Last night, the Colorado Rockies defeated the Oakland Athletics, 2-1, behind seven shutout innings from starter Jorge De La Rosa. The win increased De La Rosa's franchise-leading total to 74. I know, I know. Pitcher wins are actually a pretty bad way to evaluate them, but I have more! De La Rosa is the Rockies' all-time leader in strikeouts with 793 and he's in the top five all-time among Rockies starters in almost every other pitching category: innings pitched, strikeouts per nine innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio, home runs allowed per nine innings, WHIP, ground ball rate, ERA, FIP, and fWAR. My personal favorite, however, is the Rockies' 98-64 record when he is the starting pitcher. That number is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Rockies have finished well below .500 in five of his seven seasons with the club and appear to be on their way to making it six out of eight. Needless to say, De La Rosa has been one of the best pitchers the Rockies have ever had.
All of those things are great things, but they also present a difficult dilemma for the Rockies. De La Rosa is now 34 years old, is owed $12.5 million both this season and next, and is on a team that seems unlikely to contend in either of those two seasons. The market for trades this season also appears to be quite seller-friendly and there would certainly be no lack of teams looking for a quality, veteran, left-handed arm to add to their rotation. De La Rosa is all of those things and could probably bring back a very nice return in a trade. This leaves the Rockies with two options for this year's trade deadline: trade De La Rosa, or keep De La Rosa. Both options have a distinct set of pros and cons. Let's take a look at them.
Why the Rockies should trade Jorge De La Rosa
As mentioned before, De La Rosa is 34 years old and he isn't getting any younger. He absolutely is still a good arm capable of giving the team quality innings, but by the time the rest of the team is ready to contend, he most likely won't be around for it. Trading De La Rosa would also clear up $12.5 million before the 2016 season that the team could use to sign another free agent or maybe even to help extend future-MVP third baseman Nolan Arenado.
In addition to that, De La Rosa, like any pitcher, is a ticking time bomb. The question with pitchers these days isn't if they'll get hurt, it's when they'll get hurt. De La Rosa has been through Tommy John surgery once and has dealt with nagging finger and groin injuries already in 2015. As he ages, he'll only become more and more injury-prone and even though the Rockies have already been offered one top 100 prospect for him, that return definitely won't be available if/when he loses extended time to an injury.
The time has come to trade De La Rosa. It just makes sense.
Why the Rockies should NOT trade Jorge De La Rosa
How can the Rockies trade away one of the best pitchers they've ever had? De La Rosa gets a lot of strikeouts and a lot of ground balls, he's the prototypical pitcher to be successful at Coors Field and it shows in his numbers. With prospects like Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, Chad Bettis, Kyle Freeland, and Tyler Anderson either already on the team or set to (hopefully) join the Rockies in the near future, it would be incredibly beneficial for them to have a veteran presence in the clubhouse who knows what it takes to thrive as a pitcher at Coors Field. Trading De La Rosa now would deprive them of that.
It also doesn't seem right to trade away arguably the best pitcher on the team when he still has another year of team control left! Sure, the Rockies aren't expected to contend in 2016, but that's the beauty of baseball. Anything can happen! Almost every year there's at least one playoff team who wasn't "supposed" to be good before the season started. What if that's the 2016 Rockies? Prospects are great, but they aren't guaranteed to pan out and the team shouldn't be giving up on a season before it even starts.
The Rockies need to keep De La Rosa. It just makes sense.
There really isn't a clear answer here. No matter what the Rockies do, someone is going to be upset and think it was the wrong move. There are several perfectly logical reasons for the Rockies to move on from De La Rosa, but there are just as many perfectly logical reasons for the Rockies to keep him. This will be one of Jeff Bridich's first big challenges as general manager. For better or worse, how he handles it will play a significant role in determining the future of the team.