Arenado embraces playing for perennial contender in Cards

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FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, file photo, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado warms up before a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Denver. Team owner Dick Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich will hold a zoom press conference Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, to discuss the trade of the team's star third baseman, Nolan Arenado, to the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER – Nolan Arenado hasn't expressed this much optimism since signing his $260 million contract with Colorado two years ago.

“Excited” was the term the slugging, slick-fielding third baseman used about a dozen times Tuesday at his introductory news conference following his blockbuster trade from the Rockies to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Excited to join a team that's always in the playoff picture. Excited to join an organization with such rich history.

Left unsaid but just underneath the surface: Excited to flee a franchise that posted just two winning records during his eight years in Denver and never advanced beyond the NL Division Series.

The eight-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star forced his way out of Colorado by steadfastly sticking to a request to be traded. He’ll be suiting up for a Cardinals team thinking about an NL Central title and more, while the Rockies are looking at some variation of a rebuild in front of a frustrated fanbase.

“They really care about winning,” Arenado said of the Cardinals. “That’s all they talk about. It’s really awesome to be a part of. It's a little different — we’re hopeful we can win the division title and it feels good knowing we have a chance to do that — a good chance."

While the Cardinals have had 13 consecutive winning seasons with five division titles during the streak, the Rockies have had nine winning seasons since their inaugural campaign in 1993 — and have never won the NL West.

The disconnect between Arenado and the front office started to develop around nine months after he signed his $260 million, eight-year contract in February 2019. The rift centered around improving the team after consecutive playoff appearances in 2017-18. But the Rockies slid back in ‘19 with a 91-loss campaign and missed the postseason again in a virus-shortened ’20 season.