Colorado Rockies

Cubs named as 'potential suitor' for Nolan Arenado, but here is why it's unlikely

Cubs named as 'potential suitor' for Nolan Arenado, but here is why it's unlikely

If the Cubs move Kris Bryant this winter, they reportedly could replace him with another superstar third baseman.

According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the chances the Rockies deal Nolan Arenado this offseason are around 50 percent. The Cubs “loom as a possible suitor” for the 28-year-old Arenado, “especially if they trade (Bryant),” per Morosi’s report.

Bryant has been a fixture of trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs are looking to get under MLB’s $208 million luxury tax threshold, and clearing his 2020 projected salary of $18.5 million would help accomplish this while also clearing money for other roster needs. Bryant could net the Cubs a prospect package to help replenish the organization’s barren farm system.

Furthermore, Bryant's agent is Scott Boras, whose clients tend to hit the open market to maximize their value. If the Cubs feel they won’t be able to reach a contract extension with Bryant before he hits free agency, it’s better to trade him rather than lose him for nothing.

Acquiring Arenado would give the Cubs cost certainty at third base in the form of a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner. But the move is unlikely for several reasons. 

Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million deal last February that will pay him $35 million annually from 2020-2024, $32 million in 2025 and $27 million in 2026. The Cubs' projected payroll for 2020 is $191 million, and Arenado's salary would push that figure north of $220 million.

The Cubs are in a position where they need to acquire young assets for the future while remaining competitive. Arenado would help achieve the latter, but the Rockies will ask a trade partner to take on a significant chunk of his salary on top of seeking players. Acquiring Arenado would contradict the Cubs' offseason to date.

Arenado also has an opt-out in his deal after 2021, so his contract would put the Cubs in the same situation they’re currently in with Bryant (assuming the latter loses his service-time grievance case). The big difference would be Arenado taking up twice the space as Bryant on the payroll.

While Bryant very well could get traded, it's highly unlikely the Cubs replace him at the hot corner with Arenado.

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Nolan Arenado's availability doesn't affect Kris Bryant's potential trade market

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USA TODAY

Nolan Arenado's availability doesn't affect Kris Bryant's potential trade market

Add another player to this offseason’s loaded third base market. Wednesday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the Rockies are willing to listen to trade inquiries on star third baseman Nolan Arenado.

In addition to Arenado, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is also potentially available for trade, based on several reports, while Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson are free agents.

Being “willing” to listen to trade inquires and seriously considering a deal are two very different things. Like the Cubs and Bryant, the Rockies would be foolish not to listen to inquiries regarding Arenado — or any of their players.

Arenado is a superstar and has averaged a .300/.362/.575 line, with 40 homers and 124 RBIs since 2015. Even playing in hitter-friendly Coors Field, that’s impressive. The 28-year-old has been an All-Star each of the past five years and has won seven-straight Gold Glove Awards.

In theory, Arenado’s availability affects the Cubs and Bryant’s trade market. Players like Arenado don’t grow on trees, and if teams want him bad enough, they could elect to pursue him rather than Bryant. This would take away suitors for the Cubs third baseman.

But in actuality, Arenado’s availability doesn’t change much for the Cubs.

Arenado signed a monster eight-year, $260 million deal with the Rockies in February. The Rockies may have to eat some of his salary in a trade, as it’s questionable if a team would take on Arenado’s full contract and give up a decent return package.

Example: when the Marlins dealt Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees in December 2017, Miami also sent $30 million to New York. In turn, the Yankees took on $260-$265 million of the $290 million left on Stanton’s contract, sending Starlin Castro and two prospects to Miami.

Arenado is much greater commitment than Bryant — both financially and in years. Bryant is projected to make $18.5 million in arbitration next season, a little more than half of Arenado’s $35 million salary.

There is a caveat with both players’ contract lengths. Arenado’s deal runs through 2026, but he can opt-out after 2021. Bryant is under contract through 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he’ll hit the open market next winter.

Arenado also has a full no-trade clause, which would complicate any possible negotiations. 

Teams will have to weigh acquiring Arenado and taking on his massive salary, all while considering how he may leave in free agency in two years. The latter is true about Bryant as well, but he's the more affordable player.

