All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado has agreed to sign a contract extension that will keep him in Colorado for eight years and make him the highest-paid position player in the league
Major League Baseball may soon after a new highest-paid position player, but it’s not who you might think.
While the baseball world awaits Bryce Harper‘s free agency destination, the Colorado Rockies and four-time All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado agreed to an eight-year, $260 million contract extension on Tuesday, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The deal will pay Arenado an average of $32.5 million per season, surpassing the previous record $31 million of Miguel Cabrera and the $30 million Manny Machado agreed to with the San Diego Padres last week.
Arenado, a six-time Gold Glove winner, is one of baseball’s great young talents. In 2018 he hit .297 with 38 home runs and 110 RBI, leading the Rockies to a second straight postseason berth for the first time in franchise history. He’s led the National League in home runs three of the last four seasons, and has been in the top-10 in OPS every year since 2015.
Detractors say, however, that Arenado is helped by the thin air of Coors Field. Arenado is a much better hitter at home than he is on the road. Last year he hit .347 in Colorado compared to .248 on the road, while his OPS drops from 1.105 to .772 away from home. For his career his batting average is nearly 60 points higher at home. Take him away from Coors Field and he’s still a solid player, just nowhere near deserving of the honor of being the game’s highest-paid hitter.
The contract extension means, though, that he’ll spend most of his career in Colorado, something he’s more than comfortable with. “It’s such a great place. I really enjoy the fact there’s a comfortability here,” he told Nightengale. “You know the coaches. You know the players. Some of my best friends are on this team.”
“I grew up here in this organization, so it feels like home in a way. I’ve been here since the tide has changed, and that’s a really good feeling. I was part of that change. You want to win in a place where you’ve been all of your life.”
Arenado was eligible to be a free agent after this season. While the extension has yet to be made official, signing the deal will keep him from going through the ordeal Machado and Harper have endured this offseason. Harper remains unsigned, with the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers currently vying for the All-Star right fielder, and is looking for a long-term deal worth more than $300 million. That will make Arenado’s tenure as highest-paid position player a short one. Mike Trout and reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts are also set to hit the free agency market in two years.
What the Arenado deal does is show these players that teams have money to throw around. The free agency market in recent years has been tight, but as Arenado and Machado have proven in the last week the great players are still capable of getting big deals.