around’ pieces like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and company. At this point, you can’t wait around for five years on talented close-to-MLB-ready farmhands like Jordan Groshans and Simeon-Woods. This team needs to be built before any of our young core is close to free agency. A team can’t be fully built on farmhands and at a certain point, you have to fill the current placeholders like Shaw with legit MLB stars as opposed to more farmhands who may take time to develop.
For instance, a player like 2018 12th overall pick Jordan Groshans should be shopped. Don’t get me wrong he looks great in the minors but there is just so much talent at 3B is the majors that when you already have the young core that the Blue Jays do, you gotta try to compete at 3B with the rest of the league which is filled by absolute studs like Nolan Arenado, Matt Chapman, Rafael Devers, Manny Machado and more.
Now let’s talk about the main question at hand: what are the logistics that could make a deal work. There are three major themes that make the Jays a good suitor for Arenado.
1.) As per MLB pipeline, the Blue Jays farm system still ranks 7th despite graduating most of the high-end talent from the last few years
2.) According to Spotrac, the Jays payroll has been as high as $175 million in 2017, good for the top 5 in baseball. With 2021 payroll expected to be around $100 million after the arbitration process, there should be loads of flexibility.
3.) As per MLB pipeline, Rockies farm system ranks 28th in MLB with particular weakness in the infield (doesn’t help that they just drafted an outfielder, Zac Veen)
Based on these three tidbits, there is no reason the Jays shouldn’t at the very least be on the shortlist if the Rockies intend to seriously shop Arenado. With prospects like 3B/SS and OF Austin Martin who was an absolute stud at Vanderbilt and 3B/SS Groshans who has shined in the minors, the Blue Jays are well situated to fill the Rockies infield void in the minors.
In terms of payroll, Mark Shapiro has been clear that the resources for spending should be available. Theoretically, if Rogers intends to get up to $170 million again in the future, they could take on about 3 Arenado-esque contracts. Case and point: the Jays should have money to get something done. In fact, everything about both of these clubs indicates that they are suitors for each other to make something happen.
The irritable waiting of the MLB offseason begins. At this point, only time will tell.