SAN FRANCISCO — Like Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado was one of those players some Giants people had quietly circled over the years. He’s a California native who has told Giants folks that he loves playing in the ballpark, so a couple of years ago, they could dream of Arenado and Brandon Crawford once teaming up for a Gold Glove left side of the infield.
A lot has changed since then. What hasn’t changed is that the Giants will have to continue to search for a solution to their issues against an all-time Giants-killer.
Arenado and the Rockies are finalizing an eight-year extension worth $260 million, according to multiple reports. The deal gives him the highest annual salary of any position player, and if that’s the path the Giants were going with Bryce Harper, perhaps it raises that price a bit.
What it certainly does is guarantee a really, really tough out will be around for years to come. Arenado enters the season with a .300 batting average in 107 games against the Giants, but the power numbers are off the charts. He has 24 homers and 91 RBI in 426 at-bats, with a .575 slugging percentage. He’s one of the few sluggers not affected by Oracle Park, with 10 homers and a .525 slugging percentage in 200 at-bats there.
Those numbers have been mostly put up in recent years, as Arenado was a relatively average hitter against the Giants in 2013-14 as he broke in. Then, in 2015, he hit 10 homers against them in 75 at-bats. The next year he hit five more and drove in 24 runs in 19 games. Early in that season, with Arenado sitting at 14 RBI through seven games against the Giants, I jokingly asked him why he liked destroying them so much.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said, shrugging and laughing. “They’re a good team. I feel good coming here, and I enjoy coming here and playing here. Whenever you play the Giants you know there’s going to be a game with a lot of drama. I respect them for their competitiveness, and I definitely respect their pitching.”
In 2017 he had just two homers against the Giants, but one was a walk-off that gave him the cycle. Last year, the Giants actually did a pretty good job against Arenado. He had three homers and 13 RBI against them, but his .791 OPS was well over 100 points lower than his total for the season.
Perhaps they can keep that going, or perhaps they can take solace in this: Arenado might have 24 homers against the Giants, but he also has 23 against the Dodgers.
Plus, Paul Goldschmidt is no longer in the division, so there's that.