When the Colorado Rockies get national attention, it’s usually writers and analysts cracking different versions of the same joke:
Oh, those silly Rockies. Another weird move. What are they thinking? We’ll never understand the Rockies.
The front office has delivered plenty of moves worthy of this criticism, and they kept that tradition alive when they signed free agent shortstop/outfielder/first baseman (?) Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal on Wednesday.
That move was unexpected, to say the least. Jeff Bridich got another one by the rumors and scoops crowd, and the Rockies signed an expensive free agent with no obvious fit on their intriguing roster.
It’s fair to be confused by this move, but we can at least start to guess some of the things that the Rockies are thinking.
They think they can make another big move
We have only been able to talk ourselves down by agreeing that this cannot be the only move. At least we really hope it’s not the only move. The Rockies simply can’t enter the season with Desmond as their expensive everyday first baseman, right? If they do, they deserve everybody’s derision and they blew it when they had the resources to finally make a big move.
Thankfully, the rumors came hot and heavy in the hours after the Desmond signing was announced. The team is reportedly still in on slugging first baseman Mark Trumbo, and the trade rumors around Charlie Blackmon continue to swirl. An especially intriguing rumor hit last night that the team might be working on a deal with the Blue Jays for starting pitcher Marcus Stroman.
Hopefully these rumors indicate that the Rockies know that this Desmond signing only works if it is the first in a series of moves. Speaking of which...
They think David Dahl is ready to be the everyday center fielder
The Rockies will presumably add a real first baseman, trade an outfielder, or both. It seems that any subsequent move pushes Desmond to the outfield. Even if they pass on Trumbo or Edwin Encarnación, they could pursue Chris Carter or reunite with Mark Reynolds, aka the Sheriff of Swattingham.
Desmond has played outfield in the big leagues for exactly one year. He is athletic but raw as a defender. Dahl carries an elite fielding tool and is arguably wasted in one of the outfield corners. He’s also young and has 63 games of big league experience, so it’s no small thing if they think he’s ready. It’s just hard to imagine him playing left with Desmond in center.
They think they need to take some pressure off David Dahl
We can’t completely ignore the possibility that Desmond actually starts the season as the team’s first baseman with the current starting outfield still in place. If he does, we can only hope that the team also values his versatility and will show a willingness to move him if it’s in their best interest.
Dahl is 22 years old and has only that tiny sample size of experience. Maybe the team is acknowledging the possibility that he hits a wall or turns out to be not ready just yet. The team might feel that they need Desmond to fill that hole if that ends up being the case. If that’s part of their thinking, it seems like they agree with the rest of the world about their free agent signing last year...
They think Gerardo Parra is bad
Duh, am I right? They obviously know that they need Desmond to fill any hole they open in the outfield if they are serious about contending.
Oh God, they still think Gerardo Parra is good
The Rockies could trade Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez and still keep Desmond at first base. How would they do that? By playing Parra in left field, of course! They are still paying him like an everyday player, after all.
Now you’re upset. I get it. I’m sorry. I’m upset too. But remember, the Rockies are weird, and we have to get weird while we try to guess what they’re thinking.
Let’s move on and go back to talking about Desmond’s versatility...
They think they need a better backup plan at shortstop
Trevor Story got hurt right as things were getting interesting for the Rockies last season. His injury exposed the hole the Rockies have at that position, which is especially scary to think about because it was no given that Story was going to be ready at this time last year.
Story might get hurt again, but even if he stays healthy, he is a guy who struck out 31% of the time last year. He’s an exciting young player but he’s also unquestionably a flawed player. It seems reasonable to think that the Rockies saw extra value in Desmond’s versatility and experience at shortstop. Maybe they wanted to make sure that a hole at shortstop doesn’t crater their shot at contending.
That brings us to the most important point of all...
They think they can contend right now
The Rockies are ahead of schedule after they gave us a surprisingly intriguing 2016 season. They did so with a flawed roster, however, and they still have to prove that they can go through the Dodgers and the Giants. As much as we all hoped they would make a push for 2017, it was entirely possible that they would wait and see just a little bit longer, looking to mid-season or even next winter to make big moves to supplement their talented farm system.
Bridich clearly thinks they can win now. If nothing else, the years of this team not having a plan are behind us.
Now let’s just hope that the plan contains some moves to make signing Ian Desmond make sense.