First off, I want everyone to know that I know that neither Randy Arozarena nor Adolis Garcia were pieces in St. Louis’s trade for the former Rockies’ third baseman. This is merely a hypothetical question. Both of the young up-and-comers started their professional baseball careers within the St. Louis Cardinals organization, but both would end up being traded. Arozarena for two players who have potential, yes, but have struggled in the minors through 2021, and Garcia for… cash. So, would you consider giving up Arenado if it meant keeping Arozarena and Garcia?
It is a query worth pondering, no? Would you rather have one perennial All-Star and MVP candidate or the incredible potential of two of the game’s best rookies? Not to mention, Arozarena’s postseason clutch factor which… just isn’t something that many players have. It’s a question that seems to have a simple answer: “Why take potential when I could have one incredibly proven talent?” But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. See, while neither Arozarena nor Garcia is as proven as Arenado, they’re also much younger, cheaper, and even if they don’t reach the full potential they’ve teased thus far, they’d still likely be talented enough to become staples in any contender’s lineup and help that team remain contenders for years.
Let’s make the case for the two rookies. The absence of Arenado would not mean that the Cardinals would become an awful team. The Cardinals have made the postseason each of the past two seasons, and haven finished under .500 just once (2007) since the turn of the century. They’ve consistently been one of the most well-managed teams. The front office, coaching staff, and scouting departments have all worked harmoniously for decades to ensure that the team is almost never a non-factor in the league. That being said, with Arenado now at the hot corner, the Cardinals have not propelled themselves into that NL favorite role they were hoping to reach. Arenado was supposed to put their offense over the top when paired with Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, Yadier Molina, and Tyler O’Neill. Instead, the Cardinals offense is 26th in OPS, 27th in OBP, and 20th in HR. Not exactly the offensive force the team was hoping to be.
Arenado hasn’t been bad in a Cardinals uniform. He’s currently on pace for over 30 homers, over 100 RBI, and 136 OPS+ (the highest of his career). It’s the other players in the Cardinals lineup who’ve let him down. You can’t blame Arenado for his team’s failures. That being said, wouldn’t a more well-balanced lineup help the Cardinals offensive woes more than one incredible hitter in the 3-hole would? With the Cardinals currently paying Matt Carpenter $18.5 million to hit under the Mendoza line and record a negative WAR, Andrew Miller $12 million to record his worst ERA since 2011, and Carlos Martinez $11.5 million to record an ERA over 6.00 and give up more earned runs than anyone else in the NL, the team-friendly contracts of Adolis Garcia (base salary of $575,000) and Randy Arozarena (base salary of $581,200) would take a huge weight off the shoulders of the St. Louis front office to make up for those huge contracts yielding poor results.
As for Arenado, his stats speak for themselves. The man has led the National League in home runs three times. He’s reached the 130 RBI threshold three times as well. He’s won a Gold Glove every year of his career, and he’s a four-time Silver Slugger recipient. Even on their current career paths, those are numbers and accolades that Garcia and Arozarena could only dream of. However, in my opinion, the main draw to Arenado isn’t his bat, it’s the position he plays.
As a third baseman, sticking Arenado in the lineup doesn’t take away from Dylan Carlson’s or Tyler O’Neill’s at-bats. While having Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia would be great, their primary positions are in the outfield. Carlson, O’Neill, Arozarena, and Garcia all on the same team would create a Catch-22, where you always have a fantastic outfield, but there just aren’t enough spots for all of your guys. You could put them all on a rotation, but then comes the questions of matchups, hot/cold streaks, and defensive adjustments throughout the season. The most likely outcome from having that much outfield talent would be trading one or two of them away for an immensely talented pitcher...or a player on the infield… someone like Arenado. At that point, it’d pretty much be a wash. Why would you want to go back to keep Arozarena and Garcia if a probable outcome would still be having to trade them away?
That’s what gives the edge to Arenado in my eyes. Although Garcia is arguably having a more productive season at the plate than Arenado, and Arozarena is a phenomenal player who has shown no signs of regression after his remarkable 2020 postseason, the most likely outcome from retaining those two young stars would be using pieces like them in trades for more proven talent like Arenado. While it would’ve been great to see Arozarena become the next David Freese in St. Louis, or Adolis Garcia to become another Matt Holliday with better defense, those aren’t guaranteed to happen. They’re just too much of a risk compared to Arenado. With “Nado,” you know you’re going to get phenomenal at-bat after phenomenal at-bat every night of every season that he is in your lineup.