You guys know I’m typically on the cautious (some would say pessimistic) side, so when I’m calling it, you should know it’s real. Right now Baseball Prospectus has the Rockies at a 67% chance of making the playoffs – still a minimal chance of winning the division, but a very good chance of snagging a wild card. The Rockies are the second team in all of baseball to hit 30 wins (Astros), and have the second best winning percentage in all of baseball (same). (Reality check: they are certainly not the second best team in baseball! 47 games doesn’t prove that.)
Teams that projected as better than the Rockies are falling out of contention: Giants (showing some life now, so I wouldn’t count them out yet), Mets (starting to look like they’re done), Marlins (probably ready to do their twice a decade rebuild again). The Diamondbacks are hanging right behind us, but have played a weirdly home-heavy schedule (28 home, 19 road) so far, where they are 20-8. That’s about to change with an 11 game road trip, albeit not against elite teams, kind of what the Rockies are finishing up on now. But it all adds up to a legitimate chance for the first time in half a dozen years.
So now what? The oft-quoted Billy Beane line is something like this: the first third of the season is to figure out where you stand. If you’re a contender, the second third is to acquire the pieces that are missing. The final third is to win with those pieces. I’m a fan of what Theo Epstein did with the Red Sox in 2004. They were chugging along just fine with a declining Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop. The standard wisdom would be to keep your stars and to build in a key role player or two around them. But he saw that infield defense overall was a huge weakness. He made the trade for Orlando Cabrera and 1B defensive whiz Doug Mientkiewicz. Cabrera was superior to Garciaparra defensively and at that stage in their respective careers provided similar (or better) production at the plate. It was a bold move, and it worked. The standard wisdom for the Rockies know is something like this: the young starters and the back end of the bullpen are big assets. They could use help on the front end of the bullpen, or maybe an ace starter to take the pressure off the kids and as insurance against injury. But there’s room for improvement all over the place if you look hard enough, even though that might mean surrendering a significant contributor in the process.
Untouchables? I don’t think there are any in the minor league system. You’d need an elite starting pitcher/position player with more than 2 months left on his contract in order to give up a Brendan Rodgers or a Riley Pint, but even they shouldn’t be deemed untouchable. I look at Trevor Story as a guy who could have significant value but who may not be the guy to play everyday at SS right now for a contending team. And depending on how Dahl rebounds (I’m a little concerned any time “back” is mentioned in an injury report involving baseball hitters or golfers), you may have an OF surplus that provides a little flexibility, although there’s no way Charlie is going anywhere.
So buyers it is … what does Bridich need to do in the next couple months? Ideas?