And, ultimately, numerous teams are seeking a third baseman this winter. Once Rendon and Donaldson sign, the focus will shift to Arenado and Bryant for the three teams that lose out. 

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The Javy Effect: How Baez's fearless nature has rubbed off on the Cubs

The Javy Effect: How Baez's fearless nature has rubbed off on the Cubs

The lasting image of the Cubs' annual trip to Coors Field will be Javy Baez's reaction to his bomb in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 10-1 victory.

Just a few pitches after the Rockies had plunked Anthony Rizzo and the Beanball War seemed to be ready to erupt, Baez retaliated in the most effective way — on the scoreboard:

While his pimp job and the sheer distance of that homer stand out, it was yet another positive result for Baez on an 0-2 or 1-2 count.

On the season, he is now hitting .278 with a .570 (!) slugging percentage, 5 homers and 15 RBI in counts that end on 0-2 or 1-2 pitches. By comparison, MLB hitters are batting just .154 with a .243 slugging percentage in 0-2/1-2 counts.

So why is Baez so good when he's down in the count?

"It's about fearlessness," Joe Maddon said last week. "I think that's what it really comes down to. He's developing a better eye on two strikes, but I don't think that guy goes to bed one night and worries about how many times he struck out that day. 

"Now, of course, I'm an advocate of striking out less. But I'm also an advocate of not messing with Javy and his ability to play this game. I think that's just indicating to you how full throttle he plays this game. 

"He doesn't overthink it; he's not worried about it in a negative way. He's really anticipating a positive outcome."

Baseball is a game fraught with failure and it's very easy for anybody — even the most established big-league veterans — to get caught up in the fear of failure.

But somehow, Baez seems to have been born without that gene. He does not spend his time worrying about potential failure or trying to avoid making mistakes. 

He just plays the game his way. It's a way that nobody else can duplicate, but Baez's fearless nature is certainly something the entire Cubs team is trying to adopt. 

"He's definitely a guy that you try to look at and it's like, he goes out and plays as hard as he can," Albert Almora Jr. said. "He really brings the kid out in you. You really think a lot about, 'Oh man, I used to play like that.' 

"But he does it at the highest level, which is something special. You can definitely see it in the team. He changes the whole attitude and the atmosphere."

The Cubs have been talking about Baez's sensational baseball IQ for the last five years, but it's gotten to a point where they now lean on him and that "sixth sense" during the course of the game. 

On the last homestand, Baez came out to the mound for a chat with Kyle Hendricks and it was later revealed he was letting the Cubs pitcher know what he saw about the current hitter/at-bat from his shortstop position. Hendricks said he now routinely looks back to Baez during the course of the game to get the shortstop's perspective.

And then there's the baserunning.

Baez is one of the most aggressive baserunners in the game, always looking to take the extra bag or put pressure on the defense. This week was another great example as he went from first base to third base on a groundout Monday night in Colorado. The Rockies were caught in a shift without a player at third base and Baez took advantage, prompting a brief "JAVY! JAVY!" chant at Coors Field after the play.

Yes, Cubs fans travel well, but it's not every day the crowd chants for an opposing player following a groundout.

When Kris Bryant helped the Cubs eke out a win over the Phillies with a pair of heads-up baserunning plays last month, it was Baez's name that was brought up unprompted for partial credit.

"Not trying to take away from KB 'cause I feel like he's secretly one of the best baserunners in the game — he always runs hard and he plays the game like an MVP — but that's one of the effects that Javy has on us," Jason Heyward said. "I feel like you see other guys making plays like that on the bases and we're aware those things can happen if we stay in tune."

Of course, that same game, Baez wound up coming off the bench to connect on a walk-off single despite dealing with a painful heel injury that kept him out of the lineup. 

As he tried to work through that heel injury, Baez wound up slumping at the plate, striking out in half his at-bats (20-of-40) over the span of two weeks. 

But he's since righted the ship — crushing 4 homers and knocking in 12 runs in his last 10 games including Wednesday.

"He could go bad for a couple days, but you don't worry about that," Maddon said. 'He doesn't overthink it. And he wasn't going home and beating himself up about it. He wasn't trying to reinvent himself. 

"He knows it's coming back to him. He knows he's good. I love that. That's why he can be as good as he is and better for so many years to come. It's really awesome to watch him play."

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