Rumors Abound So Here Are MinE
After winning the series in Baltimore (the Rox have won 3 of 4 series post-All Star break, with the one being that absolute stinker versus the Rays, one of the worst teams in baseball in 2016), the Rox look more and more like a team capable of competing for the Wild Card (6 games out makes it tough, but they have games left against every team in front of them, and the Pirates and Cardinals still have numerous games left against the NL leading Cubs, and the Marlins and Mets against the Nats). I think it is true that the next four games will go a long way to telling which way the team goes – buyer or seller – on July 31. A split or even a series win leaves the Rox within 3 games of .500 and having recovered their winning formula on the road. While the two series wins against the Braves tells us little, the win in Baltimore was significant. The two wins were not fluky. In fact, the one loss was fluky. In all three they got fantastic starting pitching. Actually aside from De La Rosa and Chatwood starts (Chatty at home seems like he is pitching in Coors or Mile High pre-humidor), both of whom rebounded with good starts versus Atlanta, the team has been pitching the best perhaps of any Rockies team (since All-Star break, the road ERA is #1 in the Majors at 1.83 going into the Mets series). This team looks increasingly legitimate as a contender (I don’t care much for percentages referring to chances of making the playoffs. We have seen too many teams with great August and Septembers coming from no-where – percentage chances are based on probabilities tied to past performance, and as they say in every ad for mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future returns).
But as good as this team is playing and appears to be becoming, they have a problem, but it is a good one. They have a number of prospects who are beating at the door to get to The Show. So with that in mind, regardless of the chances to make the playoffs, there are some moves the team should try and make at The Deadline:
1. Todd Hundley to the Indians for Shawn Morimando (LHP, AA): Look, Hundley’s bat has been hotter of late and he has been steady behind the plate. All the stats tell us that he isn’t a good framer or defensive glove behind the plate. But the Indians, like a number of clubs, have issues behind the plate including injuries to their starter. While Jonathan Lucroy is the prize out there, he will cost a lot to a team in prospects and the Indians, like the Rox, depend on their development of players to keep them competitive. I can see the Indians passing on the price for the Brewers backstop and working a deal for the Rox receiver. Morimando is a starter in AA (a 19th round pick in 2011 is ranked as the 15th best prospect for the Indians and projects as a potential back-end starter (73K in 93 innings, with a 1.17 GO/AO ratio). While the team loves Hundley he won’t be here in 2017 and Tom Murphey’s offense is demanding a call-up and his overall performance behind the plate has continued to improve, if not as fast as the team desires but is about equal to what Hundley gives save for the experience. Additionally Tony Wolters is among the best defensive catchers in the game right now, despite his youth, and his bat has started to show signs of being at least average (devoid of power, but so is Dom Nunez’s, the team’s #1 catching prospect by most rankings).
2. Jake McGee to the Nationals for Joan Baez, RHP – Yes, that is the prospect’s name. He was signed out of the DR in 2014 and is an average pitcher in the SALLY league. He’s about 1.5 years younger than his competition this year. He has 90Ks in 84.1 innings but has control issues (49BB). When the Rox got McGee they pictured a power arm that could close while the team developed Carlos Estevez and Miguel Castro as back-end arms. Of course McGee has had velocity issues, then control issues, then knee issues but he is finally in the last few days looking like the guy that was so valuable for the Rays. They figured at the least they could flip him this year as a cheap and still controllable relieving arm, and get a top 5 or so prospect for him. That plan has been a disaster. The Rox could still keep him, especially if he is getting back to his career average performance and then have him next year to fill the Boone Logan spot. Right now they are selling low but with Sam Moll at AAA capable of filling in as a lefty one-inning reliever (not on 40 currently), the team may seek to move pieces around and upgrade the minor league offerings. An additional option in this type of trade is to move Chad Qualls, who has been a disaster in the first of a two-year contract, opening up another slot for an over-crowded group of bullpen arms without minor league options.
3. Jorge De La Rosa to Mets/Orioles/Rangers/Giants/Tigers/…most of the majors – Jorge, save that outing against Tampa, has been the team’s 2nd best starters since his return to the rotation. For his career (including his pre-Rox years when he was awful) has a career 4.62 ERA. His 2nd half ERA is 4.22. We have seen his June ERA at 1.96 and pull out the disaster against the Rays his July ERA is 2.76. He is a rental clearly. The Rox could use him clearly, but they have Jeff Hoffman who while on an innings limit, needs to get big league experience so he can continue his development. With Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray pitching like a very good 1-3 group the choice comes down to De La Rosa or Chatwood. Chatwood may be experiencing some fatigue post-TJ surgery (control tends to go first for those in their first years back from the surgery), and is another option if the team decides to go with 6 starters to give Chatwood rest and/or to play piggyback with Chatwood and Hoffman. The only reason to trade De La Rosa though is if you don’t think you are competing for the playoffs. The farm system can always use more talent but as deep as it is a prospect deal is not necessary. DLR gives real veteran presence to the staff and tends to be an innings eater (leaving out the Tamp game since his return to the rotation and rebuilding arm strength on 6-20 he has gone 6,6,7,7,6,6,1). One question that team has to answer is, do they re-sign DLR for another 2 years after the season. Year after the year the team tries to bring in a vet to add to the starting depth. There is some positive examples (Freeman and Estes are examples), but there are a lot of awful stories (Kendrick, Kyle). So why not bring back a guy you know, who will be cheaper (over 35), and who is not afraid of Coors. Yes they have some great young pitchers but…it never hurts to have a successful and known quantity. But with the market so thin for starters and the FA class now devoid of a big name, DLR might simply be too valuable to keep.
4. Boone Logan to…even more teams than DLR: Logan right now might be the best “reasonable” option in the bullpen market. He’s having a career year, he’s cheap (less than $2 million), no long-term commitments. And this year he has been more than a specialist (a number of full inning work) including giving up only a .509 OPS to righties. Logan is so valuable to this team, and if they want to go for it in 2016, you keep him. He has simply been the sole dependable arm out there (Estevez simply walks too many and Zero is still recovering fully, especially that great slider). The reason you trade is simple…he’s too valuable on this market and can probably bring back a top 10 prospect from any number of teams.
5. Gerado Parra to Royals for Ian Kennedy, flip Kennedy to Marlins for Johnny Santos – Okay, had to throw in one that is more pie-in-the-sky thinking. The Royals made a huge mistake giving a big deal to Kennedy and costing themselves their #1 pick. They figured he would benefit from the big ballpark and defense of the Royals. His 4.41 ERA isn’t awful, but it is just league average in terms of ERA+. And he still has 4 years at $15 mill/year. The deal for Parra is simply the most inexcusable deal Jeff Bridich has made. He is nearer 30 than 25, his defensive has declined slightly (granted from Gold Glove levels), and his bat and patience have disappeared. A fresh start, a team with a good hitting approach, and one with the ability to mix-and-match is a good idea for Parra. The deal would still be about $30 million in need of financial off-set, and the Royals would need to swallow some of that money and then the Marlins pay the rest as part of their new starter’s salary in 2019-2020. Look, Parra has turned into not only a dud as a player for the Rox but is now blocking both Jordan Patterson and Ramiel Tapia who is simply destroying AA pitching right now.
Others to trade – Ryan Rayburn, whose work against lefties has disappointed, Justin Miller, out of options and has struggled this year but very good arm, Daniel Descalso, career year and at his peak-value with position flexibility, Chris Rusin, a nice swing guy with good results.