It's no secret that the majority of the staff members on this site aren't enthralled with the recent Colorado Rockies trade that sent Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Jake McGee and German Marquez.
Most of the hand wringing has to do with the belief that Colorado gave up too much value for a relief pitcher and a prospect that probably wouldn't crack the organization's top 20. After all, the Rockies shipped out a player who has a chance to be highly productive -- regardless of his home park -- for around 150 games, health permitting, and received a pitcher who will contribute in half as many games, at best.
Giving up Padlo, who started slow in Low-A but put up numbers that have rarely been matched by a player his age after a demotion to Short Season-A, only compounded the issue. Marquez, the minor league pitcher Colorado received in the deal, is a relative unknown, but he likely won't crack the Rockies' top 20 prospects and, though still in its infancy, has a pro career filled with not missing bats.
The other issue is the lack of direction many believe the organization is showing by making what is, on the surface, a win-now type of move. Dickerson had four years of team control remaining to McGee's two, and adding a reliever -- albeit a dominant one -- to a team otherwise filled with holes seems like an exercise in futility.
All of that harshness aside, there are pages and pages of examples in baseball lore of trades that didn't quite go as generally expected. And, for all of the confusion and frustration around this particular trade, it's not as if it's completely one-sided even right now; it's close enough, in fact, that if a few things go the Rockies' way, they can quickly pull even with -- or possibly come out ahead of -- the Rays in terms of value, both immediately and in the future.
A better bullpen
There is a strong argument to be made that McGee is the best of the four players involved in the trade. Unlike the others, he has several years established success at the major league level under his belt, displaying a combination of missing bats and limiting baserunners that leaves him a top five left-handed reliever in the game. Simply put, the Rockies are getting a really good pitcher.
"He's an extremely powerful athlete, powerful human being and has shown the ability to get both lefties and right-handers out at a pretty even clip," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. "He's pitched in the eighth inning. He's pitched in the ninth inning, and been counted on to close out games in a highly competitive division for a team that over the past half-decade to decade has won a lot of games."
That kind of talent and reliability is needed in a bullpen that finished last season with the highest percentage of blown saves, the most meltdown innings and allowed the worst OPS+ in high-leverage situations of any team in the National League. The domino effect could also be huge. Who's to say the players on offense won't step to the plate with clearer heads or the starting pitchers won't perform with a little more confidence with a bullpen that is actually expected to hold leads or keep deficits from getting larger?
If the Rockies wind up in contention around the trade deadline, it's almost certain that the overhauled bullpen will be a big reason. The return around that time of Adam Ottavino, out since last April with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and ensuing Tommy John surgery, would only strengthen the unit. That brings me to my next point.
To flip or not to flip?
From a "what is this team's overarching plan?" perspective, flipping McGee for perhaps a Craig Kimbrel-like return -- now or prior to the trade deadline on Aug. 1 -- makes a lot of sense for a team that is continuing to build an elite farm system. There are plenty of contending teams who could benefit from a player like McGee much more than the Rockies could, and a couple of those clubs -- namely, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers -- have the prospects to get a deal done.
The only question is whether the Rockies, who haven't exactly thrived in this area in recent years, would be willing to do their part.
"We're certainly not trying to lose games," Bridich said. "It's more of a comment on a lot of rhetoric that's come up over the last couple of weeks and just assumptions or some sort of thought process that we're in it to not improve or to lose games so that we can tank or benefit. Our goal is to win more games, as many as we can possibly win, and to do that in part by adding high-impact pitching to who we are."
That doesn't sound like a GM who is interested in the postponement of winning now in order to get better in the future. On the other hand, the usually close-to-the-vest Bridich has no problem sharing what the organization's overall plan is. We all just may be overanalyzing it.
"There's an intent here to continue to bombard this organization with impactful pitching," Bridich added. "This is just simply another example of that."
If another opportunity comes along -- whether it's now, in three months or in six months -- to do exactly that, McGee seems like a logical piece to move. If Ottavino returns healthy and pitches well out of the gates, a move like that could happen regardless of the Rockies' contention status at the time.
The reaction to Marquez being identified as the prospect going to the Rockies in the deal was pretty uniform: "Who?"
Rockies fans conjured dreams of Blake Snell, Taylor Guerreri, Brent Honeywell and Jacob Faria during the several hours that passed by between the announcement of the trade and the finalization of players involved. Marquez's name never came up.
That doesn't mean he's a non-prospect, it just means that a lot of times, teams view players differently than fans, bloggers and prospect analysts.
"Obviously, the Rays thought enough of him to protect him [from the Rule 5 draft], and we certainly would've as well if he had been in our organization prior to the trade," Bridich said of Marquez. "And we just think there's a lot of upside there with the kid."
Marquez, just 20, was Rule 5 eligible for the first time leading up to the reserve deadline in November. Despite the fact that he hadn't pitched above High-A, the Rays decided to place him on the 40-man roster. Bridich explained why.
"Power. This is a low-to-mid 90s power attack," Bridich said. "He can really spin a curveball. His changeup is developing and still needs to develop."
"It looks like Tampa has done a nice job developing him from when they signed him and we dug and did our due diligence on the person, the human being, the character, the makeup, all that kind of stuff, and it all checked out," Bridich added. "After talking with him [Thursday] and it seemed like all that holds true. From our experience today with the things we heard, it's all positive."
Like Padlo, Marquez produced in his league like few other players his age ever have. The Venezuelan right-hander's 3.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best put up by a 20-year-old in the Florida State League since -- you guessed it -- McGee, in 2006.
That doesn't mean Marquez is a shoe-in for success as he climbs the ladder, but being the one of the youngest players at every professional level he's pitched at can only help. And for the Rockies, at the end of the day, he's yet another high-ceiling hurler that will improve their chances in having a few actually stick -- and possibly even click at the big league level.
★ ★ ★
Regardless of how one feels about the Dickerson trade, the deal can be justified by simply examining the upside players the Rockies received in return. How they fit in any organizational plan, outside of "get good players," that Colorado may or may not have is unclear at this point. If anything, the trade makes the already foggy task of identifying a set plan even more difficult.
But that doesn't mean there isn't one. Tomorrow, Drew Creasman will dive into just what in the heck the Rockies might be thinking in terms of direction, and one thing is for sure: it's interesting.
Special hat-tip to Thomas Harding for his assistance with portions of this article.