Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Rockies Trade Franchise Icon Arenado to St. Louis

Dumbfounding. The Colorado Rockies continued their organizational theme of dumbfounding the baseball industry, trading perennial MVP candidate Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals, per Ken Rosenthal. The trade itself isn’t the cause for eyebrows to be raised, it’s the reported terms and return.

The Rockies will also be sending around $50 million dollars to the Cardinals, indicating Arenado will have to agree to opt-in to the remaining 5 years, $164 million dollars on his contract. Headed to Colorado is LHP Austin Gomber, SS Mateo Gil, IF Elehuris Montero, and RHPs Tony Locey and Jake Sommers.

Colorado found themselves in a predicament after they questionably included an opt-out in Arenado’s mega 8 year, $260 million contract that, according to The Athletic’s Nick Groke, was negotiated by General Manager Jeff Bridich, not Nolan Arenado. After failing to surround Arenado with talent — which were unwritten terms of the deal to the 8 time Gold Glove-winning 3rd baseman — he found himself frustrated, straining relations with Bridich in the process.

The situation is eerily similar to what happened with former franchise pillar, Troy Tulowitzki, pointing to a common denominator when it comes to the Rockies and souring superstar talent.

The positive to take away for Rockies fans is perhaps the organization is finally committing to a direction for the franchise. Since making a surprise Wild Card appearance in 2017, the club has basically stood pat, only signing past-his-prime Daniel Murphy who netted the Rockies -1.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) by FanGraphs’ measure. In a division stacked against them with a pair of World Series favorites in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, the Rockies have no path to contention for the foreseeable future unless they make drastic moves.

Arenado’s value was dampened coming off a season in which he recorded career-lows in virtually every rate stat. It can’t be overlooked that Arenado was dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the second series of the season in Oakland, an injury he played through before going on the injured list in the waning weeks of the season.

Between 2015 and 2019, Arenado accumulated 27 fWAR, the 8th best mark in the league over that span. His 199 home runs in that time were second only to Nelson Cruz and he drove in the most runs by nearly 100. Now RBI is an entirely flawed stat but where it gains some value for Arenado is through context. Over the four years in question, the 5-time All Star owns an otherworldly .353 average with runners in scoring position. That’s over a 917 plate appearance sample and shows Arenado truly has a knack for timely hits.

The beautiful thing about Arenado is that offense is the weaker side of his game. As previously mentioned, he’s an 8-time Gold Glove winner over 8 seasons. Since entering the league in 2013, his 120 defensive runs saved (DRS) rank 2nd only to Andrelton Simmons who has a case as the best defensive player of all time. He also ranks 18th in the league in Outs Above Average (OAA) since Statcast began tracking OAA in 2017, an impressive mark for a statistic that favors rangier positions like CF and SS.

All in all, the Cardinals are getting an MVP candidate. No need to worry about 2020. The previously mentioned injury was impact related and not indicative of future injuries. In terms of how he’ll manage after leaving Coors Field? As was the case with DJ LeMahieu, there is reason to believe not playing half of one’s games at altitude is statistically beneficial for players. A breakdown by Mike Petriello of MLB.com describes why that should be the case.

Additionally, Six Man Rotation‘s Connor Kurcon did some digging to find some really telling data. His findings show that in the first two days of a road-trip, Arenado was only good for a .307 wOBA, a below average figure, whereas the second two days of a roadtrip, his wOBA jumped to .373, which is above average. This disparity shows just how difficult the transition is to and from altitude and that it takes days to adjust to low altitude pitching.

Lefty Austin Gomber presents the most valuable piece included. Shortstop Mateo Gil was a 3rd round pick out of the Texas high school ranks in 2018. Infielder Elehuris Montero was signed out of the Dominican Republic by St. Louis in 2014. Righty Tony Locey was a 2019 3rd round pick from the University of Georgia. Finally, righty Jake Sommers, a 10th rounder in 2019, comes by way of the University of Wisconsin-Milwuakee.

Gomber made his MLB debut in 2018, pitched only in the minors in 2019, before reappearing in the bigs in 2020. He owns a career 3.72 ERA and 1.3 WAR over 104 innings pitched. The lefty features a curveball, slider, and changeup along with his fastball. The heater faired well in 2020 despite averaging 92 mph and spinning at 2151 rpm, which ranked in the 23rd percentile. Hitters only managed a .314 xwOBA and .227 xBA against the pitch. His curveball is a plus secondary pitch while slider and changeup are effective offerings as well.

In 2020, Gomber’s pwOBA was a promising .309, higher than the stellar .258 wOBA he actually recorded. Gomber has only allowed 8 home runs in his short MLB career thus far, good for a 0.69 HR/9 rate, a figure that lines up with his minor league performances. Gomber also generates a healthy dose of ground balls meaning he has a chance to find success at Coors Field. Through this trade, Colorado might have found their 5th starter for 2021.

Mateo Gil comes with some defensive potential. While his speed isn’t a weapon, he’s got roughly average speed and enough range that should allow him to stick at shortstop. It seemed like a foregone conclusion Gil was going to honor his college commitment to Texas Christian until the Cardinals offered him an above-slot $900K. Offensively, Gil is still coming along. The Cardinals saw upside in that side of his game that hasn’t been fulfilled so far in two seasons, although it appears he might have more power than originally perceived. MLB ranked Gil as St. Louis’ 22nd overall prospect and he’ll likely slot somewhere similar in Colorado’s system.

Elehuris Montero has seen some ups and some downs in his 5 minor league seasons thus far, peaking in 2018, leading Baseball America to rank him as the 81st overall prospect in the game. 2019 wasn’t so kind to the slugging Montero. The Dominican infielder has always had power potential in his 6’3″ frame and it has come to fruition since, the now 22-year old filled out.

Montero suffered a hand injury that ruined any chance he had to find a rhythm so his 2019 numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Overall, the natural 3rd baseman owns a .751 OPS in 360 minor league games. In 2017 and 2018 he combined for 31 home runs and that power translates defensively giving Montero a rocket of an arm, though he’s not the smoothest overall defender. Montero was ranked 8th in St. Louis’ system by MLB and likely has a top 10 spot in the Rockies system.

Tony Locey has a big arm. Coming out of the bullpen, the righty can hit 100 and regularly sits 96-98. He mixes in a plus slider that generates loads of strikeouts evident by the 31 he recorded in 17 innings in his pro debut. The drawback to Locey is his control as he walked 12 hitters, as well. The upside is there for the former Georgia Bulldog to be an impact bullpen piece and the fact that he was thrust into Class-A right after being drafted is a sign of the confidence the club had in his ability.

The final piece of the pie, Jake Sommers seems to be a throw-in at this time. Deployed as a starter in Rookie-ball after being drafted, Sommers found success, striking out 24.6% of hitters and walking a reasonable 8.5%, though he was hit a fair amount. Still, a 4.18 ERA demonstrated an overall positive debut.

As a Rockies fan, this is a tough trade to stomach. Nolan Arenado means so much to the city of Denver. The return package, mixed in with the approximate $50M going to St. Louis, doesn’t make sense.

Dark days loom for Colorado while St. Louis just asserted themselves as bonafide NL Central favorites. As it is, the NL Central figures to be baseball’s worst division but, with Arenado, the Cardinals will boast one of the strongest group of position players in the league, especially defensively.

To close off this article, I figured I’d include an all-time moment. Nolan Arenado hiting a walk-off home run to complete the cycle on Father’s Day. What a memory.

Featured image via Twitter: @Rockies

Tyler Paddor

A proponent of prospect analysis and endurer of Rockies idiocy. Twitter: @RoxDontRake