Nada on Nado.
As of 3 p.m. Friday, the Cardinals still haven’t transferred their third baseman to the Dodgers, and this is flagrantly disrespectful to LA’s director of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. When he calls about a player, you have to give him the player, and don’t you dare ask for much in return.
That’s how the Dodgers do it. They’re brilliant at filling roster voids without giving up top prospects. They do it over and over again. And if Cardinals president of baseball ops John Mozeliak was willing to trade Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay for alleged pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, then why wouldn’t he succumb to Friedman’s pitch for Arenado?
So Mozeliak is holding steady while saying nothing publicly. Nolan Arenado is still here. The Dodgers are getting on with other business matters, acquiring starting pitcher Lance Lynn and reliever Joe Kelly from the White Sox on Friday.
That was a sensible move.
The Dodgers rank 21st in the majors with a starting-pitching ERA of 4.71 this season. And since June 3, they have a 23-20 record and have been patching rotation holes like crazy. In June-July the Dodgers have a starter ERA of 5.23 that ranks 27th and is considerably worse than STL’s 4.66 starter ERA during the same time.
Without Arenado in their lineup, LA ranks first in the NL and second overall with an average of 5.64 runs per game. The problem for the Dodgers is stopping the other side from scoring.
Arenado would be a nice, luxury-accessory addition for the Dodgers. I won’t be arrogant and rule it out. I’m not trying to play it safe here; I just learned a lesson from the fairly recent past when the Rockies traded Arenado to St. Louis before the 2021 season.
I laughed at the trade rumors. Not for one minute did I believe the Rockies – despite being such a goofball franchise – would donate Arenado to the Cardinals for knick-knacks in return … AND pick up a sizable percentage of Nado’s remaining contract.
This reminded me that anything is possible in sports, and that includes a trade that sends Arenado from the Cardinals to the Dodgers.
Some in the St. Louis media seemed to take the Arenado rumors personally on Thursday, rushing to Twitter to knock down the speculation. But on Friday, The Athletic baseball writer Katie Woo acknowledged that “The Cardinals and Dodgers have indeed discussed a potential trade that would send Arenado to his home city of Los Angeles, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.”
“Nobody on their 40-man roster appears immune,” Woo wrote. “Not even Nolan Arenado, as unfathomable as that concept might be in St. Louis.”
Unfathomable, no. But I’d really, really be surprised if the deal goes from the fantasy stage to the reality.
Let’s play the game, shall we?
WHY IT WOULD HAPPEN
1. Friedman rolls over, discards his usual trading strategy, and offers the row of pitching prospects that Mozeliak covets. The Cardinals would have a good chance to replenish the rotation with cost-controlled starters. They could use the Arenado money – subtracted from their payroll – to pursue other ventures. And they wouldn’t have to worry about Arenado’s aging curve. As for third base, it’s Nolan Gorman’s natural position. And until August of 2022, the Cardinals were playing Jordan Walker at third base at Double A Springfield. It isn’t easy to restock your pitching shortages after years of front-office neglect, and this is an opportunity for Mozeliak to do that. In theory, anyway.
2. Arenado is seething with anger after being betrayed and led to believe that the Cardinals would be committed to winning championships – in a real and actionable way, and not just spin. He could have opted out of his contract after last season, but decided to stay with St. Louis. Arenado didn’t even try to force the Cardinals to redo his contract. He just stayed without attaching conditions. But suppose Arenado has turned furious after being misled by chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak, and now wants out? I think the Cardinals would respect his wishes, and accommodate his desire to relocate to his home base of LA. Unless you’re a hopeless homer, why would you blame Arenado for wanting to get away from Cardinals management? Hey, he wanted to get away from the Rockies. So why would he be cool with the Cardinals turning into the Rockies?
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN
1. Arenado is an honorable dude. He could have left after the 2022 season. He stayed. And he did it without fussing. He has proclaimed his loyalty to the Cardinals, praised St. Louis as the place he wants to be. He wanted to be a Cardinal in the worst way, and Mozeliak and DeWitt Jr. made that happen. They rescued him from the Rockies. And even if he is frustrated these days, Arenado retains gratitude.
2. According to Mozeliak, the Cardinals aren’t interested in a tear-down project and plan to do what’s necessary to make a quick pivot to prominence in 2024. Mozeliak may be delusional, but that’s his plan. And that plan includes having Paul Goldschmidt at first base, and Arenado at third base. They are franchise cornerstones and ideal leaders and example-setters for their younger teammates.
3. As for addressing pitching needs, the Cardinals have several ways to do it: (A) trading the likes of pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, maybe shortstop Paul DeJong, and perhaps outfielder Dylan Carlson between now and Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. trade deadline. The next opportunity would come (B) during the offseason through trades and free-agent signings. And (C) there’s the international market. But if Mozeliak and DeWitt are truly committed to winning, they’ll be aggressive in pursuit of pitching upgrades and will get things done even if it means vacating their usual comfort zone.
4. If Mozeliak trades Arenado it amounts to an embarrassing confession of his own failure. If Mozeliak had put in the effort to fix and improve the pitching and displayed a zeal for returning the Cardinals to their championship-caliber status, Arenado would be delighted. There would be no reason to trade him. The neglect put the Cardinals in their present state. And by trading him, DeWitt and Mozeliak would be telling us this: we failed. We screwed up. We acquired Arenado for a sleeve of golf balls, and the Rockies even retained part of his salary, and we ruined it by not putting a better team around him. I don’t think the BDJ and Mozeliak want to make that confession. I don’t think they want to alienate and anger more fans, generate a high level of outrage, and give disgusted customers a reason to stop buying so many tickets for games at Busch Stadium. As a matter of principle, wasting the gift of Nolan Arenado is an unacceptable dirty deed.
5. He’s Nolan Bleeping Arenado, dammit. Perhaps the best third baseman defensively in MLB history. An eight-time All-Star who has won 10 gold gloves, six platinum gloves, and five silver sluggers. Yes, he’s 32. But through Thursday Arenado ranked second in the NL in RBI, was eighth in slugging, tied for 10th in homers, and was 12th in OPS. His defense is coming around after an uncharacteristic slump, and he’s in a virtual tie for the top WAR among NL third basemen. Arenado has a lot of game – and good years – left in him. I don’t know about you, but I want to see him going into Cooperstown as a St. Louis Cardinal.
Trade Arenado? No. It’s the opposite of that. We know that Arenado has a no-trade clause in his contract … and now DeWitt and Mozeliak need to have a no-trade clause put in their minds if they’re seriously thinking about trading Arenado.
St. Louis ownership-management must show Arenado respect by doing what they can to make sure his time in St. Louis is happy, fulfilling and successful. They need to get him to October, over and over again – for the Cardinals – instead of acknowledging failure and helping the Dodgers win another World Series.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at 590thefan.com, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.