ST. LOUIS – Nolan Arenado reassured the baseball world Sunday that he’s a St. Louis Cardinal for the long haul.
After a Top-3 MVP finish and his tenth consecutive Gold Glove award last year, Arenado faced a major decision: Whether to retain the rest of his current contract with the St. Louis Cardinals or explore a new deal via free agency.
It only took Arenado a few weeks after the season’s end to stick with the Cardinals. As he tells media members at Winter Warm-Up, he didn’t want it any other way.
“I never felt any other way towards this place. This is always the place I wanted to play,” said Arenado. “I’ve loved it ever since I’ve been here, and I love my teammates, so pretty easy decision.”
Arenado delivered one of his strongest seasons ever in his second Cardinals campaign, hitting .293 with 30 homers, 103 RBIs and a career-low strikeout rate. His 7.9 WAR ranked best among National League position players last season.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as Arenado admitted to tough stretches in May, September and the postseason. The ups and downs shaped his perspective for the offseason.
“The main thing I focused on, is to not get complacent with that year,” said Arenado. “Just continue to find ways to get quicker, stay healthier, feel good, feel fresh. Last year was a great year, but I think I could’ve been better. I still want to drive the ball better. I feel like I did a fine job, but there’s more in there.”
That also includes his defense, even coming off six straight NL Platinum Glove honors as the league’s best defender.
“It’s not going to be easy as I’m getting older, but I’ve felt really good [on defense],” said Arenado. “What I did a good job last year of, probably Goldy showed me this the most, is that I don’t need to take as many ground balls before the game. I can conserve my energy, make sure I’m fresh for the game. … I think it’s more of a confidence thing and making sure I stay fresh. There’s no reason I feel like I can’t play just as good of defense as I did last year.”
St. Louis has secured the hot corner at a time that the position is starting to become a hot commodity.
“Third base is a staple now,” said Arenado. “I always felt like back in the day, centerfield or shortstop [were more valuable], but I think people are starting to appreciate making sure they have a good third baseman nowadays. … Keeping those corners down, playing good defense and hitting homers is really valuable.”
While preparing for the upcoming season, Arenado has invited Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar and others to his warehouse in Orange County, California. Arenado also sets sights on the World Baseball Classic in March as one of a small few returning from Team USA’s champion squad in 2017.