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Colorado Rockies trade rumors: Breaking down possible returns in a Tampa Bay Rays trade

Rumors of a trade between the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays abound, so let's break down some potential returns.

Which Rays pitcher would best fit with the Rockies?
Which Rays pitcher would best fit with the Rockies?
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, rumors that the Rockies and Rays are possible trade partners surfaced once again. Throughout the offseason, these two teams have been linked together multiple times, since the Rays having a surplus of pitching, which the Rockies need, and the Rockies have too many left-handed hitting outfielders, one of which the Rays could use.

But unlike some of the other teams that we have broken down this offseason, the Rays seem more willing to give up young big league pitching as well as, or in place of, minor league arms. They've also been rumored to be interested in possibly including Jake McGee, their closer, in a trade. So rather than our usual prospect breakdown, let's look at a few of the Rockies' possible returns from Tampa Bay, knowing what the Rays appear likely to include in a deal.

★ ★ ★

Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi, a right-handed pitcher, has been a mainstay in the Rays' rotation for the last two years, racking up 59 starts. Originally drafted by the Brewers in the 2008 draft, Odorizzi was traded to the Royals as part of the package that sent Zack Grienke to Milwaukee in 2010. After making his Major League debut (just two starts) in 2012 for the Royals, Odorizzi was traded again, this time to the Rays as part of the trade involving James Shields and Wade Davis.

Odorizzi's 2015 showed some positive markers as he was able to reduce his walk rate from 3.2 to 2.4 BB/9, while lowering his hit rate, as well. However, his strikeout rate also dropped, from 9.3 to 8.0 K/9.

Across the board, those factors dropped his FIP from 3.75 to 3.61. The biggest change though was that he went from underperforming that FIP in 2014 (4.13 ERA) to over performing it in 2015 (3.35 ERA).

Overall, Odorizzi is an intriguing piece for the Rockies to be looking at, especially if he is able to maintain the low walk rate. On the other hand, he skews fairly significantly as a fly-ball pitcher as opposed to a ground-ball pitcher, and we know that could cause issues at Coors Field. He also has only four years of team control left, and he'll be entering arbitration next season, which could soon get expensive for Colorado.

Matt Moore

Moore, a left-handed pitcher, was the top prospect in baseball in 2012 and was expected to be the next great Rays pitcher. Unfortunately, that has never quite transpired as Moore continued to struggle with control issues at the MLB level before he underwent surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament last April.

Since returning from Tommy John surgery, Moore struggled at the Major League level, posting a 5.43 ERA and 4.82 FIP over 63 innings. Even more worrisome was his strikeout rate, previously stellar, which had quickly fallen down to 6.6 K/9. While there is some hope that the numbers will rebound as he gets further removed from the surgery and rehab, there is still a lot of risk involved with Moore.

Despite the injury, Moore's career walk rate of 4.1 BB/9 may well be the biggest reason why the Rockies shouldn't trade for him. Even when healthy, he struggled to command his pitches, and walks and Coors Field do not make a good combination. Though it is tempting to buy low on Moore's potential, it would be a huge gamble. Moore also has exactly four years of service time. However, because of a contract that he signed in the 2012 offseason, there are three club options that cover 2017-2019 giving a team up to four possible years of control.

Drew Smyly

Smyly, a left-handed pitcher, was a centerpiece of the trade that sent David Price from the Rays to the Tigers. Smyly spent his first three years in the Majors bouncing between the Tigers' bullpen and starting rotation with various levels of success, but once he was acquired by Tampa Bay, they placed him in their starting rotation and were rewarded with the best pitching of the lefty's young career.

More Possible Trade Targets

Throughout his MLB career, Smyly has maintained good ratios in whatever role he has been assigned, and he has a career strikeout rate of 8.8 K/9 to go with just 2.6 BB/9.

Last year for the Rays, Smyly had the highest strikeout rate of his career, whiffing 10.4 K/9, and he seems to have the stuff necessary to be a Major League starter.

On the downside, Smyly missed over two months of last season due to a torn labrum. He opted for rest over surgery, which allowed him to return for the last month and a half of the season. But as with any shoulder injury to a pitcher, the presence of a problem is a major red flag for any team looking to acquire him.

For what it's worth, Smyly also has only three years of team control left.

Jake McGee

McGee, a left-handed pitcher, has been a major piece of the Rays' bullpen for the past five years. Originally drafted and developed as a starter, McGee debuted in the bullpen in 2010 and has never made an Major League start.

