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MLB Trade Deadline 2017: How the Rockies could acquire an ace

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It would take a lot of top prospects for the Rockies to acquire a front line starter at the trade deadline.

Now that you’ve selected your preferred option at Pitcher Mart in the first part of this MLB trade deadline series, it’s time to go up to the cashier. No, you don’t pay with money here. This payment cuts a little deeper: valuable, young, sun-still-rising, star-potential, minor-league prospects. Your very lifeblood! The discussion that follows may induce psychological or even physical pain. Reader discretion is advised.

Since these trades are going to be, by design, fair in terms of surplus value, we need to get a sense for what a prospect is worth by that measurement. Fortunately, we don’t need to do any work there, as Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli at The Point of Pittsburgh have developed a model of prospect surplus value already. FanGraphs has licence for their model, and back in March published the 2017 update. The model lets us convert a prospect’s future value grade (on the 20-80 scale) into an estimate of their surplus value over the six years of team control. The following chart shows prospect values for the Rockies’ consensus top-15 prospects (after removing Freeland, Senzatela, and Marquez). I have taken the liberty of adjusting the future value grades slightly, to account for early-season performance.

Rockies Prospects Surplus Value

Player FV Surplus Value
Player FV Surplus Value
Brendan Rodgers 60 $60 M
Jeff Hoffman 55 $22 M
Riley Pint 55 $22 M
Raimel Tapia 50 $20 M
Tom Murphy 45 $11 M
Ryan McMahon 45 $11 M
Ryan Castellani 50 $14 M
Peter Lambert 45 $13 M
Yency Almonte 45 $13 M
Jordan Patterson 40 < $11 M
Dom Nunez 40 < $11 M
Forrest Wall 45 $11 M
Pedro Gonzalez 45 $11 M
Ben Bowden 45 $11 M
Robert Tyler 40 < $13 M
Future value on 20-80 scale, where 50 is “league average starter.” Considers both upside and risk. Fangraphs

The game now is to match up a prospect package that roughly fits the surplus value of the desired pitcher. Remember that these values are approximate, but they are good starting points for seeing if a trade is sensible.

The Proposals

Rays trade: SP Chris Archer

Rockies trade: SS Brendan Rodgers, SP Jeff Hoffman, SP Riley Pint

On a surplus value estimation, this trade is a match. Archer projects for about $110 million of surplus value, and Rodgers, Hoffman, and Pint add up to about $104 million in value. If you’re experiencing some heart palpitations, you’re not alone. On that list is a potential All-Star shortstop, a potential mid-rotation starter who could blossom into more, and a teenager who throws 102 mph. Considering what happens if all three fill their potential, and you almost faint thinking about them being on the Rays and not the Rockies.

The key there is the if. Brendan Rodgers, despite his strong start, is still a couple years away from being ready to start. Between now and then, all sorts of things can change in his profile. Even though he might be the safest bet of the three, there’s no guarantee. Since Hoffman and Pint are pitchers, some wouldn’t even consider them prospects.

This would be a bold trade, perhaps the boldest move in team history. It would hurt, but it might just be worth it. Chris Archer is already the ace that Hoffman or Pint might become, if the stars align just right.

White Sox trade: SP Jose Quintana

Rockies trade: SS Brendan Rodgers, SP Ryan Castellani, OF Pedro Gonzalez

This trade is also a match on surplus value: $85 million on both sides. The Rockies still have to give up Rodgers, but keep the upside of Hoffman and Pint within the organization. Since the White Sox are on the extreme rebuild path, they might be willing to take a shot on a player very far from the majors like Gonzalez, whose impressive physical gifts could make him a star, but his rawness could mean he tops out at Double-A.

You might be trying to weasel out of trading away Rodgers here. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a way to do it. It would take a package of 4-5 lesser prospects, including both Hoffman and Pint, to make the surplus value match, but with $85 milllion in surplus value at play, the White Sox would want at least one elite prospect coming in return.

I don’t know that I really love this deal, since it doesn’t avoid the biggest sacrifice of losing Rodgers, and it lacks the dominant-ace upside of getting Archer back. Still, it’s something to consider, since Quintana is the pitcher most likely to be available at the deadline.

Blue Jays trade: SP Marcus Stroman

Rockies trade: SP Riley Pint, OF Raimel Tapia, 2B/OF Forrest Wall, RP Ben Bowden

It would be sort of interesting to hypothesize a return of Hoffman to his former organization, but it might just be too strange to happen. The Rockies give up 4 prospects here, but they manage to keep Brendan Rodgers. This deal is probably just on the fringe of being possible, since the Blue Jays might not care at all for Wall and Bowden. This is all assuming Stroman is available, which he might not be if the Blue Jays continue to work back into contention. If things go south, they could look to actively rebuild, and Pint’s upside would be hard to turn down.

From the Rockies’ perspective, this deal does the least to mess with the projected starting roster over the next three seasons. While I am a Tapia fan, I would probably prefer an outfield of Desmond/Blackmon/Dahl come 2018 than one with Tapia starting.

The Post-mortem

I started off by saying the Rockies are in enviable position. Yet, I don’t envy the job of Bridich and the front office. These are really hard, painful decisions! I can spin these trade ideas around in my mind or on paper, but the psychological hurdle to truly believe in the ideas is something else.

Looking back at my three proposed trades, I would love to commit to the boldest action, and trade for Chris Archer. He, above any other option, could alter the immediate future of the franchise for the better. This season and four seasons hence, he could be pitching the Rockies into and through the postseason, with Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson at his side. Then I flip the image over, and imagine Brendan Rodgers hitting homers, but wearing blue instead of purple, and Riley Pint striking out dozens, but at Tropicana instead of Coors. How could I trade them, of all prospects?

I wish I could leave you with some concluding message of certainty, one way or the other. I can’t. Sometimes, even with the help of my spreadsheets, one-plus-one-equals-question-mark. That equation may be left indeterminate, but the formula of our decisions requires us to act. Regardless of what the Rockies end up doing, I hope they commit to it, 100 percent.

A World Series title might just hang in the balance.