As the Rockies look to improve for the 2018 season, unsigned Lorenzo Cain appears like a fit for the Rockies. With JD Martinez aiming to command a $200 million contract, Cain is the most attainable, all-around outfielder in a market that has moved slowly. Although a different overall player, Cain may be available for a similar discount the Indians got on Edwin Encarnación prior to the 2017 season the longer Cain stays on the market.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello wrote about possible fits for Cain, a list which included the Rockies as well as division rivals Giants and Dodgers. With the Dodgers looking to improve an already stellar lineup and the Giants seemingly retooling instead of rebuilding with the addition of Evan Longoria, the market for Cain could remain competitive within the division, especially if Martinez signs elsewhere.
The Rockies should take a hard look at Cain and the two-fold value he could provide to the outfield. Cain would immediately improve the range of a Rockies outfield that was roughly average in Statcast’s Outs Above Average last year. Although Cain was slightly down defensively in 2017, he still outpaced Blackmon and 2017 right fielder Carlos González in UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved. With Cain in center and Blackmon sliding to right or left field, as Petriello suggests, the Rockies would immediately improve at two defensive positions in the field.
Only two above-average hitters in 2017 (according to wRC+) are likely returning to the Rockies’ lineup in 2018. With Cain inserted as a second or fifth hitter, the Rockies would have more flexibility and support for Blackmon and Arenado.
There’s a potentially substantial barrier standing in the way. Blackmon has become the penciled in everyday centerfielder for the Rockies, and it’s a role he seems to be comfortable in and like. If the Rockies were to seek out someone to replace him as the every day centerfielder, the front office would almost certainly want to be forthcoming with Blackmon and gain his input.
Rockies-related rumors have mostly been centered on relatively expensive bullpen moves. But the Rockies could do well to open the wallet for a position player that could offer a higher return than the relievers left on the market. It may not be obvious, but Cain could make a big difference on the 2018 Rockies.