While the strikeout and walk numbers are very impressive for McGee—with 11.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 career rates—he has been primarily a setup man for the Rays, having finished only 68 games with 26 saves over his entire MLB career.

Thus, while it seems like he'd be a good fit for the Rockies' bullpen, the fact that he only has two years left of control ought to make him an unlikely fit for the club's desire to presumably stretch out a contention window several years beyond that. Also, at this point, the Rockies seem more intent on adding starting pitching help over bullpen arms, which would probably be a wise decision.

Blake Snell

Snell, a left-handed pitcher, represents the best that the Rays' farm system has to offer. Ranked as the second best left-handed pitching prospect recently by MLB Pipeline, Snell is poised to make his Major League debut in 2016. He started last season in High-A before making a stop at Double-A, and ending his season in Triple-A.

Snell throws a mid-90s fastball with late movement that sets up a sharp slider, and jumps between those two offerings to make a killer strikeout combo.

Though he has struggled with command, Snell demonstrated improved walk rates at each progressive stop last year while maintaining a very impressive strikeout rate. In his nine starts at Triple-A Durham last summer, Snell struck out 57 while walking only 13 in 44⅓ innings.

Snell's pedigree, proximity to the majors, and lack of any service time probably makes him the most valuable of any of these pitchers thus far discussed, at least from the Rockies' perspective. So while Colorado would be wise in coveting and trying to acquire Snell, the Rays are probably also going to be very unlikely to give him up in a trade for Dickerson, unless other players were involved.

Brent Honeywell

Honeywell, a right-handed pitcher, was selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft, and he's moved quickly through the Rays' system ever since. With an expected assignment in Double-A to start the year, Honeywell isn't that far from Snell's pace, likely just a year away from making his own MLB debut.

Honeywell has demonstrated extraordinary control through his first two professional seasons, posting a walk rate of 1.8 BB/9 across three levels. He doesn't lack strikeout stuff, either, whiffing 9.3 hitters per nine innings across his young career.

Honeywell's best pitch is his fastball, though his next best offering is the more intriguing one, as it's not something you hear about a lot: he throws a screwball. A curveball and changeup round out an impressive repertoire of pitches that, combined with his great control, should allow him to be starter very soon at the Major League level.

After Snell, Honeywell is easily the Rays' next best pitching prospect and could be an interesting starting point of trade discussions. Of course, that is assuming that the Rockies are looking for younger, more controllable pitching, and not Major League-tested arms like Odorizzi or Moore.

Taylor Guerrieri

Guerrieri, a right-handed pitcher, is easily the most raw of any of the pitchers that have been discussed here. Drafted in the first round (24th overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft out of high school, Guerrieri finished the 2015 season with an impressive stretch in Double-A that forced the Rays' hand in adding him to their 40-man roster to avoid him being selected in the Rule 5 draft over the winter.

The Best Of Purple Row

Guerrieri was selected to appear in the 2013 Futures game before having to bow out do to arm issues that eventually led to elbow reconstruction surgery, forcing him to miss most of the 2014 season.

During that rehab period, he also tested positive for a drug of abuse for the second time in his career, leading to a 50-game suspension. Fortunately for him, the suspension was served during the time that he was already missing due to the injury, but a drug of abuse suspension is a notable negative for a young pitcher and is something the Rockies would do well to consider in their evaluations.

A fastball and curve combo is Guerrieri's bread and butter, though he does have the making of an above average changeup as well. Assuming that his velocity continues to return to pre-injury levels, Guerrieri is a very intriguing prospect.

★ ★ ★

While the Rays seem to be bucking the current trend across professional baseball of being unwilling to part with Major League starting pitching, at least based on rumors, there are reasons why it makes sense for each of the above-listed pitchers to be available. Those same reasons—primarily lack of team control and injuries—should also make the Rockies very hesitant to accept any big leaguer in a trade in this situation, as they don't appear to line up with anything past the beginning of the Rockies' most realistic next window of contention.

Odorizzi is the one MLB pitcher that the Rays have been rumored to be willing to give up in a trade that may fit the Rockies' needs. However, his batted ball profile makes me hesitant to think that he would perform well at Coors Field.

On the other hand, if the Rockies are able to get Snell as part of any package involving one of their outfielders I think that the Rockies would do well to move on that. Honeywell and Guerrieri are also intriguing pieces, but ought not be enough to function as the centerpiece of any trade here that involves the Rockies.