Opt-out clause is going to be the biggest hiccup for Braves in an Arenado deal

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The Braves have never been big on opt-out clauses. Look at any contract they have signed a player to, and you will be hard-pressed to find one.

Nolan Arenado may very well be the best third baseman in baseball, and he has seemingly been made available. He is a perennial All-Star, Gold Glove Award winner, and MVP candidate. He is Josh Donaldson and then some, and acquiring him could be the move that puts this Braves team over the top. However, with the way his contract is currently structured, a trade is highly unlikely.

Arenado was signed to an 8-year, $260 million contract by the Rockies before last season. So of course, it all starts with the financial commitment in the first place. Josh Donaldson would likely still be a Brave if the team met his financial demands. But Arenado is a younger, better player. It is comparing apples to oranges. With that being said though, if the Braves were actually willing to make that sort of financial commitment, they could have just attempted to sign Anthony Rendon without giving up prospects. He ended up signing a 7-year, $245 million deal with the Angels, and has much better numbers away from Coors Field than Arenado.

The Braves wisely want to hold their chips as they seek to build a long-term winner. But to get to the top, sometimes it takes a move like this. Atlanta has the capital down on the farm to make this deal happen. In fact, they are a perfect match. Think about it: how many contending teams still possess an elite enough farm system and are looking for a push over the hump? The biggest competition, and the favorites to deal for Arenado, are the St. Louis Cardinals. However, even after acquiring Matthew Liberatore from the Rays, the Braves still have better talent at their disposal.

They have the leg up as far as assets go, and Arenado could be theirs if they really wanted. It would also give them a long-term solution at the hot corner, which would give the Braves a surplus of outfielders to find the right combination. The Braves have Ronald Acuna Jr. locked up until 2027. Ender Inciarte is under contract for at least two more years, with an option for 2022. They control Adam Duvall for three more years and have Nick Markakis in 2020 as well. But then you look at the young talent. Assuming he would not be part of the package, Austin Riley would be moving to the outfield, which he is proven capable of handling. Then the Braves also have Drew Waters, Cristian Pache, and Trey Harris all creeping up the pipeline. So while there are questions about this group heading into this season, it’s actually an area of strength moving forward.

The biggest hiccup here is the fact that after the 2021 season, Arenado has an opt-out in his contract. If he were to exercise this, the Braves would be giving up extreme prospect capital to acquire him at a much higher annual cost than Kris Bryant. If they were to make this deal, they would likely demand that this opt-out be removed, and Arenado would really have to be sold on the Braves to agree to something like that. He is set to make $35 million with bonuses until his age 34 season, so it is not completely out of the question, but it does take away some of his leverage, which usually is never in the player’s best interest.

That is going to end up being the bottom line in this deal. If the Braves are going to give up their top prospects, they need to know that they will control him through 2026. Though losing young guys would sting, making a move for Arenado would give them an elite core for the better part of this decade, assuming they were to lock up Freddie Freeman as well. There are a lot of question marks, but a possible deal is really in Arenado’s hands.

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