The old belief is that baseball goes dark in November and you wait for the Wonders meetings and then early January to see what happens. The old rule is gone since the teams that strike quickly can get their players without having to let the rest of their team’s building wait. We have already seen the Mets make a big decision in signing Cuddy, but these deals are really big (and yesterday we saw the Tommy Lestella deal between the Cubs and Braves). So those calling the Rockies will probably pick up over the next few days and deals will probably be made by or at the Owners meeting. But the Rockies may want to re-think what they do this year. Stepping back from this deal a few things are quickly apparent.
1) The Rockies deal’s back in 2010 are increasingly looking like good money deals in the new world of baseball finances and player evaluations. Remember that we are about to see Stanton get over $300+ million, and in reality he has a similar injury history to Tulo, although younger, and Tulo is only going to get paid $20 mill for the next 5 years. Tulo is now…cheap, relative to his value. CarGo is likewise not overpaid…if he is history, especially since when healthy (those darn words) is about 90% of Stanton (if not more), although again healthy. And yes, he is that much better than Dickerson and Blackmon…when healthy.
2) With offense down league wide, bats with potential pop and offensive explosion are all of a sudden worth more. A few years ago you never trade a guy like Miller for 1 year of an offensive player. Now yes, Heywardis probably one of the 5 best RF defensively, so that has to be included. But he is also going to be a FA after this season. I don’t get it but the Braves needed a pitching in a big way (for those who remember after April when the Braves had a team ERA under 3, it was indeed smoke and mirrors). But still, 1 year of a player like Hayward, as good as he COULD be is intriguing (his actual performance has never matched the 30/30 Gold Glove player people expected and he too has had big injury issues, and is just 26). So, baseball valuations are changing. The Cards are buying on potential in Heyward and sadly, the big hole made by the Taveras death. Miller has great upside likewise but…he has never been what he should have been either, but potential is there and he is still 4 years away from FA.
3) Russell Martin has left the building. Around $16 mill/ year, for a catcher, and he gave no hometown discount to the only Canadian team around. So where do the Rox go to for catching? Next year Weiters is on the FA market, and is going to get a big deal as well, but he is coming back from TJ surgery. So the Rox aren’t going to make that deal. Do they look at the defensive first catchers, many who are back-ups on their teams in search of offense? The Astros have catching depth after their recent trade. The simple fact is that the catching in the MLB is really down right now. However, all of a sudden Rosario, with that bat, could be worth far more on the trade market, even pitching, as we just saw with the Cards. Going into the offseason, I thought they might get a good reliever for Rosario, now…maybe a decent starter. Yes, other teams are going to be aware of the defensive issues, but they might think they can fix it, and that last year’s regression (as I will point on when I publish my Rosario review later this year) could be a result of his illness and then hand and back issues. Alex Avilla had his option picked up this year (his last year B4 FA)by the Tigers, $5 mill for an OPS of .686. Don’t think Rosario is going to be of interest to a few clubs this year, and if so, the Rox can deal from a point of strength.
4) Tulo really cannot be traded now. Yes there are health issues but he is now based on WAR, below market value, and they have no way of replacing that WAR at SS, the most important spot on the field. While I think the Rox will be aggressive, they will have to be really swept away to give him up…their best option to replace him right now is Tevor Story, who in his struggle against AA (he faced good pitching and was a little young for the league so no reason to panic, and still had a .682 OPS thanks to a pretty good eye, scoring .102 in OBP over his BA), is still 2 years away. Yes, they need the salary space, but again, in a year where he played only 91games, he was still worth nearly 6 WAR. The better option is to increase salary at the start of 2015 and make deals to reduce payroll as things play out. I just don’t see Tulo being traded. If Heyward is worth Shelby Miller a year out from FA, what would the Rockies expect for Tulo? Do you think anyone is going to make that deal? With the team already hesitant to make this deal, things would have to big so amazing that they change their minds.
5) The Tommy Lestella deal on Sunday should have been in the title of this article but a light hitting 2B netted the Braves a decent pitching prospect a year removed from TJ. Do you think that DJ should be making sure he doesn’t buy a house? Also notice the importance of signing bonus trades, especially in the Latin America area. Trading is so different these days where trading singing bonuses is as important as the players they are used to sign.
6) The outfield situation for the Rockies remains their best position to work from. Yes, CarGo would net them the biggest relief from a salary perspective, but the least in terms of return in the trade aside from salary relief, and how does this team encourage fans to come when their biggest trade is for mere salary relief. Right now Charlie Blackmon has to be an interesting piece. Yes, he did a good job from leadoff, not something I believe should be discounted quickly. And yes, teams have to notice the OPS of Blackmon on the road was just .617 but was both unlucky (BABIP of only. 272, vs. a fairly normative .361 at Coors, the real biggest Coors advantage) and suffered from the effect of adjustment leaving form Coors on road trips (while the road OPS isn’t ignored by other team’s GMs, but they do give some credit due to the adjustment effect that all Rockies have, and also look at the actual ABs players have, fans, bloggers, and some TV analysts are quick to dismiss the Rockies for their road OPS, the guys making million dollar decisions don’t). If Heyward can net Shelby Miller and a plus prospect, what can Blackmon, at 28 and doesn’t become arbitration eligible until 2016 and FA at 2019, when he will be 33 (poor luck for CB since it means he will never get the big deal)? Or, of even greater potential return for Corey Dickerson (who along with Arenado, I assume would be pretty untouchable, but you never know what people might offer)?
