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Outfield trade bait

Thanks mostly to injury, the Rockies haven't seen enough steps forward this year from their young pitchers in close proximity to the major league rotation. Sadly, this means the club probably needs to move on from Carlos Gonzalez.

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I can't pinpoint the exact moment I felt the Rockies needed to move on from Carlos Gonzalez, but it's a depressing sentiment that's grown into a full blown reality over the last month or two.

The Rockies right fielder is under team control through the end of the 2017 season, meaning the Rockies only have two more years of his services after this one, and it's looking increasingly likely that at least one of them is going to go to waste again.

Just four months ago, this wasn't the case. The Rockies entered 2015 with eight potential starting arms 25 or younger on opening day, all with the potential for growth (with the exception of Tyler Chatwood). Here's what I wrote on that subject back in the spring:

The 2016 window opening revolves around all the young pitching the Rockies have at or relatively close to the major league level.

They have eight of them 25 and younger on Opening Day this year

1) Eddie Butler
2) Tyler Matzek
3) Jon Gray
4) Jordan Lyles
5) Chad Bettis
6) Tyler Chatwood (returning from TJ end of this year / next year)
7) Tyler Anderson
8) Kyle Freeland

There's no way to tell where this group of eight guys is going to be in their development a year from now. With young pitchers, things can change for better or worse, really, really quick, and as long as the story of these eight are still being written, the possibility of things turning around pretty fast remains open. Young pitching is extremely volatile, but if the Rockies can even hit big on even three of these guys, their fortunes should turn sharply in the next 18 months. If they all bust, yeah, then we would have a big problem.

Yesterday's news of Chad Bettis going on the DL with elbow inflammation (bollocks!) ushers in even more uncertainty to a situation that's produced disappointing results all season. Bettis was the shining star of a young guy in a Rockies uniform making the progress needed to really help this team in 2016, and now he can't be counted on to do that until we see where this "elbow inflammation" goes. Right now, I'm somewhere between concerned and alarmed when it comes to this subject.

But just take a look at the eight pitchers I mentioned there for a moment as a group. This isn't just Bettis. Six of them are on the DL / not throwing (Lyles, Bettis, Matzek, Chatwood, Freeland, and Anderson) right now, Butler has regressed control wise, and Gray is making progress. As far as 2016 is now concerned, Gray is really the only one we're getting new good information on after yesterday's Bettis news.

Back in March, I thought the Rockies had a good shot to be getting that out of at least three, and maybe even four or five of these guys. Instead, uncertainty reigns going into 2016 on the mound again. It's still possible the Rockies get enough things to go right to where they can contend next season, but it's significantly less likely now than it was four months ago because this group has had so many thing break terrible for them as far as short term success is concerned. (The good news however is that their ceilings are still mostly in tact.)

This is the single most disappointing part of the 2015 season. Unlike 2014 when I think the Rockies actually had a solid chance of competing going in before injuries decimated the squad, 2015 was more about identifying the pieces that should be part of the Rockies next contention window, and unfortunately, the young arms component of that group highlighted above haven't given us what we're looking for. The answer is not "no, they are never going to help the Rockies compete", but I think we now have a pretty strong "not yet". You just can't make progress with these guys when this many of them are on the DL.

All of this brings us back to Carlos Gonzalez. The Rockies are now close enough to the end of his contract with enough uncertainty going into next season that they probably need to cash in on him while his trade value is back up. It's a very sobering reality considering the excitement that surrounded this team when he first signed this deal, but it now looks like the Rockies will never play a meaningful game in August and September (much less October) with Carlos Gonzalez signed to this contract.

Technically the club could still cling to him through the end of 2017, and they may choose to do that just trying to get one really great year with Cargo, but the reality is that he's probably no longer going to be part of any long term success window with this franchise. It's sad, but it's the harsh reality Jeff Bridich faces as he approaches the deadline. I don't want Carlos Gonzalez to get moved, but I think the Rockies have to move him to get better long term.

This is different than the trade philosophies the Rockies should practice when it comes to trading Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki, as both of these player are under contract through the end of the decade and likely to help the Rockies for multiple year in their next contention window. I always find it amusing when national pundits try to group Cargo and Tulo together in trade plans for the Rockies, when the reality is that Tulo and Arenado are much closer to being on the same wavelength based on where they play and how long their contracts run.

For a little more clarity on the subject and the route I think the Rockies should take here before the 31st, I've taken the top ten players ranked by rWAR this season for the Rockies and separated them into three tiers. In other words, how the Rockies should handle the players who have value right now.

Tier 1:

These are the players I think the Rockies should be actively shopping. They have value, and are not controlled long term. Gonzalez is the name that's controlled the longest within this group, so you could still make the argument the he doesn't belong, but I think enough has happened now to push him into the sell category. One year of good Cargo in 2017 if it happens that way as the Rockies contend isn't worth what they could get for him right now as they try to add more assets to their next winning stretch of baseball.

Carlos Gonzalez

Nick Hundley

Jorge De La Rosa

John Axford

Tier 2:

These are the players the Rockies can go either way on. They're approaching the prime of their careers, they're having the best seasons they've ever had, and they're controlled through at least the 2018 season. The Rockies have to look at each of these players individually and make decisions based on where they're going as a team and the offers available. If the right offers are made from the outside, pull the trigger.

Charlie Blackmon

DJ LeMahieu

Ben Paulsen

Adam Ottavino (Doesn't really fit any of these categories too well because of the injury. He was about to have a career year before he was shelved. He'll be with the Rockies next season when he comes back from Tommy John surgery)

Tier 3:

These are the players who should not be moved unless the Rockies are blown away with the offer of the century. Together they make up the best left side of the infield in baseball and both are controlled through the end of the decade. I believe that the next winning Rockies team will have either both of these players on it, or neither of them (if this entire rebuild fails over the next two years).

Nolan Arenado

Troy Tulowitzki