Nolan Arenado is one of Major League Baseball’s biggest stars. The St. Louis Cardinals third baseman was among the finalists for the National League Most Valuable Player, an honor that went to his teammate Paul Goldschmidt. And with an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2022 season, Arenado had the chance to score a big deal. After all, this offseason saw four free agents get at least $280 million deals, with three hitting the $300 million (or higher) mark.
Instead, Arenado chose not to opt out and will remain with the Cardinals, earning $144 million over the next five years. In essence, he’s giving up anywhere between $140 and $160 million in guaranteed money to stay in St. Louis.
As Arenado preps for another season, he’s quick to point out the reasoning behind his decision.
“I came here to be here,”
“I started a family in St. Louis. My daughter was born in St. Louis. I want to stay in St. Louis. That’s why I came here. I didn’t come here to leave after two years. That was never my plan. I wanted to be here for the long run. I love St. Louis. I love the culture. I love playing here. I love living here. I just want to hold up my end of the bargain in St. Louis. … I got traded here for a reason. I don’t want to be a letdown.“
The Cardinals traded for Arenado in February of 2021. As part of that deal, an opt-out clause after the 2022 season was added to his contract. Arenado also agreed to take some of his salary in deferred payments from the Cardinals (without interest) and from his old team, the Colorado Rockies. Colorado’s payment does include interest; even though Arenado hasn’t played for the Rockies since 2021, they still owe him $16 million this year.
Arenado opted for family over money, and that’s a noble decision. By the time this contract ends, he’ll be 36 years old. That’s still young enough that he could earn another contract for two to five years. And with the rates baseball contracts are growing, he could come close to making up the difference.
One other reason Arenado likes the Cardinals? They consistently make the playoffs. Granted, his two postseason trips while in St. Louis have ended in quick heartbreak and he’s played poorly. Still, the Cardinals are suited for better long-term success than most other franchises. And if Arenado keeps making the playoffs, he has a chance to win a title.
The old sports cliche is that money buys championships. In Arenado’s case, giving up money might earn him one.