Two things remain painfully clear as we enter the closing days of what's supposed to be the busiest month of the off season.
1) The Rockies still haven't traded Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon.
2) There's a bunch of teams who still need outfield help.
So what's happening here?
Well, the outfield market has turned into one giant game of chicken. Free agents aren't dropping their asking price as they have several places they can sign, and clubs aren't opening their checkbook knowing they have fallback options if their top choices sign elsewhere. Add in the sheer number of teams and players involved, and you have a tangled web that could take weeks to sort out.
The Rockies find themselves in the middle of this storm, and it's stagnated their offseason plans. With no new news on the front we've been following all off season, I'll provide only one link today.
This is a few days old, but it provides a nice look at the free agent scoreboard, and since we're not seeing much movement on the outfield side of things, it's a good time to take a step back and figure out where we stand.
On that list of top 50 free agents, there are eight outfielders who remain unsigned. Here's the list:
Of those eight, I would say teams chasing those first three guys would view Cargo as a comparable alternative, and teams chasing those next four names (above Venable) would view Blackmon as an alternative.
Now here's where the game gets tricky and damn near impossible to predict. The Rockies have to figure out how many teams are chasing outfield help good enough to land in that group of top 50 free agents. In other words, we're looking for teams who are not going to sign a Drew Stubbs or a Matt Joyce or a Grady Sizemore or a Chris Denorfia, or really anyone of that ilk and hope they win the lottery. (Venable is kind of teetering on the fence here, but since he's considered a top 50 free agent we'll leave him in just to cover ourselves)
So playing the game, here's the teams that I think really want to add a player of this caliber to their roster before winter ends: (Again, this is my personal guess list)
- White Sox (This could be key as they could have rebuilt, but now almost have to go all in after the Todd Frazier trade)
Then there's another group of teams who could use outfield help, but haven't shown signs of doing anything crazy to attain it. This group consists of teams like the Mets, D-Backs (after moving Inciarte), and Rays.
If I've guessed correctly with that first group of teams (it would take very little for me to be wrong however), we have nine teams who really need solid outfield help, and eight free agents who can provide it. In other words, somebody's going to be left without a dancing partner, which is exactly what the Rockies are relying on when it comes to their trade market and asking price for Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon.
However, waiting for this mess to sort itself out is also a potentially dangerous gamble. Here are some of the risks.
1) Chris Davis could sign with a team and split time at first base and the outfield taking one of these options off the board (St. Louis would be my biggest concern here).
2) One of these teams (all it takes is one to wreck the equation) could go dumpster diving and try to fix a major outfield hole with Scotch tape.
4) The team left without a dance partner (if you can find that team without a dance partner) could have a farm that makes a big trade very difficult.
So what needs to happen to get things moving? Well, I think it would be really helpful if a secondary team like the Rays or the D-Backs -- or better yet, a surprise team not listed above -- swoops in and takes an option like Venable or Parra or Jackson off the board. Those won't be seen as a major signings, but this market may move from the bottom up instead of from the top down.
If teams see a fall back option like Venable go to the Mets, it could have ripple effects up the outfield food chain. Ideally, the bottom three on that list of eight will all sign with secondary teams and fertilize the negotiating table for the Rockies.
For now though, the situation remains too complicated to untangle. We're just going to have to keep waiting.