At his season-ending press conference, Philadelphia Phillies president Andy MacPhail cautioned reporters that this upcoming offseason’s free-agent class – which will include Manny Machado and Bryce Harper – isn’t the final one in baseball history. In fact, he pointed out that the 2019 free-agent class has a chance to be pretty impressive in its own right.
One potential free-agent after the 2019 season is Colorado Rockies four-time All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. The 27-year-old slashed .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs, 110 RBIs and a 5.7 fWAR in 2018. He’s going to win his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award at third base. Phillies icon Mike Schmidt – considered to be the greatest third baseman of all-time – told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times this past March that Arenado is his “heir apparent.” When the Phillies visited Colorado in late September, Arenado acknowledged the appreciation he has for the love he’s been shown by Schmidt and his former teammate Larry Bowa.
For the better part of the last five years, it’s been one of the worst-kept secrets in baseball that Phillies managing partner John Middleton would like to make a splash this offseason. That could come in the form of Machado or Harper. Some even think both could end up with the Phillies, though MacPhail, without addressing the two by name, seemed to pour cold water on that idea when he met with the media last week. But Machado’s preference to join the New York Yankees could curtail the Phillies from signing him. Harper could remain with the Washington Nationals or join the Chicago Cubs. With their financial wherewithal, it feels realistic that the Phillies will land one of Machado or Harper this offseason, but there is a scenario where neither come to Philadelphia.
And the clock is ticking for Arenado in Colorado, which could make him an interesting pivot this offseason for the Phillies.
For his part, Arenado, who will turn 28 next April, says that he plans to be a Rockie in 2019. But he did admit that the business side of the sport can change plans rather abruptly.
“Obviously arbitration is going to come around, and that topic will come up, but I expect to be in spring training with the Rockies next year,” Arenado told Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. “I love it here. This is a business, though, and things can get a little iffy because of the business side of it. But that being said, I expect to be in Spring Training next year.”
The Rockies don’t look like a team that’s far away from being a potential World Series contender. Though the team could very well lose second baseman DJ LeMahieu in free-agency this offseason, they were able to sign three-time All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon to a lucrative six-year extension in April. Trevor Story is one of the league’s best shortstops. Outfielder David Dahl had an impressive 249 at-bat stint in 2018.
Of course, the Rockies almost always have a formidable lineup. But German Marquez and Kyle Freeland give the Rockies two elite, young arms that should be at the top of their rotation for some time to come.
And yet, the Rockies were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS. A frustrated Arenado was open in July about the poor taste that’s been left in his mouth by playing in the same division as the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, who have had remarkable team success since his career began in 2013.
“I don’t want to lose anymore. I just hate it,’’ Arenado told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “It’s tough on you. I’ve only been to the playoffs once, and it was only one game and then it’s gone. We got kicked out quick.”