Just two weeks ago I got to visit Coors Field, a field I had always been interested in because of the high-altitude, high-home run environment that turned from strange curse into, well, a curse that seemingly every ballpark has right now. Not that this match-up against the Pirates was a pennant race game, but there’s always something to look for in terms of explosive action, namely a home run from third baseman Nolan Arenado. Well, he delivered:
Arenado, on a recently minted eight-year, $260 million deal from the Rockies, is the subject of some recent debate, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal. The report indicates that while seemingly speculative, it seems plausible that given the Rockies’ stalled performance and top-line salaries, combined with Arenado’s opt-out after 2021, the front office could consider him an attractive option for exit.
I suppose, this is a reminder to any team that would think to acquire him, that Arenado is most definitely on a Hall of Fame track. By that I mean—for players of his accumulated statistics, age, and trajectory, very few players come out the end worse than Hall of Very Good. That doesn’t even account for the higher-end outcome that Arenado becomes an inner-circle Hall of Famer, a la Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, and George Brett.
In what he’s already accomplished, he still has an excellent career even if he retired just tomorrow. Slugging .304/.376/.605 (120 wRC+) with about 30 fWAR through 1022 games, puts him in the age-27 category of Robin Ventura, Eric Chavez, David Wright, and Scott Rolen. In fact, Baseball Reference’s similarity scores gave Arenado’s closest relatives to be Rolen, Chavez, Gary Sheffield, and Bob Horner, respectively.
This list actually strikes me as... interesting, largely because this mostly consists of a list of players who were able to get to the threshold of 40 or 50 WAR, some even more, but never built up the reputation as Hall of Fame mystique-endowed. Though, there’s a major caveat there. Patrick Dubuque put it best in the introduction to DRC+: “When it comes to the Hall of Fame, most people don’t engage in a lot of intellectual rigor; they decide how they feel, and then they hunt for statistics—and the underlying value judgments of those statistics—that support their case... [but] Coors Field acts like an inhibitor, blocking the signal; it halts the process of consideration before it can even begin.”
DRC+, if one remembers, had quite an interesting re-telling of the Coors Field phenomenon, that, in fact, traditional park-adjusted statistics created a Coors debit, and the adjustments led to a complete reordering of how we assess the current and historical status of Rockies hitters.
All of that would result in a massive bump for Arenado, who boosts from 120 wRC+ to a 125 DRC+, and a WAR(P) boost of about ten wins. What makes this convenient, of course, is that in getting to the “mystique” quality, Arenado has it. He makes dazzling plays on a daily basis, and he has most of the traditional accumulator stats needed to gain traditional writers’ approval. He has three top-five MVP finishes, five All Star appearances, between 37 and 42 home runs in every year over the last five, 110+ RBI seasons in five straight years, and a, yes, batting average right around .300 (.295).
Because of this, I don’t predict he ultimately ends up a Rolen, an otherwise deserved Hall of Famer that never gained that “feel” factor to put him over the top. The aging curve, especially in a younger players’ game, certainly doesn’t work in his favor, but once again, the possible re-telling of Coors Field park factors could make his younger years look even better in retrospect.
Ultimately I’m not sure if I believe the possibilities of a trade, though Troy Tulowitzki probably makes us believe anything is possible. Yet Rockies fans deserve a lifetime Rockie, a player who has seemingly been one of the main story lines of the game over the last half-decade... and possibly a half-decade more.
*All statistics current as of September 15th*