Trade rumors around the Colorado Rockies have reached a frenzied level following the club's Tuesday signing of free agent outfielder Gerardo Parra. Shortly after that acquisition, reports indicated the Baltimore Orioles were having discussions with the Rockies concerning their glut out of left-handed outfielders.
A short time later, the Detroit Tigers stepped into the mix, and were also reported as being in talks with Colorado about a trade involving one of the club's outfielders. (If that's not enough, late reports on Tuesday suggested the Chicago White Sox were also in the mix!)
Since trading Yoenis Cespedes as part of their mid-season sell-off in 2015, the Tigers are in need of a quality outfielder as they appear to be reloading for a return to the playoffs. Unlike some of the other potential trade match-ups for the Rockies, no specificity has emerged on which of the Rockies' outfielders the Tigers may be trying to obtain, though.
The Tigers have better talent in their farm system right now than arguably at any point in recent history. The trades of Cespedes and David Price at the deadline last summer helped to reload a weak farm, and a firm push from their owner to be competitive this season rather than rebuild should make them willing to part with some of that talent in exchange for quality Major Leaguers.
With an eye on prospects and young MLB pitching, then, let's look at who the Tigers may have to offer the Rockies.
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More potential returns
Rockies trade rumors: What could the Orioles send in return for a Colorado outfielder?
Shortly after the signing of Gerardo Parra, rumors surfaced that the Colorado Rockies were in trade talks with the Baltimore Orioles. So let's take an in-depth look at what the Orioles may be able to offer.
More potential returns
Daniel Norris, a left-handed pitcher, was the Blue Jays' second round pick (74th overall) in the 2011 draft out of high school. With the Jays, Norris rose quickly through the minor leagues and in the prospect rankings, and became a top 20 prospect and one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in baseball prior to the 2015 season. Norris also became noteworthy off the field when ESPN published a story about his offseason lifestyle, highlighting his choice to live out of a van on just a few hundred dollars a month.
When the news first broke that the Rockies had traded Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, there was hope that Norris would be the centerpiece of the return. Instead, the Rockies opted for Jeff Hoffman and others, and shortly thereafter Norris was traded from Toronto as part of the package that brought Price back from Detroit.
In an interesting and scary twist to Norris' already career-altering season, just a few months after arriving in Detroit, Norris revealed he was battling cancer. Fortunately, by the end of October 2015, he was deemed cancer-free after successful thyroid surgery.
On the field, Norris has shown the potential for four above-average pitches: fastball, changeup, curve and slider. The fastball and slider, however, are by a wide margin his two best offerings. His command has remained a work in progress, though, and has been by far the biggest question mark in Norris' development.
In the minors, Norris averaged 9.9 K/9 but offset it with a walk rate of 3.8 BB/9 — not unsightly, by any means, but also high enough to cause concern. After an initially dominant performance in Triple-A in 2014 logging 15.1 K/9, Norris struggled a bit more in his encore performance in 2015, posting just 7.7 K/9 and recording higher than his own career average 4.1 BB/9 in the International League.
While Norris was a tempting choice that the Rockies eventually passed over in the Troy Tulowitzki trade talks — or alternatively, the Blue Jays didn't choose to make him part of their offer — his command issues could prove a non-starter for Rockies' general manager Jeff Bridich, who has thus far in his tenure shown a proclivity towards pitchers with low walk rates.
Fulmer, a right-handed pitcher, was acquired by the Tigers from the Mets in the Cespedes trade last July. Drafted 44th overall in the 2011 draft by New York, the righty was considered a top 100 prospect in baseball up until his 2014 season.
In 2014, Fulmer experienced his first real difficulty as a pitcher in High-A St. Lucie in the typically pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and it caused many to drop him in their rankings. However, Fulmer had a strong bounce back season in 2015 across both the Mets' and Tigerss Double-A affiliates, causing him to catapult back up the rankings to where he is expected to be somewhere in the mix for Baseball America’s top 50 prospects.
Fulmer’s mid-90s fastball is his best pitch, though his slider can generate a lot of swings and misses when he’s setting it up well with that fastball. A curveball and changeup that both have potential to be average to above-average pitches round out a repertoire that should allow Fulmer to be a starter at the Major League level.
Though Fulmer has struggled with walks in the lower minors, his control has improved steadily as his career has advanced. He only allowed only 2.2 BB/9 last year in Double-A, and when paired with 9.0 K/9, Fulmer’s 2015 campaign paints a positive image for the future.
Burrows, a right-handed pitcher, was the first of the Tigers' first round picks (22nd overall) last summer. Drafted out of high school, Burrows already has shown impressive stuff that should cause him to move quickly through the minors. Burrows’ professional debut was impressive, albeit brief; pitching only 28 innings across 10 games, the young righty struck out 33 batters against just 11 walks while allowing only 18 hits.
Though Burrows lack the size usually associated with someone throwing consistently in the mid-90s consistently, at 6’1", he makes up for it with a quick arm and high release that makes his already impressive fastball appear even quicker. The fastball is paired with an above-average curve ball that also benefits from his high release, and a solid changeup that could develop into a quality third pitch.
Burrows’ polished repertoire and high-quality stuff has been thus far in his young career matched with solid control, though he could stand to benefit from more consistency. That should come from simple development. Judging by his background and debut in 2015, expect Burrows to follow more of a college player’s trajectory through the minor leagues than that of the typical high school draft pick.
Stewart, a left-handed outfielder, was second of the Tigers' first round picks (34th overall) in the 2015 draft, taken 12 spots behind Burrows. Stewart had an impressive professional debut, logging an .880 OPS while moving quickly from rookie ball to the short-season level, before ending the season in the Midwest League at Low-A's West Michigan.
Offensively, Stewart — a University of Tennessee product — has the polished approach you would hope to see in a college hitter drafted in the first round. Pairing a good eye at the plate with a quick swing that produces natural power, Stewart added some loft to his swing path and managed to hit 10 home runs in his professional debut along side a slugging percentage of .508.
Defensively, Stewart lacks the speed to play center, as well as the arm to play right, so he’ll most likely be relegated to left field. However, if he continues to hit like he has already shown he is capable of, he’ll have no problem being an offense-first left fielder at the Major League level, likely just a couple years from now.
Gerber, a left-handed outfielder, was drafted by the Tigers as a college senior out of Creighton University in the 15th round of the 2014 draft. Now that’s not normally the pedigree of a top prospect, but Gerber has bucked the odds and catapulted himself into the Tigers' top five prospects. (Whether that says more about their farm system or Gerber himself, I'll leave that to your interpretation.)
Gerber started to get scouts' attention with a solid professional debut at low-A Connecticut before following it with an equally impressive 2015 season alongside the aforementioned Stewart, and then holding his own in the Arizona Fall League back in October and November.
Gerber lacks any singular that stands above the rest, but an overall consistent package and continued performance gives him a high floor, combined with his professional history of just putting up numbers at every level where he's thus far played. An average arm and average speed will probably keep Gerber from playing center field, which he did in college, or right field, his current minor league position, at the Major League level, though.
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The Tigers' farm system absolutely leaves something to be desired, especially for a Rockies club that has assets like Gonzalez, Blackmon, and Dickerson available. Much like the Angels' system, there are only a couple players that ought to attract Colorado's attention here.
However, if Detroit would be willing to part with either of the premier young pitchers that they received in the Price and Cespedes trades, they have the centerpiece necessary to land one of the Rockies' outfielders. Past that, there are enough intriguing pieces to round out the package probably necessary to pry Carlos Gonzalez or another outfielder loose from the Rockies this offseason.