Nolan Arenado Trade: Scouting Reports On Every Cardinals Player Headed To The Rockies
The Cardinals began the offseason by declining Kolten Wong's $12.5 million team option and watching Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina hit free agency. Like the rest of the National League Central, they appeared to be retrenching after losing a season's worth of gate revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With less than a month before spring training, they suddenly and sharply turned in the other direction.
The Cardinals acquired Nolan Arenado from the Rockies in a blockbuster trade that was finalized Monday night. The Rockies received LHP Austin Gomber, 3B Elehuris Montero, RHP Tony Locey, SS Mateo Gil and RHP Jake Sommers in return. Colorado also sent a reported $35 million, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, to St. Louis to cover a portion of the remainder of Arenado's contract.
Arenado had six years and $199 million remaining on his contract and received another year, reportedly for $15 million, on top of that as part of the trade. He waived his no-trade clause and received an opt-out in 2022 in addition to his 2021 opt-out as well.
The move elevates the Cardinals to clear favorites in the NL Central. As for the Rockies, it marks the end of Arenado's tenure as the face of the franchise and signals the beginning of a rebuild.
Austin Gomber, LHP
The Cardinals drafted Gomber in 2014 out of Florida Atlantic as a 6-foot-5, 220-pound lefty with two potential solid-average offerings: a fastball and a changeup. They quickly implored him to add a breaking ball he could throw with conviction and he did, developing a tight-spinning curveball that helped fuel his rise through St. Louis' system. He has spent parts of two seasons in St. Louis (2018 and 2020) and been effective as both a starter and a reliever, featuring a 93-mph fastball and curveball with 4.2 more inches of vertical movement compared to average. St. Louis used him mostly in a relief role in 2020 and he pitched to a tidy 1.86 ERA, but his underlying metrics (1.41 WHIP, 22.7% strikeout percentage, 4.75 xFIP) are more lukewarm. Gomber's track record as a flyball pitcher is also a reason for concern as he heads to Coors Field.
Elehuris Montero, 3B
Montero ranked as the Cardinals No. 14 prospect in the 2021 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He was briefly a Top 100 Prospect after his breakout 2018 in the low Class A Midwest League, when he won league MVP and led the league in batting average (.322) and slugging percentage (.510). He struggled mightily in Double-A in 2019 as he battled a hamate injury and a wrist issue, however, and had a so-so showing at the alternate training site in 2020. Montero hits from a wide base with a very modest load that emphasizes consistent contact over power. He has solid natural strength and his above-average bat speed could help him eventually post solid on-base and slugging percentages, but he notably lacked power at the alternate site and it's a question how much he'll be able to tap into his power in games. Montero has a plus arm at third base, but his thick frame and modest range have long led to questions whether he can stick at the position. A lot hinges on Montero tapping into his power, especially if he has to move off of third base.
Tony Locey, RHP
Ranked the Cardinals No. 26 prospect in the 2021 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Locey worked his way into the Georgia rotation and was the team’s Friday starter as a junior on a staff that included 2020 first round pick Emerson Hancock. He has baseball bloodlines, as his father Tony Sr. also pitched in the minors. Locey has long had an above-average fastball that he locates well. His slider could eventually turn into a second above-average or better offering, but too often for now it is a waste pitch in the dirt that only works against over-aggressive hitters. Locey’s less-than-reliable secondaries make him a potential reliever down the road, but his durability and stout frame will buy him time to show he can develop into a back-end of the rotation starter.
Mateo Gil, SS
The Cardinals No. 28 prospect in the 2021 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Gil is the son of long-time MLB shortstop Benji Gil. Evaluators have long raved about his feel for the game and his ability to reliably make the average play while serving as the quarterback of the infield. Less optimistic scouts see him as a utility infielder who has maxed out what he can do because he understands the game so well. The pandemic did Gil no favors, as he will enter 2021 having yet to play full season bal. Because he is a 2018 third-round pick, he will have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft after the 2022 season. Gil has solid bat-to-ball skills but lacks the power to make much impact, although the hope is that he may get stronger as he puts his teenage years behind him. He has the hands and range to play an average shortstop with an above-average arm. He most likely ends up as a solid utilityman who can play anywhere around the infield, with a less-likely shot of being a bottom-of-the-order hitting everyday shortstop.
Jake Sommers, RHP
Sommers did not rank among the Cardinals Top 40 prospects in the 2021 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. A senior sign as a 10th-round pick out of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2019, Sommers did not post a sub-5.00 ERA in his first three years with the Panthers, but finished his career by having a solid season as the club’s closer, going 2-2, 3.60 with 10 saves and 37 strikeouts in 30 innings. The Cardinals made him a starter and he rewarded them by helping pitch the team to an Appalachian League championship. He was the starter, but was not involved in the decision in the deciding Game 3 in the finals against Burlington. Sommers currently does not have an above-average pitch, as his 88-92 mph fastball is fringy and his high-70s curveball is average at best. He also will mix in a changeup.
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Nolan Arenado, 3B
The Cardinals, quite simply, got one of the best players in baseball without giving up any of their best young major leaguers or top prospects. Arenado is tied for seventh among all major leaguers in fWAR since 2015, has made the last five All-Star Games and has won eight straight Gold Gloves. A shoulder injury tempered his offensive performance in 2020, but even with that he's a career .293/.349/.531 hitter who has led the National League in home runs three times and RBIs twice. Arenado's offensive numbers were significantly better at home (.985 OPS) than on the road (.793 OPS) with the Rockies, but that was also true of D.J. LeMahieu, Matt Holliday and many other hitters whose talent allowed them to flourish even away from Coors Field. Arenado's bat should boost a Cardinals offense that finished 26th in the majors in OPS last year and his sensational defense at third base helps round out what could be one of the strongest defensive teams in the major leagues. Like Holliday, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Paul Goldschmidt before him, Arenado is the latest elite talent to join the Cardinals with plenty still left in the tank.