By: Chris Larson
To say that this season has been disappointing for the Colorado Rockies, would be a significant understatement. Going into this year, many expected the Rockies to be a highly competitive team and a team that might have found the right mojo to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a run for the National League West.
However, things have been more of a roller coaster overall for Colorado, as there have been spurts of the team showing signs of being truly competitive and signs of the team sputtering into non-competitiveness. For starters, look no further than the 3-12 start that the team got off to over the span of the first 15 games. Once the calendar turned to May, the team finished the month with a 16-10 record, good enough for a .615 winning percentage, and that success carried over to June as the team finished the month with a 15-13 record. While things were trending in the right direction at that point, they have since fallen back to how they performed at the start of the season with a 2-11 record so far this month.
With the July 31st Trade Deadline looming and there being only one solidified date that teams can make changes to their 25-man roster, that brings about the question: what should the Colorado Rockies do over the next 11 days leading up to the final bell? At one point, an argument could be made that the team should be all-in and focused on making it to the postseason. As the team started to spiral downward, questions came about whether the team should do anything at all and look to just hold at the deadline, but now that the team has lost five games in a row - a true argument can be made for the Rockies to start heading down the path of being a seller.
Granted, how far of a selloff the Colorado Rockies have will depend on the overall methodologies of the front office and exactly what they want the future to look like. Although, just this past week, Colorado Rockies General Manager, Jeff Bridich, came out and talked about how poorly the team has performed over this stretch. Link can be found here: (https://www.mlb.com/rockies/news/jeff-bridich-talks-rockies-struggles-trade-deadline).
As illustrated by those comments, frustration is running high throughout the Rockies organization and that is going to have a huge deciding factor on the type of moves that the Rockies make over the next 11 days. Now, when it comes to a selloff, it can likely be safely assumed that Rockies third baseman, Nolan Arenado, and rightfielder, Charlie Blackmon, are going to be untouchable by every regard, but outside of those two names, anyone should be on the table for the Rockies who need a major shift organically up and down throughout the organization.
As General Manager Jeff Bridich stated in the above article, "There's really no facet of our game, at this level, that is high-quality right now. So there really is no group within the group that stands out. It all needs addressing. It's all sub-par." Given that quote, it's clear that the players that the Rockies need to move need to be able to net something significant in return and help build back the talent level that so many experts have always said the Rockies have within their system.
Prior to the regular season starting, MiLB pegged the Colorado Rockies as having the 21st ranked farm system in the entire game. MLB.com ranks the farm system a little more in the middle of the road at fifteenth, which is a sign that the talent throughout isn't the best in the league, but it's not necessarily the worst either. Furthermore, as history has shown us, the Colorado Rockies tend to value players differently than many of other teams around the league. Instead of potentially seeing a young, up-and-coming prospect as a fringe player, the Rockies organization might view that same individual as a near everyday player at their respective position.
The same philosophy can be said for the way that the Colorado Rockies have operated in free agency the past couple of years. Just two years ago, the Rockies inked utility man, Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million dollar contract, that will take him through his age 36 season. In addition, just this past offseason, the Colorado Rockies elected to add a significant bat to their lineup in Daniel Murphy by inking him to a two-year, $24 million dollar contract that includes a 2021 mutual option. While Murphy definitely has the capability of being a nice power bat in any lineup, he is currently in his age 34 season and is someone that most teams would shy away from completely.
Given all of those principles and the way that the Colorado Rockies have operated throughout the years, what they end up doing this Trade Deadline will be fascinating to watch. While it might be enticing for the Rockies to continue to focus on pushing for the postseason this year, an equal argument can be made that the Rockies should be completely focused on being a seller - amid a market that contains plenty of teams, particularly in the National League, that still believe they have a fighting chance for a Wild Card spot.
In terms of the Rockies chance at a Wild Card spot, after tonight's loss against the New York Yankees, the Rockies are currently 4 and 1/2 games back. In order to clinch the second Wild Card, the Rockies would need to overcome the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and rival Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. Based on how the team has performed all season long, it's nowhere near certain that the current Rockies 25-man roster is anywhere capable of overcoming those four teams or even going on the run that it would take to clinch that second Wild Card spot.
