In the last week, two teams in a similar spot to the Rockies, that is to say out of the race, traded away their closers for rather handsome returns.
First, the Padres traded Huston Street to the Angels for middle infield prospects Jose Rondon and Taylor Lindsey and pitching prospects Elliott Morris and R.J. Alvarez, all of whom were well regarded within the Angels' farm system. Yesterday, the Rangers moved closer Joakim Soria to Detroit for pitchers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. Thompson was the Tigers' second-round pick in 2012 and Knebel was their first rounder in 2013.
Watching this from afar, I can only come to one conclusion: The time is now for the Rockies to trade LaTroy Hawkins.
While Hawkins may not be the caliber of Street or Soria, but it is clearly a sellers' market for relievers right now, and the 41-year-old would clearly have some value. Hawkins has made 37 appearances in 2014, with a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings and has converted 17 of 18 save opportunities. He is also signed for a very reasonable $2.25 million in 2015 with a $250,000 buyout. Street and Soria each have $7 million options for next season.
Another important note is that Hawkins has kept his velocity at his age, averaging better than 93 miles per hour on his fastball this season. He certainly would have some value on the trade market, even if a team doesn't plan to use him to close games, he has a proven track record of being a solid setup man on good teams.
The Rockies don't need to be looking for a deal like the Padres or Rangers got for their closers, but if they can get a prospect with good upside for him or two, it's a deal they should make.
Really, closer is not a big priority for the Rockies, a team that is 41-60 for the season and 7-25 in its last 32 games, right now. Hawkins went from June 15 to July 5 without seeing a save opportunity and current;y hasn't had a save chance since July 9. Certainly Hawkins, who has the second-best ERA and FIP among Rockies relievers, could be of more use to another team.
As for who would replace Hawkins as Rockies closer, I don't think it really matters for a team that has provided all of three save opportunities since June 15. I would personally go with a closer by committee situation, as much as the Rockies bullpen has struggled this season, it makes the most sense to not have one of your best relievers held back for a close game in the ninth inning every day. Just have everyone available to make sure you get to that situation in the ninth and use the best guy you've got left to close the game out. Though if you're asking me to pick one guy to close, I'll take Tommy Kahnle, the guy has dynamite stuff.
For now, the Rockies have a solid, veteran reliever with a reasonable contract to sell and an established sellers' market that has developed for players fitting that description, it's time to take advantage of the opportunity that has presented itself.