Carney column: Rockies, Arenado moving towards an extension signals a financial shift
I was scrolling through my feed on The Athletic’s mobile app Monday night when I stumbled across a column from renowned baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal talking about the Colorado Rockies and Nolan Arenado.
Intrigued, I clicked on the column, and much to my surprise I read that Rosenthal was reporting that Arenado and the Rockies were moving closer to a massive contract extension that will make the All-Star and Gold Glove third baseman a Rockie for life. After last week’s news that Arenado and the Rockies came to an agreement on a one-year, $26 million deal in arbitration, I would have put the chances of an extension with the start third baseman at very slim odds. Alas, Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort expressed optimism on Saturday that the team would reach a long-term agreement with Arenado, telling MLB.com, “I think we’ve gotten it to the point where we’re to the finals. We’re to the crescendo.”
The expectation with Arenado and an extension, according to Rosenthal, is around the same deal that Miguel Cabrera inked with the Detroit Tigers in 2014 at eight years and $248 million.
That’s stunning news, and quite honestly signals a huge financial shift for the Rockies that should push them further up the food chain when it comes to contender status in Major League Baseball.
Signing one of your own stars shouldn’t be viewed as groundbreaking, but for the Rockies it shows they’re serious when it comes to competing not only now, but long term.
Since the turn of the century, the Rockies have handed out huge deals only a handful of times. The Rockies have committed to big contracts before, such as Mike Hampton’s eight-year, $121 million free-agent contract in December 2000, Todd Helton’s nine-year, $141.5 million extension in March 2001, and Troy Tulowitzki’s seven-year, $134 million extension in November 2012. Realistically, only one of those deals truly worked out: Helton’s. Tulowitzki could never stay healthy, and Hampton couldn’t figure out how to pitch in altitude while also struggling with injuries. Arenado has landed on the disabled list just once in his career, and that was early in the 2017 season with a finger fracture. Since coming up to the majors, Arenado has won of six straight Gold Gloves, averaged 40 home runs the past four seasons, and has finished top 5 in NL MVP voting each year since 2016.
Unlike some clubs in MLB, the Rockies are seeing a major boom in finances, which is giving them some freedom to spend and really compete in today’s game. A lot of that money is coming from you, the fans. Last season, Colorado cracked 3 million in attendance numbers (3,015,880), good for eighth-best in baseball. That translated to 37,233 in attendance on average during the 2018 season. As the Rockies have grown into a successful, competitive team, Coors Field has turned into a happening place in Denver that churns out money at a high rate. Outside of stadium finances, the team’s local TV revenue has increased from $20 million to $40 million annually, Monfort told MLB.com, and that number likely will be in even higher in the team’s next TV deal, which will expire after the 2020 season. Again, that will put a ton of money back into the operation of the team, which means a higher payroll to spend on their own players, as well as being a major factor in free agency.
A shift has happened with the Rockies, and I’m not talking moving defenders around on the field. Colorado has done a great job of drafting and developing in recent years, highlighted by Arenado, Trevor Story, Kyle Freeland and many others. The core has experienced the playoffs in the last two years; now with financial freedom to add to the team, a deeper run into October is the expectation.
Things are changing in the Mile High City when it comes to baseball, and that’s as refreshing as it gets.
Josh Carney is the sports editor at the Post Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.