Therefore, with those circumstances in the picture and taking the market into consideration, the Colorado Rockies should be primarily focused on moving two of their pitchers this trade deadline. The two individuals that they should try to focus much of the attention around are right-handers Jon Gray and Scott Oberg. Gray is still 27-years old and has shown flashes of being a top of the rotation starting pitcher over the years, while Scott Oberg is having a very good season in relief and has been a very solid option leading up to closer, Wade Davis.
To begin with, a contending team might view Jon Gray as the perfect candidate to bounce back in the right environment and with the right analytical approach from a front office. Ultimately, Gray might end up being one of those pitchers that benefits tremendously from changing teams and pitching somewhere where he doesn't have to worry about the Mile High altitude of Coors Field and Denver. Furthermore, he would be an intriguing name amid a market that lacks impactful starting pitchers, outside of the obvious names such as: Madison Bumgarner, Matt Boyd, Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor, and potentially Trevor Bauer - depending on what the Cleveland Indians decide to do.
On the other hand, right-hander Scott Oberg who has been by far the best reliever on this year's Colorado Rockies squad, would likely net something significant back in return as well. Every single year around this time, contending teams are scouring the market in hopes of finding that next relief ace and while Oberg isn't a billboard type of name, he is a useful piece that the Colorado Rockies could get two or three quality prospects back for to add to the farm. In addition, there is plenty of control with Oberg as he won't hit free agency until 2022, which only adds to his value overall.
Outside of Jon Gray and Scott Oberg, the Colorado Rockies would likely attempt to move most or nearly all of their pending free agents, but none of them will net something impactful in return. On the list of pending free agents are: C Chris Iannetta, RP Seung-Hwan Oh, 1B Mark Reynolds, and C Drew Butter. All of those individuals are in their late-30's and are struggling to the point where no contending team is going to be interested or even want to give up something impactful.
Therefore, the next step of the process should be trying to identify an area of depth organizationally that the Colorado Rockies could afford to deal from to address another weakness. Of all of the remaining players, assuming that third baseman Nolan Arenado and rightfielder Charlie Blackmon are untouchable, shortstop Trevor Story would likely garner plenty of interest if he was made available. As it stands right now, Story is under control through the 2021 season and is in the prime of his career right now at 26 years of age. While it would be extremely difficult for the Rockies to pull the trigger on a Story trade, it would likely be the biggest name available from an offensive perspective amid the rest of the market and would be dealing from an area of depth.
When you begin to survey the Colorado Rockies system, the middle infield is an area that offers various options. Currently, the Rockies have Ryan McMahon pegged as the primary second baseman, while Garrett Hampson is a useful utility piece at second base, shortstop, and over at third. Furthermore, the Rockies number one prospect is infielder, Brendan Rodgers, who made his MLB debut earlier this season in May. Rodgers is highly regarded by the Colorado Rockies, but could be yet another intriguing name made available to address the pitching of the Colorado Rockies.
Despite there being plenty of depth at those middle infield positions, it's not a guarantee that the Colorado Rockies would even want to move any of those names as any trade would likely have an impact on what their future plans look like. However, if the Rockies are doing the responsible thing, they will bring about all of those names in potential trade conversations and see what type of return they could net. While it might be painful for some fans to hear that, the Rockies never know what type of player or package of prospects a contending team might give up for one of those four names.
Regardless, trying to forecast what the Colorado Rockies are going to do over the next 11 days is like trying to forecast the weather in the Rocky Mountains - it's impossible to do and changes by the day. With that being said, if the Colorado Rockies take a step back and realistically look at where they are as an organization, they will quickly realize that the best course of action leading up to July 31st is to sell and attempt to build back up the farm system in a way to give the entire organization a much needed reboot. Although even the word reboot might be foreign for a team's front office that continually values players differently than the rest of the industry.
However, as Colorado Rockies General Manager stated earlier this week, "I don't think there are any quick fixes. This time period coming up with the Deadline is one of those time periods of the year where the effect can be felt from a roster perspective." That effect being either a successful trek up the Rocky Mountains or a Rocky Mountain avalanche - something that the Colorado Rockies will have to dictate over the next 11 days.