For weeks, the Dodgers have indicated they would not sit idle before Tuesday’s close. Team officials acknowledged the roster had gaps and admitted they would try to fill them. Manager Dave Roberts at least predicted the addition of “ground raises.”
This week’s effort has produced Kiké Hernández and Amed Rosario in the space of two days. But the Dodgers may not be done changing their positional player group just yet. There’s someone else out there they desire, someone who wouldn’t just speak up. His name is Nolan Arenado.
The Dodgers have been in talks with the St. Louis Cardinals to sign the eight-time All-Star third baseman, according to people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly. The Cardinals could also send a starting pitcher – Jack Flaherty or Jordan Montgomery – to Los Angeles for a package with top players and prospects.
The Cardinals would want young people to make a deal; They’ve been eyeing Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone, Ryan Pepiot and Emmet Sheehan in talks, according to people with knowledge of the situation. A trade would likely also involve the Dodgers sending Max Muncy or Chris Taylor, if not both, to St. Louis.
Arenado has a full no-trade clause — meaning he could block a trade with any team — but he’s willing to waive the clause to play for the Dodgers, and only for the Dodgers, like people speak with knowledge of the situation. The Southern California native is said to have always wanted to play for the Dodgers.
Admiration goes both ways. The Dodgers have coveted Arenado for years. They planned to pursue him as free agency after the 2019 season until he signed an eight-year extension with the Colorado Rockies. They then wanted to trade for Arenado when the Rockies made him available ahead of the 2021 season, but Rockies owner Dick Monfort refused to consider the division opponent’s offers. The Rockies instead sent him to St. Louis in a deal that was immediately recognized as one of the worst in recent history.
This third quest has its obstacles.
First, Arenado remains an elite player. The 10-time Gold Glove winner’s defensive stats have plummeted this season, but he’s still considered a top-flight defender. Offensively, he was batting .287 with 22 homers and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .856 through Wednesday.
Second, Arenado has four years left on his contract after this season. The Cardinals may want to sell parts this season but don’t want to get into rebuild mode, say people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly. They want to compete again next year. Having a talent like Arenado signed four more seasons for $93 million (The Rockies pay $16 million), a team-friendly price that helps the cause.
That money could be hard for the Dodgers to pick up, though it’s still a relatively good deal for Arenado’s talent ahead of the expected off-season pursuit of Shohei Ohtani.
So why would the Cardinals trade Arenado? They don’t have to. And they certainly don’t have to give it up for disappointing loot. But for one thing, the right player package — with young, cheap pitching talent — could better position them for long-term success. Then there’s Arenado’s mindset. According to a person familiar with the situation, Arenado wants to win and wasn’t happy with the Cardinals’ actions last season.
At 32, he may not see a real chance of winning a World Series in St. Louis. For all his personal accolades, Arenado has never won a playoff series in his career. His teams are 1-7 in postseason games — the only win coming in a 2018 one-game wild card playoff against the Chicago Cubs. The Milwaukee Brewers then defeated the Rockies in three divisional series games.
On the Dodgers’ side, Arenado represents another potential cornerstone for the franchise to partner with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, two National League MVP candidates, at a first-place club. They are poised to compete for another World Series but feel the roster needs updating.
So far, they’ve added Hernández and Rosario — mini reclamation projects bogged down in the worst seasons of their careers — while pitching remains on the shopping list.
The Dodgers want to increase their staff, especially the rotation. The options start to dwindle. Late Wednesday night, the Angels brought in Lucas Giolito, one of the best starters out there, from the Chicago White Sox after deciding to keep Ohtani for the rest of the season. A trade with St. Louis could do justice to this and much more.