Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau is currently on the 7-day disabled list trying to recover from concussion symptoms after diving for a ball at first base. It’s a scary situation for Morneau, who has had a long history with concussions during his playing career. We all hope Morneau can recover to help this struggling Rockies team, but more importantly we hope he can recover to continue to live a normal and happy life with his family. At this point, it’s hard to tell whether or not Morneau has a future with the Rockies beyond this season. Morneau has a mutual option for 2016 worth $9.5 million, meaning that both he and the Rockies have to exercise the option for him to return at that salary. The current timeline for Morneau is unknown, and the Rockies will need to start thinking about the possibility of him not returning next year, and possibly even this year.
So what options do the Rockies have? Quite a few, actually.
Wilin Rosario has handled the bulk of first base duties since Morneau hit the disabled list. Rosario has a slash line of .318/.328/.515 with an OPS of .844 in 2015, but his defense has been of concern. He already has two errors in 105 innings at first base this season. Rosario is listed as 5'11 while Justin Morneau is listed as 6'4, so it's understandable that there will be some issues when it comes to fielding high or wide throws. If Rosario continues to hit, he could also get some attention from AL teams looking for a designated hitter. It'd be smart for the Rockies to listen to any potential offers before the trade deadline, as AL contenders will likely overpay for Rosario. If a trade doesn't happen, we could see Rosario getting the everyday starting duties in 2016.
Another possible option is Ben Paulsen. Paulsen was called up after Corey Dickerson went to the disabled list, and he has been scorching hot so far, notching eight hits in 18 at bats. If Rosario is traded before the 2016 season, it's likely Paulsen will take over first base duties and could get consistent starts with the big league club next year. Or, if the Rockies keep both Paulsen and Rosario, they can compose a lefty-righty platoon at first base.
Another unlikely, though possible, option is moving Corey Dickerson to first base. Dickerson is not the best outfielder—a simple eye test will tell you that. His routes will sometimes make you cringe, and his arm is below average. He has decent speed, but that doesn't help his ability to read the ball of the bat. Dickerson's bat is valuable enough that he becomes serviceable in left field, but it might be time for the Rockies to think about making a transition to first base. This way, Dickerson's weak arm is neutralized, and he would still get consistent at bats. But moving Dickerson creates a hole in left field. That can be filled by either Rosario or Paulsen if they are kept or possibly a free agent acquisition.
Kyle Parker is a longshot candidate. Parker is off to a poor start in Triple-A Albuquerque. He's currently hitting a slash line of .226/.279/.350, though he has hit pretty well over the past two weeks. Parker still has a lot of time to turn it around in Triple-A and still earn the call up, but his competition is getting tougher. Iit'd be a big surprise to see him being the starting first baseman in 2016. Parker might also be an option to play the outfield if Dickerson moves to first base.
It's only May, and it's probably way too early to be worrying about the 2016 roster, but with the current complications at first base, it's something the Rockies need to think about.