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Keep the stars happy

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Nolan Arenado’s bubbling discontent with Colorado’s quiet offseason highlights how imperative it is for the Phillies to stay aggressive in this contention window

Colorado Rockies v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Nolan Arenado isn’t thrilled with the Rockies right now.

The star third baseman wore his feelings on his sleeve this week, after general manager Jeff Bridich indicated Monday that trade talks involving Arenado weren’t advancing, and may be halted altogether. Arenado, when asked for comment, let loose.

”Jeff is very disrespectful. I never talk trash or anything,” Arenado texted to Denver7. “I play hard, keep my mouth shut. But I can only get crossed so many times.”

Yikes.

Arenado, like many Rockies fans, is frustrated. Frustrated that, a year after he committed to a long-term extension with Colorado through at least 2021, and potentially through 2025 if he doesn’t exercise his opt-out clause. Frustrated that the team’s missteps in free agency — Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Ian Desmond — helped tank a promising core’s contention window in 2019, leaving them only one game ahead of San Diego for last in the NL West, and that little has been done this winter to try and right the ship. It feels like there are other things going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about, too, as Arenado wouldn’t elaborate on what precisely led him to feel “disrespected.”

It doesn’t seem like Arenado’s all that inclined to stick around in Colorado past 2021.

It’s a sticky situation for the Rockies, for Arenado, and for Rockies fans, as their star’s ultimate fate still feels like it’s in limbo even after Bridich’s proclamation. Without triage, he’ll be a malcontent on a 2020 Rockies club that needs a lot to go right in order to be a playoff contender. It’s also a message to the rest of the league, Phillies included: Always do what you can to win ballgames, because players may be less inclined than ever to just accept it when things take a turn for the worse.


Thankfully, the Phillies and their fans are clear of that kind of trouble right now. The team is on a three-offseason streak of making significant moves to get better: Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper, and now Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius have come into the fold in consecutive winters. And even though Arrieta hasn’t played exactly according to plan, his signing was the move that really kicked things into high gear for the club’s latest foray into contention. Points for process, at least.

That continued activity is important, too. The team is mostly set for 2020, but as we look ahead to 2021, we see that Gregorius, Jay Bruce, David Robertson, and (for the moment) J.T. Realmuto and Jose Alvarez are all set to become free agents. That’s a starting shortstop, a power bench bat, two relievers, and a starting catcher that would all be leaving. Regardless of the moves that would be made to fill those vacancies, which isn’t really a conversation in this moment for anyone except Realmuto, these looming departures serve to highlight how busy the team can continue (and should be expected) to be.

And these moves have to work on the whole, too. Arenado’s frustration traces back further than just this winter’s inaction; the moves the Rockies made coming into 2019 fell flat, and have thrown their plans into potential chaos. The Phillies should be wary of this, too.

But consider the volume of moves they’ve made in the past two-plus years. There certainly hasn’t been a lack of effort, despite a couple of high-profile misfires.

Significant Acquisitions Since End of 2017 Season

Player How Acquired When Acquired
Player How Acquired When Acquired
Tommy Hunter Free Agency Dec 2017
Pat Neshek Free Agency Dec 2017
Carlos Santana Free Agency Dec 2017
Jake Arrieta Free Agency Mar 2018
Asdrubal Cabrera Trade Jul 2018
Aaron Loup Trade Jul 2018
Wilson Ramos Trade Jul 2018
Luis Avilan Trade Aug 2018
Jose Bautista Trade Aug 2018
Justin Bour Trade Aug 2018
Andrew McCutchen Free Agency Dec 2018
Jean Segura Trade Dec 2018
Juan Nicasio Trade Dec 2018
David Robertson Free Agency Jan 2019
J.T. Realmuto Trade Feb 2019
Jay Bruce Trade Jun 2019
Brad Miller Trade Jun 2019
Mike Morin Trade Jul 2019
Drew Smyly Free Agency Jul 2019
Jason Vargas Trade Jul 2019
Blake Parker Free Agency Jul 2019
Corey Dickerson Trade Jul 2019
Nick Vincent Free Agency Aug 2019
Jared Hughes Waivers Aug 2019
Zack Wheeler Free Agency Dec 2019
Didi Gregorius Free Agency Dec 2019

Every move won’t work out brilliantly. It’s just the law of averages. But we certainly can’t fault the Phils’ front office for continuously being active and looking to make upgrades both in- and out-of-season as the team’s needs change.

So far that’s been enough, but time may be running out on this level of complacency. Another losing or .500 season may change that perspective. To this point, Phillies players in the current group have stopped short of demanding trades even at their most unhappy. Even Pat Neshek and Nick Williams, whose grumbles of discontent were among the loudest, haven’t thrown public fits. Same goes for the true core guys like Harper, Realmuto, Nola, Hoskins, and Kingery, who all seem happy enough with everything (short of not actually making the playoffs yet). Maybe their fuses are all longer than Arenado’s, but losing typically begets irritation regardless, and the best way to keep everyone smiling is to surround them with complementary pieces good enough to finally get this club back to the postseason.

The Rockies and Arenado are a pessimistic vision of what the Phillies could become in the future. That’s an outcome we all hope is rendered impossible with some more winning baseball this season.