SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Nolan Arenado never wanted to go anywhere else, and Tuesday morning, the Colorado Rockies were making sure he was staying put.
The Rockies and Arenado have agreed to an eight-year, $260 million contract with an opt-out in three years, a person with direct knowledge told USA TODAY Sports. He was unauthroized to speak publicly because the Rockies have yet to announce the deal.
Arenado, 27, just 16 months older than Bryce Harper, will receive the highest annual salary of $32.5 million, breaking Miguel Cabrera’s record of $31 million per year for a position player.
“It’s such a great place,’’ Arenado toled USA TODAY Sports, “I really enjoy the fact there’s a comfortability here. You know the coaches. You know the players. Some of my best friends are on this team.
“I grew up here in this organization, so it feels like home in a way. I’ve been here since the tide has changed, and that’s a really good feeling. I was part of that change.
“You want to win in a place where you’ve been all of your life.’’
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Colorado, you’re now on the clock.
Arenado, who has finished in the top five in MVP voting for three consecutive years, is not only the face of the Rockies, but also one of baseball’s biggest stars. There’s a reason why the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies would love nothing more than contract talks to break down with the Rockies, giving them an opportunity to steal him next winter.
“Listen, I think those places are great,’’ Arenado says, “but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side for certain people. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be for me. It’d be great to play in a big market.
“But at the same time, I’m doing what’s best for me. I’m not a guy who’s going to be searching for the biggest contract in the game. That’s not me. I want to be where I’m comfortable.
“And I’m comfortable, man, I’m comfortable. I’m not going to complain about being comfortable.’’
Besides, despite being the greatest player in the National League, and one of only four players in history to win three home-run titles and earn four Gold Gloves in a four-year period, there’s no guarantee teams will be lined up at his door when he hits free agency.
Arenado saw what happened this winter. He sees Harper still sitting on the free-agent market. Former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and seven-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, too.
“There are so many good players out there,’’ Arenado says. “It’s crazy to think they’re still out there. But honestly, I wouldn’t be making my decision what I’m seeing. I base it on what I feel is right.
“If the Rockies come in with something nice, I’ll take it. If not, I have no fear about going into the free agent market. I really don’t.’’
Certainly, there are no red flags indicating a deal won’t be done with the Rockies. Dick Monfort, chairman and CEO of the Rockies, expressed confidence of working out a long-term extension after Arenado agreed to a record $26 million contract in his final year of arbitration earlier this month.
The beauty of these negotiations is that both sides are being transparent, leading to calm, respectful and quiet talks.
“That’s why I have a lot of respect for them,’’ Arenado says. “No one’s playing any games. That’s why I’m willing to stay because of how they’ve communicated so well with me. It’s been really nice how smooth the talks have been.’’
And now that the Rockies are winning, Arenado really has no complaints at all. He loves the city, where he owns a condo in downtown Denver. He adores the passionate fanbase. Coors Field may no longer be the hitters’ paradise of Cincinnati or Philadelphia now that they are sorting baseballs in a humidor, but he won’t deny it’s a fabulous place to hit. He has a career .320 batting average and staggering .984 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at Coors Field.
So, he asks, despite not having the fame if he played in New York or Los Angeles, and the contract is fair, why in the world would he want to leave. It’s no different than Mike Trout wanting to stay with the Los Angeles Angels.
He could be the modern-day George Brett, who was drafted and signed by the Kansas City Royals, and never left.
Rockies manager Bud Black, Brett’s former teammate in Kansas City, is reminded of the comparisons every day. Two high-school kids from Southern California, drafted and signed by mid-market organizations, who are the finest third basemen in the game. One went onto the Hall of Fame. The other is headed there.
“There are so many similarities,’’ Black said. “I talk to George all of the time about Nolan. George watches his games. He’s so impressed with how Nolan plays, especially defensively.
“When I played with George, his thought all along was that he wanted to stay a Royal forever, and he wanted to make that happen. My hope would be that Nolan’s a Rockie forever. There’s something special about that. I think Nolan realizes that as well.’’
Arenado could become the first player in history to sign a contract eclipsing $225 million, and remaining with the same team.
“It would be pretty cool,’’ Arenado says, “to be one of those guys that stays with one organization their whole career. It just doesn’t happen anymore. I’d like to change that.
“Man, it would be pretty special.’’
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