Kawhi Leonard, Nolan Arenado & The Superstar Strongarm

Last March, Pittsburgh Steelers superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown strong-armed his way out of Pittsburgh to Oakland and got a $30 million bonus for it.

In July, Kawhi Leonard forced his way out of a solid team situation, to position himself for more success, more accolades, more money, and a better personal situation. He also won a championship with the Toronto Raptors before moving on to the LA Clippers in free agency. 

Leonard’s beneficial power play was consistent with the way superstars in the NFL and NBA are moving these days. Anthony Davis and Rich Paul got to the Lakers in a similar fashion.

The trend of super-rich superstars forcing trades to their hometowns and larger markets with more superstars has now reached MLB. Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado seems to be the most recent test case.  

A disconnect between Rockies GM Jeff Bridich and his franchise bopper has thrust into question just how long Arenado will honor the 8-year $260 million deal he signed in February of 2019. 

According to the Denver Post, this was not an overnight development, it’s been slow-boiling beef that has suddenly reached a tipping point.  

The Rockies made back-to-back playoff runs in 2017and 2018 and when Arendo signed his monster deal the franchise and fans had World Series aspirations. Instead of improving, the team fell flat on their face last season challenged by myriad impairments including death and injury.

Back in October, you could see the writing on the wall. 


An unhappy Arenado met with ownership after the season and trade rumors started coming right after. There was a lot of disappointment about the season on both sides and because of the opt-out clause that Arenado wisely crafted into the contract,  this is a discussion. 

For the Rockies, if you have a player that is going to potentially opt out in two years, you are forced to do your due diligence to try and acquire a package that could restock your entire franchise. 

Aside from being the best defensive third baseman in the sport, Arena has a .295 career BA with 227 homers, 734 RBI, and a .897 OPS. 

Nolan was very public with his frustration and then over the winter, sh*t hit the fan when Bridich went on record with Denver Post reporter Patrick Saunders, saying trades were on the table for Nolan.

Nolan says he felt disrespected by the Rockies. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

It reminds me of the Kawhi Leonard situation with the Spurs. Arenado’s situation doesn’t involve the diagnosis of an injury and missed playoff games, but it is at the point where it involves public exchanges in the press. The-Ship-Be-Sinking. 

Once Kawhi lost trust in the organization, for whatever reason, his days were numbered. Besides, he had an ulterior plan to make his way home to LA and the riff with the Spurs organization gave him an easy lane to exploit. 

Arenado signed that deal with the Rockies knowing full well that if things went bad this season, he would exercise his opt-out clause. After finishing a disastrous 71-91, the five-time Al-Star and 7-time Gold Glover has better options.

He’s from Newport Beach, California and playing for the Dodgers, A’s, Mike Trout’s Angels or even the Padres is a much better look than cold-ass Colorado.  

Arenado is a huge star and he needs to get to a market when he can not only play with other stars and win the World Series and really capitalize on his brand visibility and marketability as one of baseball’s top faces. He finishes in the Top 20 in MLB jersey sales each season, but in a more prestigious market, he should easily crack the Top 5. 

Franchise Fractures

Everyone thought the Spurs would be Kawhi’s home forever. People were befuddled when he left the legendary Gregg Popovich and all of that tradition. Some criticized him because he wouldn’t talk to the team and turned down the organization’s attempts to come to a resolution. 

In the end, he was making a power move. The superstar player has that mobility now more than ever. We have seen it being flexed all over the place in basketball and the NFL. Guys are breaking contracts, demanding trades and speaking out against any form of oppressive ownership. 

Arenado made it clear that he has a problem with the Rockies and we know where that leads for a superstar making over $30 million a year; to the highest bidder on one of the best teams and that wouldn’t be bad for MLB or Arenado at all. 

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