On the two-year anniversary of a trade that changed the path of two franchises, let’s regrade the deal that sent Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies to the St. Louis Cardinals.
February 1 has become a dark day in Denver, and it has nothing to do with the winter clouds that roll in and drop snow in the Mile High City. It has everything to do, however, with a trade that, to this day, is still head-shaking for baseball fans outside of the city of St. Louis.
On February 1, 2021, the Rockies agreed to send All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals (along with approximately $50 million of salary relief). It was a heartbreaking, head-scratching end of an era in Denver for Rockies fans as they watched a generational talent at third base who had come up through the minors after Colorado selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft be sent away.
It was also the end of what had become a contentious relationship between Arenado and then-Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich. After inking an eight-year, $260 million extension less than two years earlier with Colorado, things had gotten toxic enough in the Mile High City that Arenado certainly didn’t hide his joy that he was heading east when the deal with St. Louis was finally complete.
Regrading the Nolan Arenado trade from the Colorado Rockies to the St. Louis Cardinals
Here’s the trade package as it was reported two years ago.
St. Louis Cardinals trade grade: A
It’s hard to argue that this trade wasn’t lopsided in favor of St. Louis, and it’s also hard to argue anything other than Arenado has lived up to his billing in the Gateway City. In his two seasons for the Cardinals, he’s combined to slash .273/.335/.513, earn two Gold Gloves (part of his history-making 10 consecutive at third base) and All-Star Game trips, plus placing third in the National League MVP voting in 2022 (tying for his highest-ever finish).
Arenado has become a middle-of-the-order weapon for the Cardinals while keeping up his high level of defense on his way to building his resume for Cooperstown. This season, after choosing to not opt out of his contract this winter, Arenado will be looked to within the clubhouse to help fill a leadership void left behind by the departures of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.
Colorado Rockies trade grade: F
So far, only Gomber and Montero have made their way to the big league diamond, and Gomber’s combined 94 ERA+ in 56 games is certainly lower than it was during his time in St. Louis (107 in 43 games). The Rockies will give him another shot at the rotation this spring, especially with Antonio Senzatela missing the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Colorado needs Gomber to perform as he was one of the key pieces of the return for Arenado, and that simply hasn’t happened yet on a consistent basis as he has bounced between the rotation and bullpen.
Montero got in 176 at-bats last season as the Rockies tried to figure out how to use him in a crowded infield. That puzzle will still be unfolding this spring as Ryan McMahon and C.J. Cron have first and third base locked down, respectively, to start the spring. How much time will the Rockies give him to get consistent at-bats? That’s one of the biggest questions facing the 24-year-old Montero, who slashed .233/.270/.432 last season while striking out 60 times in 176 at-bats.
In the minors, Sommers didn’t pitch last season after encountering elbow soreness, while Locey (Double-A) still has plenty of work to do to reach his MLB goals. Gil is no longer in the organization, taken in the Rule 5 draft this winter by the New York Mets.
There is a chance if Montero finds his place and Gomber finds his rhythm that the grade for the Rockies could move up to a D in the future. However, in the present, it’s still a fail on the Colorado side of the ledger.