It’s the middle of May and the Colorado Rockies are still leading the NL West. Despite having played an extremely tough early season schedule and enduring a rough spate of injuries, the Rockies’ playoff odds have climbed to 56.6 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus. For comparison, the Rockies’ odds last season topped out at 14 percent on May 17, when the team had a 20-18 record.
The projection systems still think that the Rockies are roughly a .500-talent-level baseball team. However, with the Rockies sitting 10 games over .500 already, they are projected to win 85 or 86 games, which is enough to give them the highest odds to claim a wild card spot out of any National League team. Colorado has even started to take a bite out of the probability of the Dodgers winning the NL West.
While the trade deadline is still over two months away, it’s not too early to start thinking about the ramifications of the Rockies being in contention. The Houston Astros are already rumored to be looking at potential upgrades, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rockies are having similar considerations.
When the Rockies were sellers at the deadline in 2015, general manager Jeff Bridich had been laying groundwork for the Troy Tulowitzki trade for months. With the Rockies now poised to contend, they are in a good place to make any upgrades that they feel necessary. They have a stacked farm system full of resources to leverage and, depending on who they’re willing to give up, could acquire any of the top targets on the market. However, unless the price is extremely cheap, the Rockies will probably not be in the market for any of the half-season rentals and would more likely target players who can contribute for the next 2-3 years as the team’s contention window remains open.
Where would the Rockies be looking to upgrade? They already have a stacked bullpen that would probably preclude them from looking for more relief pitchers that most contenders are desperate to receive. Despite the injuries the Rockies’ lineup has had to endure with David Dahl, Ian Desmond, Trevor Story, Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters all missing significant time, the depth that Bridich has built has done a more than adequate job of filling in. With some of those players having already returned, and the rest on their way soon, it doesn’t seem likely that the Rockies would pursue any more hitters.
The rotation seems to be the most likely part of the team that the Rockies would want to upgrade for a playoff run. Colorado has depended on rookie pitchers for over half of its starts this season and is currently running three first-year hurlers—Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela—out of the rotation. The team’s rotation depth consists of yet another rookie pitcher in Jeff Hoffman. Also, the Rockies’ two “veterans”—Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood—have struggled with consistency. While Jon Gray’s return will help with the rotation, if there is one part of the team that is vulnerable to sinking the team’s contention chances it would be the starting pitching. Hopefully, the unit continues to keep the team in contention. If things start to fall apart, though, Bridich could pursue a reinforcement for the rotation to keep Colorado’s playoff chances high and may already be laying the groundwork for such a trade just in case.
The good news for the Rockies and their fans is that there appears to be a lot of starting pitching that will be available at the deadline for them to choose from ranging from the rentals, which the Rockies will hopefully avoid, to the possibility of an ace like Chris Archer who may be available at a high cost that would be worth it due to the years of cheap control that the Rockies would get.
There is obviously no guarantee that the Rockies will be active at the deadline. They have already stockpiled amazing depth at almost every position and if they feel comfortable with the rookie starters carrying them through October they may just stand pat even if they are in contention.
As the Rockies continue to stockpile wins, Rockies fans should prepare for an exciting summer. Not only does it look like there will there be competitive baseball into the fall, having your favorite team be a buyer at the deadline is also an exhilarating proposition.