Why Nolan Arenado trade is not the death knell for the Reds 2021 season

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 28: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies bats during a game against the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 28: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies bats during a game against the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Sure, the reported Nolan Arenado trade to the St. Louis Cardinals is concerning, but it’s not the death knell for Cincinnati Reds 2021 season. Don’t forget, we’re just one year removed from the Cincinnati front office spending $166M on five free agents last offseason. Four of those free agents are still on the team.

Heading into the offseason, you could make the argument the Reds were in a four-horse race for supremacy in the ultra-competitive NL Central. Though Cincinnati is likely losing Cy Young-winner Trevor Bauer, the Cardinals hadn’t done much to this point in the offseason, and the Chicago Cubs non-tendered Kyle Schwarber and allowed Jon Lester to sign with the Washington Nationals.

The Nolan Arenado trade may challenge the Reds passive approach.

It’s being reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that Arenado and $50M in cash considerations will be headed to St. Louis, while a combination of prospects, none of whom even crack the Cardinals’ Top 5 according to MLB Pipeline, will be shipped to the Mile High City. If you ask me, that’s a steal.

However, it’s also being reported by Rosenthal that Nolan Arenado will maintain his no-trade clause and his opt-out clause following the upcoming season. Arenado will also receive an additional option to opt out of his contract after the 2022 season. Who knows how long Arenado will actually be part of the Cardinals’ organization?

The one positive for the Reds that may emerge from the Nolan Arenado trade is a kick in the pants for the Cincinnati front office. We all know that this offseason has been defined by slashing payroll, but with the Cardinals re-signing Adam Wainwright, likely to re-sign Yadier Molina, and now trading for Arenado, perhaps the Reds will get off their duffs and do something.

Cincinnati non-tendered Archie Bradley, Curt Casali, and Brian Goodwin. The team also dealt Raisel Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels, and have yet to fill the vacancy at shortstop. Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, and Freddy Galvis all signed one-year deals this week, leaving Didi Gregorius as the best option remaining. However, his $15M per year asking price might be a bit steep for the Reds.

Don’t panic! The Nolan Arenado trade is not the death knell for the Reds season.

Let’s not overact to the reported Nolan Arenado trade. Sure, it give the Cardinals a bonafide Gold Glove third baseman to pair with slugger Paul Goldschmidt, but let’s not forget that St. Louis chose to part ways with two-time Gold Glove Award-winner Kolten Wong.

Supposed ace Jack Flaherty is coming off a terrible 2020 campaign in which he posted a 4.91ERA and -0.3 WAR. While Wainwright is now back in a Cardinals uniform for his 16th season, do we really expect him to pitch at an All-Star level at age 39? Austin Gomber, one of St. Louis’ best young pitchers, is likely headed to Colorado as part of the Nolan Arenado trade.

Reasons for optimism heading into the Reds 2021 season.

Again, this is not a bad Cincinnati Reds team. As bad as fans may think things are going in the Queen City, thank goodness you’re not a fan of the Colorado Rockies. Ouch! The return heading back to the Mile High City is a joke.

But back to the Reds. Let’s not forget that during last year’s 60-game season, Cincinnati entered play with high hopes. It wasn’t the pitching that let the team down, but the offense. However, you have to imagine that players like Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suárez, and Mike Moustakas will outperform the horrendous numbers they put up in 2020.

While I don’t expect a renaissance season from Joey Votto, I’m hopeful that the former MVP can do what he does best, and get on base. Shogo Akiyama has another year of experience under his belt, and after a full offseason in the states, I’m expecting a breakout season from the former Japanese star.

Jesse Winker enters the 2021 season as one of the better left fielders in the game. If he can harness some semblance of consistency, Winker has the opportunity to lead the league in RBIs. And don’t sleep on Nick Senzel. Yes, he has to prove that he can stay healthy, but if the former No. 2 overall pick can stay on the field, he could greatly impact the lineup.

The biggest bright spot heading into the upcoming season might be the arrival of Tyler Stephenson. With Curt Casali now in San Francisco, Stephenson will get considerable playing time behind the plate. If the Reds can find a quality shortstop, this year’s team could make some noise in the National League Central.

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The Nolan Arenado trade makes the St. Louis Cardinals the favorites in the National League Central, but by no means are the Cincinnati Reds out of contention. Hopefully, we get to see a 162-game season in 2021, and hopefully the investments Cincinnati made last winter play up to their potential.