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The St. Louis Cardinals could come to regret Nolan Arenado’s contract on the back end, but it’s so worth it in the interim.
The Cardinals third baseman adjusted admirably to St. Louis in his first year away from Coors Field. While some of his statistics were the lowest posted in his career, 2021 was still a promising start for Arenado.
Arenado has an opt-out next offseason, but he seems unlikely to use it given his age. Given he’s 30 years old, Arenado would be unwise to test free agency in his age-32 offseason, especially since he’d be forfeiting the remaining $109 million on his deal.
Arenado’s contract pays him into his late-30’s. By then, he’ll be out of his prime, though Arenado is a platinum glove winner and one of the best fielders at his position in MLB. At the very least, he’ll be an optimal play at the hot corner.
Cardinals: Nolan Arenado’s power isn’t a concern
Arenado hit 34 home runs last season, down from his usual averages at high altitude. That’s not necessarily a surprise given the ballpark factor. He slashed .255/.312/.494 last season, also down from his usual numbers in Colorado.
It’s far more likely these are an apparition than the new normal for a player of Arenado’s stature. He made the All-Star team yet again and formed one of the best corner infield duos in baseball with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
For now, there is reason for Cardinals fans to worry about Arenado’s long-term outlook, if only because his last two seasons (including the 2020 shortened campaign) were considered down years at the plate for him. The reason the Cardinals are paying him upwards of $35 million per season is because he’s an excellent two-way player, not just a defensive wizard.
In the end, trading for Arenado was a necessary move for a contending team trying to take the next step. If Arenado’s contract comes back to haunt St. Louis, they cannot be blamed for taking a chance. At the time of said deal, Arenado was considered the best power-hitting third baseman in the sport, and arguably the best defensive player at the hot corner in all of baseball.
His deterioration, which as of now is merely a fallacy, could not have been predicted. Trading for a player of Arenado’s stature is a necessary risk, and one that for now appears to be working out for the Cardinals.