It was almost a given that Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado would be playing somewhere else when his contract expired after the 2019 season. It’s just what happens with players in markets like Colorado. In fact, it’s exactly what happened to Arenado’s teammate, D.J. LeMahieu, who signed a contract to play for the New York Yankees.
So it was more than a little surprising to learn that Arenado was not signing an extension with the Rockies, but putting his signature on an eight-year, $260 million extension that will keep him in Colorado through at least the 2021 season. That’s when Arenado could exercise an opt-out clause in the contract.
At the February 27 press conference to announce the deal, Arenado expressed his genuine excitement and enthusiasm to play for the Rockies. “I love this group and that’s why I committed here,” said Arenado. “I’m comfortable here and it feels right with this young group we have. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and I really believe we can win.”
With similar sentiments being expressed by Bryce Harper in his record-setting 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s fair to start asking if this is the start of a new trend – for a new generation of baseball stars. While neither Arenado nor Harper could be accused of leaving money on the table, they both are making large concessions to tie their immediate (in the case of Arenado) and long-term future (in the case of Harper) to their respective new clubs. Even Manny Machado hinted that he is excited about his long-term future with the San Diego Padres.
Of course, there could be other motivations as well. After the 2021 season (when Arenado can exercise his option) Major League Baseball’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will expire. At this time, the national pastime is facing real possibility of a work stoppage. And one of the key issues on the table will be the current luxury tax situation which the players association is claiming serves as a de facto salary cap. With much being unknown about the future of the CBA, signing a long-term deal may just strike these players (and their agents) as just good business.
However, the Rockies and Arenado seem to be discounting any of that. For now, says Arenado, “I’m here for the long haul.” Arenado adds to a core that includes outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond as well as shortstop Trevor Story who is signed with the team through 2022.