When trying to anticipate what the Colorado Rockies may do as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, it may be wise to look at a Rockies team that was in a similar spot to the 2017 squad.
On this date in 2009, the Rockies were 53-44, nine games back of the division-leading Dodgers and a game ahead of the Giants for the Wild Card, of which there was only one. That Rockies team went on to be the winningest in franchise history at 92-70 and hold on to their Wild Card berth, thanks in part to their trade deadline activity.
About a week before the deadline in 2009, the Rockies traded minor league pitcher Connor Graham to Cleveland for reliever Rafael Betancourt. They followed that up with another reliever acquisition on deadline day by moving Robinson Fabian and Ryan Mattheus, minor leaguers, to the Nationals for Joe Beimel.
Betancourt and Beimel combined to post a 2.63 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 41 innings down the stretch to help the Rockies make the postseason, and Betancourt re-signed with the Rockies when his contract expired at the end of the season.
As was the case in 2009, the Rockies’ primary need at the trade deadline in 2017 is in the bullpen, so it would make sense for Jeff Bridich to follow the outline his predecessor set eight years ago.
Earlier this month, Purple Row’s Eric Garcia McKinley compiled a list of 21 possible relief targets for the Rockies at the trade deadline. Given the general shift in the market for relievers over the last eight years, none of them are likely to come to the Rockies as cheap as Betancourt and Beimel did in 2009, but there have already been relievers moved this month for good value, including the Nationals’ trade for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson and Seattle’s trade for David Phelps.
It doesn’t make much sense from the Rockies’ perspective to make a big splash for someone like Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray. The Rockies have enough youth and depth to carry themselves to a Wild Card berth, and they likely lack the inclination to give up any of their top prospects to upgrade with a big ticket trade acquisition. In particular, if the Rockies were to advance to a Division Series, they probably view themselves as having the four trustworthy starting pitchers needed to compete.
One or two upgrades in middle relief, on the other hand, would come at a significantly cheaper prospect cost and could be the difference in making or hosting the Wild Card Game, so upgrading the bullpen could make sense.
One big difference from the 2009 scenario is that the Rockies know that closer Greg Holland is likely to opt out of his contract, and the Rockies are unlikely to meet the high cost he’ll demand in free agency. That was not the case with Huston Street, so the club may be more hesitant to go after rental options, instead choosing to give up more in trade for someone like the Orioles’ Brad Brach or Miami’s AJ Ramos.
A deal or two for someone like Brach or Ramos is likely as big as the Rockies will go this week, so anyone expecting Bridich to pull off a blockbuster should prepare to be disappointed. That said, adding Betancourt and Beimel worked out quite well for the Rockies in 2009, and doing something similar could be a big boost to the 2017 squad, as well.