Rockies Offseason: 5 most pivotal players

USA Today Sports

Five players on the spectrum of trade-ability; what should the Rockies do?

Must keep: Jhoulys Chacin

It may be a surprise to some who don't follow the Rockies with extreme fervor to see Jhoulys Chacin's name in this place or atop Purple Row's rankings of each member of the team. Based on fWAR, Chacin was the most valuable member of the Rockies in 2013, but more importantly than that, Chacin represents a rare breed of human being; a young, team-controlled, elite level pitcher with proven success at Coors Field.

Jhoulys is still only 25 and is arguably one of the top three pitchers the Rockies have ever had. If he has reasonable approximations of his healthy production for two or three more seasons as a Rockie, it won't even be an argument anymore and he could challenge for the top spot.

If there is one Achilles heel that has kept the Rockies from being anything close to consistent contenders over the years, it's been an inability to produce, acquire, and maintain elite level pitching.

Getting these types of pitchers to sign via free agency is like trying to convince French people to move to Texas. There is a high likelihood of mutual unhappiness. This is especially true after the era known around here as "That-Time-Mike-Hampton-And-Denny-Neagle-Ruined-Everything-Forever."

As such, players like Eddie Butler and Jon Gray should be equally untouchable. For this reason, Chacin is also more valuable to the Rockies than any team interested in trading for him which would make it unlikely the Rockies could get fair value in return.

Ultimately, the Colorado Rockies should not be in the business of trading any pitcher that might meet Jhoulys Chacin's profile, they should be in the business of acquiring them.

Should keep: Troy Tulowitzki

If you're reading this (and clearly you are) you are a consumer of off-season baseball who has access to the internet, and therefore are aware that the Cardinals have expressed some interest in trading for the Rockies star shortstop. Tulo's well documented injury history and sizable, though relatively reasonable, contract (hello Pujols and A-Rod!) make Tulo a slightly more trade-able commodity in my eyes than Carlos Gonzalez.

If both players broke down, or just took a dive in production near the end of their contracts, Tulo would handcuff the Rockies more. Also,Troy Tulowitzki would likely net the Rockies a bigger haul in return as his value comes from his domination over his position. This is the reason many who follow the Rockies consider Cargo the more trade-able star from the Rockies perspective; he is easier to re-create in the aggregate.

There is no replacement for Troy Tulowizki.

His wOBA is .388 over the last three seasons. The next closest SS is Hanley Ramirez who comes in at .353 and represents a sizable defensive downgrade. The drop-offs get even more dramatic after that.

The reason some of the reported trades for Tulo were borderline ridiculous (REALLY!? Rosenthal, Miller, Tavares!?) is the same reason the Rockies are unlikely to move the guy who could be the greatest player in franchise history; he is by far the best player at the game's most premium position.

He is actually so good that one of the few ways he could improve his game is to swing and miss more often. You read that correctly.

A team may be willing to make a crazy offer of multiple prospects and high quality MLB level talent in order to get the only guy in the league who gives you elite defense at shortstop while being a cleanup hitter who has posted a wRC+ of 133 over the last three seasons. So the Rockies should be listening, but only if the negotiations begin with the words, "take your pick of..."

Neutral: Dexter Fowler

If you believe what gets repeated most often on the internet, Dexter Fowler is the most likely player on my list to actually be traded. It makes some sense. If Dex can land the Rockies a quality 4th rotation starting pitcher and either an above average utility/bench player or a prospect, it would be worth looking at.

He can be replaced in center field by Carlos Gonzalez and the Rockies have decent depth in the outfield with Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson. He may be the most attractive piece the Rockies have for a team willing to trade a mid-level starting pitcher. Why? He is a wizard in center field, UZR be damned, and his best skill is perhaps the most important in baseball; he gets on base.

He is going into his age 28 season and despite his propensity for frustrating streaks of wild strikeouts and missing the ball by feet rather than inches, Dexter's ability to get on base never wavers. This, combined with his occasional power surges and above average base running (not base stealing) is why the Rockies should hang on to Dex unless they can get substantial upgrades for the back of the rotation and for the depth of the team.

Should trade: Michael Cuddyer

It is unlikely the Rockies trade Michael Cuddyer and few Rockies fans will be heartbroken to find him on next season's roster. It should also be noted that anyone who cares about intangibles like leadership, attitude, and rapport with the community would want Cuddyer on their team. But the Rockies should trade Michael Cuddyer.

His national value is likely higher than it may ever be again after winning the NL batting title and having a decent power season including a strong showing in the Home Run Derby. He ain't gettin' any younger and his trade value ain't gettin' any higher.

He should be an attractive piece for any team who feels they are one solid bat away from contention and since he is likely to decline when the Rockies are moving closer to contending themselves, trading Cuddyer makes sense by shedding payroll and making room for more long term players.

Must get rid of: Matt Belisle

I love Matt Belisle. If you know who Matt Belisle is, you love Matt Belisle. He's an innings eating reliever with some wicked stuff who has the ability to either throw multiple innings or act as a setup guy or even emergency closer. He should be valuable to any team looking to strengthen the back end of their bullpen. And he has a nice smile.

I was a little surprised when the Rockies picked up his $4.25 million option. I was hoping they could bring him back for cheaper. In the words of Purple Row's Jay Tymkovich, $4.25 million "would be a bargain for the 2010-2012 Belisle; it would be an overpay for 2013's version."

Unfortunately, the Rockies aren't the kind of franchise that can afford to take that kind of risk. It doesn't make sense for a team with the kind of financial restrictions the Rockies have to pay that much for a guy who may not even make the top three members of the bullpen.

He is, and should be, a fan favorite but...

The Rockies should trade Matt Belisle to a contending team that can afford his contract and would likely not need him to be the kind of workhorse the Rockies needed him to be. If used in a more specialized role, he could easily regain his form and be worth every penny of that contract, but the Rockies would be better off spending that money in the free agent market or locking up their own young talent.

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