The Colorado Rockies on Thursday pulled off a long-awaited trade involving an outfielder, shipping Corey Dickerson along with infield prospect Kevin Padlo to the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Jake McGee and minor league pitcher German Marquez.
Trading Dickerson to Tampa Bay ensures the Rockies won't have four left-handed hitting, starting quality outfielders on their Opening Day roster and brings back a couple of intriguing arms in return. But there are a lot of questions to be answered about what just transpired, particularly whether the deal signals some overlying direction the Rockies are taking toward building an eventual contender.
A closer look at all the pieces involved in the deal (we'll have full profiles of the new additions on Friday):
Colorado entered the offseason shopping three outfielders and ultimately chose Dickerson over Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. Dickerson arguably had the most trade value of the three due to his low cost and years of team control. It also didn't hurt that the 2010 eighth rounder owns a .299/.345/.534 line at the major league level and, in terms of wRC+, is the third-best hitter ever developed by the Rockies.
The downside is that Dickerson dealt with various ailments, including a debilitating plantar fasciitis injury, last season. He insists he's healthy, but we've seen this story many times before. Perhaps Dickerson's biggest downfall as a player is his defense; he doesn't have the arm to be an outfielder, and if he was able to play first base, the Rockies probably would've considered him there already. That issue makes Dickerson a natural fit for an American League team, for whom he can serve as a designated hitter -- with extra emphasis on hitter.
The Rockies have arguably never had a pitcher like McGee from the left side. He racks up a ton of strikeouts (11.1 per nine innings), does not issue many walks (2.5/9) and sits in the mid 90s with his fastball -- a pitch he throws more than 90 percent of the time. McGee is capable of sliding into any role in the Rockies' bullpen and will almost certainly be successful there, even if he doesn't necessarily fit the mold of a high-groundball pitcher the club usually covets.
Unfortunately, McGee was limited to 37⅓ innings spanning 39 appearances last season due to an elbow injury. He also has only two years of team control remaining, half that of Dickerson, and is much more expensive, beginning with a $4.8 million salary in 2016.
Padlo, the No. 22 prospect in the Rockies' system according to our PuRPs rankings, struggled at Low-A Asheville to start 2015 but had quite a renaissance at Short Season-A Boise. The 18-year-old third baseman hit .294/.404/.502 and finished with a 14.6 percent walk rate after the demotion. The line was good for a wRC+ of 159, putting him in elite company in terms of 18 year olds to put up that kind of production above Rookie ball.
Of course, Padlo is still very early on in his development (this is evident in his apparent inability to hit offspeed pitching), and the Rockies organization isn't exactly lacking at third base. But right-handed bats -- really, any bats that don't chase nearly everything that comes within 10 feet of them -- are at a premium throughout the system, so it seems like Colorado may have parted with this one a bit too early.
Marquez, just 20, held his own in 2015 in a league that featured players who were, on average, three years his superior. The Venezuelan right-hander finished with a 3.56 ERA and walked fewer than two batters per nine innings in High-A. And it's never a bad thing when scouts have good things to say about a young pitcher.
But Marquez was slightly below the Florida State League average in terms of OPS against and doesn't miss a ton of bats. That could be a concern as he climbs the ladder, particularly once he hits Triple-A.
At first glance, this looks like an even deal when considering the Rockies addressed a significant area of weakness and dealt from a position of strength. McGee, though not a starter, can be classified as the "proven arm" that many Rockies fans and followers have been clamoring for.
But for a team that isn't good enough to win in 2016 anyway, a shutdown reliever -- particularly one acquired in a trade for a good hitter with more team control -- is an unnecessary luxury. A lot would have to go right for the Rockies to even contend in 2017 let alone this year, and 2017 is McGee's final season before hitting free agency.
The biggest thing Colorado can do to help itself -- and it should be in a position to do so, provided Adam Ottavino comes back healthy from Tommy John surgery -- is to flip McGee at the trade deadline in July, unless the club is miraculously contending for a postseason spot. Given the haul comparable relievers have commanded, the Rockies could get a better return for McGee than they did for Dickerson.
The problem is, aside from a certain high-profile example last July, Jeff Bridich and the Rockies' front office historically hasn't shown the willingness to pull the trigger on a trade when it makes the most sense. Not to mention, if Bridich and company are still as seemingly confused about their direction in six months as they are now, who really knows what to expect?
Early winner: Rays
We'll have much more on this trade throughout the day on Friday. Stay tuned.