Despite seemingly being the frontrunners for a potential Nolan Arenado trade, the Texas Rangers face reported competition from the Atlanta Braves.
As the rumors surrounding a potential trade of Nolan Arenado have heated up in recent weeks, the Texas Rangers have been the club at the forefront of discussion. They’re long-term interest in Arenado, partnered with a gaping void at third base and payroll space to spend means they seem the perfect fit for the perennial Gold Glove winner. However, any pursuit of the 28-year old will be complicated by competition from other clubs, most recently noted, the Atlanta Braves.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported on Friday that the Braves have reached out to the Rockies to gauge the asking price for Arenado. Atlanta also has been in the market for a third baseman this offseason when Josh Donaldson hit the free agent market after the end of the season. The Braves have been one of the most active teams this offseason adding a number of pitchers to their staff as they look to build on a very successful 2019 campaign.
For the Rangers, a team like the Braves getting into the mix could be a bit concerning. Atlanta has a much deeper farm system than Texas and if they feel so inclined, could almost certainly outbid any prospect offering the Rangers could give to the Rockies in a deal. Following the end of the 2019 season, the Braves featured five players in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects including four inside the Top 35. For comparison, Texas features just three Top 100 prospects, the highest of which is Josh Jung, the 55th ranked prospect.
Because of how young their Major League roster is as well, the Braves can afford to part with some of these players via trade having no spots available for them in the big leagues. Texas on the other hand, is going to be reliant on some of these young players making impacts in Arlington in the future.
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In addition to the Braves being able to offer more than Texas in a return, their ability to contend next season could appeal to Arenado. He has a full no-trade clause as well as an opt out after the 2021 season. In any deal, he would have to waive his NTC and while I’m confident he’d waive it to come to Texas, if he’s got a choice between Atlanta and the Rangers, well, who would you choose?
Beyond that NTC is his ability to opt out after two years. There’s been talk that he could waive his right to opt out in a trade if another plan can be worked out with the acquiring team such as another guaranteed year tacked on the deal or a higher AAV. For Atlanta, there likely wouldn’t be much concern about waiving his right to opt out because the Braves are set up to compete for awhile based on current roster construction. However, would Arenado want that opt out option in Texas. While the club is headed in the right direction based on last year’s results, they still have plenty of question marks. Whereas the Braves were a legit contender in 2019, the Rangers would be convincing Arenado on what their vision is, rather than where they’re actually at right now. That could be a stumbling block that Atlanta could bypass if they really wanted to do so.
Now breathe Rangers fans. Morosi does go on to note that the Braves and Rockies haven’t communicated in some time. Perhaps this was more just due diligence than actual interest. While Atlanta has been in the reported market for a third baseman, heavily linked to a reunion with Josh Donaldson, they do have Austin Riley to factor in at the hot corner. The talented 22-year old showed some impressive flashes last season and despite featuring mostly in left field, his natural position coming up through the minors was third base. With Atlanta featuring an impressive grouping of young outfielders, would they want to look at moving Riley back to third? That’s something they have to take into account when gauging a potential blockbuster deal.
On Twitter, Jamey Newberg who covers the Rangers for The Athletic was asked about Atlanta’s interest and what it could mean. He had an interesting thought.
If it is the latter and Colorado is trying to up their leverage, that could signal talks are heating up. Still, a deal is incredibly complicated and a long shot. Even if it does get done, I wouldn’t imagine it’s anytime soon as it likely will come after we get a resolution on Kris Bryant’s service time grievance with the Cubs. As of now, that seems to be holding up the third base market.