Revisiting the Nolan Arenado Trade Three Years Later

Looking back at the Nolan Arenado trade, we can see that this deal has gone about as poorly as we thought it would for the Colorado Rockies.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 2: Nolan Arenado #28 (L) of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates with Nolan Gorman #16 after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 2, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

January is a slow time for baseball news. The new year traditional starts with projections, fantasy baseball, top 10 list, and invites to spring training. Well, that was interrupted on January 29, 2021 when news broke of eight-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado being traded to St. Louis. A January, 9:00 pm, Friday night news dump.

For Rockies fans, it was devastating. Especially when the first details of the trade included the phrasing “Rockies getting multiple players and sending upward of $50 million to St. Louis.” Here’s our best player and $50 million. The players? Mateo Gil, Jake Sommers, Tony Locey, Austin Gomber, and Elehuris Montero.

St. Louis Side

The Cardinals added Paul Goldschmidt a couple seasons prior but still needed another star in their lineup. Not only did they land that star, plus $50+ million, they only had to part with one player from their major league roster, Austin Gomber.

Gomber had a total of 104 innings under his belt and looked like a decent enough pitcher, but hardly a frontline upside arm. Montero slotted into the back of the Cardinals top 10 prospects while Locey and Gil fell into the 20 range.

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In the three seasons since joining the Cardinals Arendao has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and a third place MVP finish.

Games (Avg)SlashHR (Avg)OPSOPS+WAR
Nolan Arenado449 (150).271/.328/.49590 (30).82412614.2
Statistics with Cardinals

Not only has Arenado been one of the best third basemen in the past decade, but he’s been able to remain healthy. He’s managed to play in over 140 games each season since 2014, excluding the Covid year. Arenado’s best season came in 2022 when he posted a 7.9 bWAR while slashing .293/.358/.533 with 30 home runs, which resulted in the third place MVP finish.

Last season was a down year for Arenado and the Cardinals as a whole. Arenado had the lowest walk rate since 2015 and his 2.4 bWAR was the lowest of any full season he’s played in. The defense took a slight step back and he really leaned into trying to pull the ball. I would guess this is more of a down season than a downward trend.

At 32 years old, Arenado still has some left in the tank. He’s signed through 2027, his age 36 season. Unlike many stars in the league, Arendo’s deal does not run into his 40s, which is a huge plus for St. Louis.

Colorado Side

Not often do you see a player sign a eight year, $260 million deal only to be traded a couple years later. Management, team direction, and relations played into this decision and let’s be honest, Colorado has not exact been the best run organization.

Now, let’s remove the optics and focus on the player. Even if the Rockies did not have much leverage, they still got value in a return, right? At the time it was seen as a disastrous return and I would still use that word to describe it three years later.

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Austin Gomber: Gomber has been healthy, which you cannot say for several other Rockies starters, and has pitched well enough to stick around. Around a 5.22 ERA and 4.89 FIP is serviceable, especially for a team that cannot attract free agent starters.

Elehuris Montero: Only 25, but Montero has looked overmatched through his first 138 games. He is now more of a first baseman than a third basemen and carries a 35% strikeout rate without the power translating like people once thought it could. A negative WAR player.

Jake Sommers: Sommers is 26 years old and has pitched in 42 innings since the trade. The highest level he has reached is High-A in 2021.

Tony Locey: Locey is a 25-year-old pitcher who is no longer in the Rockies organization. The highest level he reached was Double-A.

Mateo Gil: The 23 year-old infielder reached High-A with the Rockies organization in 2022 but is now in the Mets organization.

Of the players acquired, Gomber has accumulated the most bWAR, 1.1, while Montero is the only other player to reach the majors. At this point I doubt the others reach the majors, either.

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Colorado moved a franchise piece for a back of the rotation arm and player that might be a 40-man roster spot casualty.


Yes, the Rockies got off the deal and out of the relationship, but the return has proven to be one of the worst trades in recent history. Made only worse by the fact that they chose to pay Kris Bryant a year later, who is now on an albatross of a contract.

The Cardinals are committed to Arenado through 2027 on a deal structured to decrease each year. Even as he ages and his play declines, so does the amount the Cardinals pay him.

Colorado has made changes since this trade, but this move set them back in a major way. The circumstances that lead to this move and the move itself fall on the Rockies front office and ownership.