7) I still bet CarGo gets dealt, despite again the team’s desire to hold onto him, knowing that his offense (he has been a pretty balanced hitter of late both L/R and H/R) is matured unlike Blackmon and Dickerson and his defense is, again when healthy, as good as any player playing OF today. In an offseason after significantly declining defense, rising prices, and a weak FA class, people are going to likely meet CarGo’s asking price, even injured, because of what he could do for them over the next 3 years, and with that, that he is now reasonably price. I do fear that doing so is going to seriously hurt this team in 2015, but as long as their salary is fixed at less than or maximum of $100 million it has to be done (if they were going to extend the salary I think Brett Anderson’s option would have been picked up.
8) With the need for offense, as seen in Heyward, does the value for the hard hitting and near GG fielding Justin Morneau just jump? If a platoon of Paulsen and Parker can get your 90% of the offense and defense, is that enough to deal Morneau, save $5 million, and again gain prospects, as a team makes only a 1 year commitment? I tend to think that Morneau is more likely dealt than Tulo, and the Heyward deal for me increases that.
9) Shelby Miller looked good as a starter on paper. But the Cardinals, a team very good at evaluating talent, just gave up 4 years of control of this young arm for 1year of Heyward and a pretty good reliever, tells you he is not highly valued. Remember that before the Card signed Peralta last year everyone thought Tulo was going to the Cards, and Miller was the key to the deal. Are we glad that trade wasn’t made then? Miller’s externals, like Fielding Independent Pitching, a way of looking at real ERA based on park and fielders, wasn’t good since late in 2013.We as fans all value the group of young starters coming up but maybe we shouldn’t. That is the hard part for fans. I am sure there are a lot of folks in St. Louis shocked Miller was dealt, mad even. But there are other aspects that teams watch aside from traditional stats that make excited or not about a player. Lets see if any of the young pitchers are dealt this offseason by the Rox for other pieces. It will tell you a lot about how each guy is valued in the great pool of young arms that are up and coming.
10) Good relief pitching is clearly again a high value, with price outstripping its WAR value. The Cardinals were insistent they got Wasden, who has a funky delivery (sure looks like a balk, and lost it for a few years, but at age 28 had an ERA less than 3. What the Royals experiment showed is if you can get to 6 innings with a lead or a tie, you can win a lot of games. It means you don’t have to 3 or4 top studs in your rotation, jut 5 or 6 good to great arms, all of whom together may be less than 1 top ace (based on the potential Lester and Sherzer deals). The Rockies have to be thinking of a deal at the Owners meetings for Boone Logan, whose poor year (6.84 ERA, 1.680 WHIP) can be chalked up to the elbow surgery last offseason and pitching at Coors and for a team that didn’t use him right. He has a 2 year deal with decent cost. The Rox have Friedrich and perhaps Flande to come in and take his role. Rex’s bad year would decrease his value and the team loves their home grown talent (and he remains the best potential future closer). We shall see. They need to remake the bullpen (who had a weird down year across the group aside from Hawkins who had a bad month in the year), and although this is a subtraction, it free salary to go out and use, though this is a pure salary dump. I am curious to see how this team’s bullpen responds to Steve Foster and Darren Holmes (I can get my Darren Holmes shirt out again, that is so cool), can do with the existing group. The subtraction of Belisle will help, sadly help as well. All off-season I thought there were some small deals that could be made to get good bullpen pieces. The Cards insistence to get Wasden tells us that there are no cheap easy bullpen pieces available. The Rockies with a limited payroll might be looking internally at AA, and maybe even high A to find the pen arms now (I still get excited about Nicasio as a reliever for the whole season).
11) Last thought – this offseason is sad because I wish it we were a year further down the road. A year of seeing a guy like Grey, a healthy Butler, Tyler Anderson, maybe a healthy Tyler Chatwood and Daniel Winkler and another year on Tyler Matzek, Jordan Lyles and Christian Bergman this team would have taken those kids through the learning process, they might be viewing the future very differently, adding salary to go out and catch the Dodgers and Giants. Not that 2015 has been written off by the team – that has been made very clear by Jeff Bridich even as he talks about deals for CarGo and Tulo, that this team still is shooting for the playoffs (okay, just say Wild Card, as a team who has never won a division title is going to have to really overcome a lot of history and bad luck and teams that have bigger payrolls to win the first title), and as fans we have to stay optimistic. But if the team had real data on its huge numbers of young arms, and again, look at all those names, all of whom who are either former #1s or supplements, or have been ranked in the top 50 as prospects, it would allow this tem to add parts. But we don’t know who among those group of sub-25 year old arms are going to be (and with the Wade Davis superstar career for KC, it’s a great reminder that failed starters can be stars in the bullpen). I wish it was November 2015 not November 2014. But it is not, and now that we have seen these first few 3 deals, the whole market has changed, making free agents too expensive, mixing up the trade markets so that CarGo is almost certainly gone, and creating an interesting market for players we might now have imagined going at all.
There may be no baseball, but there will be lots of action on MLB network and ESPN the next 90 days and then….baseball with a team that should be quite a bit different than last year, and maybe one that can compete against the NL West…or not.