SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Nolan Arenado asked questions. Lots of them. A staggering amount, according to his agent.
Once the third baseman acquired the answers needed, it became clear to Arenado he didn't need to experience the allure of free agency. He wanted to be in Colorado if the Rockies were willing to make the kind of commitment worthy of keeping the four-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner.
"At the end of the day my heart was here," Arenado said Wednesday, a day after agreeing to a $260 million, eight-year contract.
Arenado chose the certainty and potential of the Rockies over the uncertainty of a free-agent market that's been hard to predict in the past couple of seasons. He is sticking with the team that first drafted him in June 2009 in the hope of following Todd Helton's path and being a fixture in Denver for his entire career.
"Believe me, I educated myself a lot on what I really wanted and I just felt like this was the best thing for me," Arenado said. "I love playing with this group. I think we have a great group. I really believe we can win. I wouldn't make this decision if I didn't believe that."
Arenado's deal has a $32.5 million average annual value, second behind the $34.42 million for pitcher Zack Greinke in a $206.5 million contract with Arizona that began in 2016. Arenado has a full no-trade provision and can terminate the deal after three seasons, a point which both Arenado and Rockies GM Jeff Bridich saw as beneficial to determine whether Colorado remains a title contender.
"Hopefully it's not a factor but those sorts of situations are part of large contracts these days with the type of commitment," Bridich said.
Arenado's deal is the second financial splash by mid-market NL West teams during spring training after San Diego landed a $300 million, 10-year deal with San Diego. Bryce Harper remains on the market.
The length and structure of the deal was important to the Rockies.
"My belief is we can compete on an (average annual value) with anybody. We have to make sure the term is something we can live with. That was a lot of our discussion was the length and the term of the contract," Rockies owner Dick Montfort said.
"A larger market team if they have what they call dead salary when a player is a little older, they can sort of get by with it. ... Our high price or All-Star players need to be on the field."
Arenado's agent, Joel Wolfe, said his client never expressed any apprehension about the potential of facing free agency. Arenado's only concern was going into this season without long-term certainty and what a down season or even an injury could mean when free agency arrived.
"That was the only real risk that he felt, is there is risk in down performance. There is risk in injury," Wolfe said. "We talked about Trevor Bauer's injury, where the guy was going to have a Cy Young-caliber season and then gets a comebacker and breaks his leg. There are things that could happen. He plays so hard, jumping into the stands, sliding into first base in the WBC, he didn't want to have to have that thought in his head ever, that third gear, that pumping the of the brakes, which is natural sometimes for players in their walk years."
Arenado agreed in January to a $26 million, one-year contract with the Rockies. His new deal keeps that salary and calls for $35 million annually from 2020-24, $32 million in 2025 and $27 million in 2026. He must decide after the 2021 season whether to opt in for the remainder of the contract.
He can earn an additional $25,000 each time he is an All-Star or wins a Gold Glove, $50,000 for Silver Slugger, $75,000 for league championship series MVP, $75,000 for World Series MVP, $100,000 for MVP and $50,000 for second through fifth in the voting, and $100,000 for comeback player of the year.
"I'm a homer. I love our homegrown guys," Montfort said. "I love our process and anytime we can keep a player like Nolan for a career that's a great testament to the organization and what we're trying to do."