The Colorado Rockies traded Corey Dickerson and prospect Kevin Padlo to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in exchange for left-handed reliever Jake McGee and minor league righty German Marquez.
The deal by itself isn't horrible from a value perspective (it's not great either), but in terms of it fitting into an overall plan, it's perplexing at best. The Rockies should be trying to flip the big league value they have right now in exchange for potential major league value in the future, and that didn't happen here.
Instead, we can view this as two smaller trades in which major leaguer for major leaguer and minor leaguer for minor leaguer were swapped. Padlo came in at No. 22 in our most recent PuRPs rankings, and if we were to conduct them again after this deal, Marquez would probably rank somewhere similar. In other words, we can isolate that swap as part of a minor league deal where both clubs strengthened the farm on the side of the ball they traditionally struggle with at the major league level.
That's all fine and dandy, but the real crux of this trade comes with the major league assets, and how the transaction makes absolutely no sense for the Rockies who are already well on their way to finishing last or second to last in the NL West for the 19th time in their 24 year history. The problem isn't so much that the Rockies traded Corey Dickerson for Jake McGee; good relief arms are just as valuable as good hitting corner outfielders with holes in other parts of their game in today's MLB. Instead, the problem is that the Rockies are making moves that seem to indicate they have absolutely no clue where they are in the success cycle.
Swapping Dickerson for McGee is something you do if you think you're contending and you need lights out bullpen help at the back of games, and if the Rockies front office thinks this team is contending .... YIKES! Perhaps the club should dress ushers up in white suits this year welcoming everyone to Fantasy Island when they escort guests to their seats.
Let's highlight a few ways this deal is a disaster from a team-building standpoint:
1) The Rockies just traded four years of Corey Dickerson for two years of Jake McGee
Instead of flipping one of their excess outfielders for a piece that could help them down the road when the club is more likely to contend (Marquez doesn't count since his value is close to Padlo's), the Rockies instead targeted a package that had front loaded value in 2016 and 2017. Since the club is very likely to finish at or near the bottom of the division again, that value is likely going to go to waste. If you're only going to win 74 or so games, those extra two or three wins McGee helps preserve are about as useful as a trash bound gum wrapper. Sure, it looks shiny, but it serves no real purpose.
2) The Rockies just spent the last month adding what nets to $12.3 million worth of unnecessary payroll in 2016
If we take the Gerardo Parra signing and yesterday's Dickerson trade together, the Rockies essentially opted for Parra to take Dickerson's outfield spot and added McGee to the bullpen. Again, not the end of the world for a contending team, but for the Rockies, it's a dreadful use of finances.
Parra's contract pays him $8 million in 2016, while McGee is owed $4.8 million (a total of $12.8 million). Compare that to the league minimum ($500,000) Dickerson was making, and this seems like a foolish waste of money for a team that would be better off placing it aside in a "Jose Reyes' 2017 paycheck" fund so that his impact on the payroll after this season is minimized.
Instead, the Rockies once again seem to be opting for short-term repairs on the cheap while ignoring avenues that could maximize their future potential.
3) Dickerson was traded at the worst possible time
I went over this a bit on Wednesday, but Dickerson's value is likely lower right now than it will be in the summer or next offseason. This is the main reason why he wasn't on the list of guys I thought the Rockies should move going into the offseason. The idea here if you're going to rebuild (granted, I have no idea what the hell I'd call what the Rockies are doing anymore) is to sell players when their value is high and hold onto them when it's low. It's a simple concept.
The Rockies, however, decided to trade Dickerson coming off an injury filled year which saw his rWAR dip from 3.4 in 2014 to 0.5 in 2015. Now it's possible that 2014 Corey Dickerson is the best Corey Dickerson that will ever exist, but even if he rebounds somewhere close to that neighborhood in 2016, he'll have more value on the trade market than he does right now.
The players who should be moved this winter are the guys who could easily see their stocks decline in the coming months with injury or regression from career peaks. This is the Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa and DJ LeMahieu camp, and yet there's been crickets on this front. This is yet another disturbing sign that the Rockies are going to try to use their current value to contend in 2016, but in this NL West, they're bringing a knife to a gun fight, and they will suffer the consequences.
At best, these players will stay healthy and continue to produce and allow the Rockies to make a move at the July deadline or next off season.
4) The Troy Tulowitzki trade only becomes more heartbreaking
The best defense for the Tulo trade last summer was that it signaled the start of a complete tear-down in which the club was going to cash in on all its current assets and try to build a superpower down the road with an absolutely loaded farm. Now, it only looks like what Jordan Freemyer hoped it wasn't: A half measure.
As someone who loves Troy Tulowitzki, the direction of this club makes me want to cry. It was one thing when the front office thought it could compete against the odds and tried to add fringe pieces around the best left side of the infield in baseball, but now trying the same strategy without our franchise shortstop is just gut wrenching -- it's like watching your friend get thrown to the sharks off a piece of driftwood while you're stuck, destined to circle an ocean gyre where dreams go to die for eternity.
As a fan, I don't want to watch the 2015 Rockies lineup again minus Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson. That's a recipe that's going to make me upset 162 times this summer. If the Rockies' goal is to make me and the rest of the fans who loved Troy Tulowitzki even more upset in 2016 than they were last summer, then they're doing a heck of a job spreading the pain and suffering. At least they're good at something.
5) The Rockies lineup is going to be awful this year
This one actually isn't such a bad thing for a club that should be in a rebuilding year, but it just looks ridiculous when you pair it up with the money they've spent on the bullpen this winter.
For a glimpse into what I'm talking about, here's 15 of the projected on-base percentage numbers of the Rockies who are likely to get the most plate appearances this season, according to FanGraphs:
- Jose Reyes: .343
- DJ LeMahieu: .338
- Carlos Gonzalez: .336
- Gerardo Parra: .336
- Nolan Arenado: .333
- Charlie Blackmon: .333
- Mark Reynolds: .332
- Cristhian Adames: .323
- Daniel Descalso: .321
- Nick Hundley: .319
- Trevor Story: .307
- Ben Paulsen: .306
- Rafael Ynoa: .305
- Brandon Barnes: .302
- Tom Murphy: .296
That's right folks, Jose Reyes is the guy projected to have the highest on base percentage on this team right now. This is the same guy who will turn 33 in June, just posted on base percentages of .328 and .310 and walk rates of 5.8 and 5.1 percent the last two years, and will probably be suspended for at least half the season. Meanwhile, Dickerson, Justin Morneau, and Tulowitzki (all players to leave the organization in the last six months) have career on-base percentages higher than any of the projections on this list. It's very possible that the 2016 Rockies will be the worst offensive club in team history, as it doesn't feature a single player who's particularly skillful at getting on base.
The Rockies bullpen might be more capable of holding a lead than in years past, but by the looks of it, they're not going to have many leads to protect with this lineup.
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I honestly don't know what to make of these last six months. I've talked to a few people in the Rockies' front office before, and I can assure you they're good, intelligent people who truly want to make this club better, but I have no idea how they're coming to the decisions they've come to in the last six months, especially when you consider the moves together as part of a bigger picture. It's just so, so sad and frustrating. As this point, I see a club that's so out of touch with its reality in the NL West that it makes me more despondent than angry.
I'm going to go watch Tulo highlights now. At least the Rockies can't take the happy memories away.