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Would the Rockies be wise to consider trading Ian Desmond?

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Rockies news and links for January 18, 2018

Colorado Rockies: Would trading Ian Desmond be a good idea? | Rox Pile
Rox Pile provides the rundown on a trade idea initially proposed by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The idea is trading Ian Desmond to the New York Yankees in exchange for outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. And for the life of me, I can’t see this trade making sense for either side. If you’re not aware of the atrocity of the Ellsbury contract, prepare to be enlightened. Ellsbury is owed $64.4 million over the next three seasons, with a club option of $21 million for the 2021 campaign. In the first four years of this deal, Ellsbury has hit .264/.330/.386. Using Baseball Prospectus’ WARP model, Ellsbury has been worth 4.97 wins above replacement during the 2014-2017 stretch. For reference, Charlie Blackmon was worth 7.93 WARP in 2017 alone.

Suffice to say, that’s not ideal production for a guy like Ellsbury, who will be one of the top 30 highest paid players in baseball in 2018, assuming Yu Darvish, JD Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Jake Arrieta top his average annual value with their new contracts, which seemed like a sure thing as the beginning of the offseason, but not so much now with the market remaining stagnant. After an otherworldly 9.4 fWAR age-28 campaign in 2011 with the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury is now 34 years of age and certainly looks to be on the decline. Obviously, this is a contract that Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman would like removed from his roster, especially with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and the newly-acquired Giancarlo Stanton all on hand to play the outfield.

I certainly can’t view Ellsbury as a player that the Rockies would want to have on their roster in any form in 2018. I also don’t see how Desmond would be a fit on the Yankees considering the glut of outfielders mentioned. Desmond can play first base (to some extent), which might represent an insurance policy in case Greg Bird struggles for the Yanks, but someone like Todd Frazier could easily be signed for a lower cost. Ultimately, Sherman seems to be suggesting a change-of-scenery swap of large contracts. And I say “large” instead of “bad”, because Desmond’s contract should not be considered definitively bad after his first, injury-plagued season in Colorado. Much has been said about Desmond’s struggles in 2017, and it’s true- he was not good at all, but he will very likely be better in 2018, while Ellsbury will very likely be worse. Steamer projects Desmond to be 1.8 WAR better than he was in 2017, while projecting Ellsbury to be 1.3 WAR worse!

Now, are there situations in which a Desmond trade could work? Perhaps, but I don’t see it happening with the Yankees. The Pittsburgh Pirates are down an outfielder after trading Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants, and Josh Harrison may represent a player that the Rockies would be interested in trading for, so I could see a speculative fit there. It was recently reaffirmed that Christian Yelich’s relationship with the Miami Marlins is now “irretrievably broken,” and I could see Desmond being a part of a speculative trade with the Fish.

I’m getting deep into hypotheticals now, but with the Tampa Bay Rays rebuilding, I also wonder if Desmond could be a part of a package that nets the Rockies a return of Corey Dickerson. Any of these deals will likely feature more pieces than just Desmond, though, and the Rockies front office seems wary about parting with top-level talent, as they well should be. The biggest takeaway here for me: trading Desmond for a declining, overpaid player like Ellsbury would be very unwise. I personally want to see Desmond playing in a Rockies uniform in 2018, but there are some hypothetical situations in which the inclusion of Desmond in a trade would make sense. The key needs to be that this trade makes the Rockies better- a trade for Ellsbury does not make this team better.

Rockies OF Mike Tauchman dishes on life in the minors and his life-changing 2017 | Mile High Sports
Speaking of the Rockies outfield, one name that has not been frequently discussed this offseason is Mike Tauchman. Roster Resource projects Tauchman to make the Opening Day roster in a sort of “fifth outfielder” role. There isn’t a whole lot to gather from his 32 plate appearances of .222/.344/.296 hitting at the MLB level in 2017, though the high walk rate (15.6%) and high strikeout rate (31.3%) catch the eye.

Tauchman did have an excellent year at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2017, putting up a .331/.386/.555 slash, and he could be a sleeper candidate to make an impact at the big-league level in 2018. In an interview with Mile High Sports, Tauchman discusses how it’s a whole new ballgame playing in the big leagues, and that he’s hungry for more opportunities.

BSN Rockies Podcast: The concrete problems created by poor analysis | BSN Rockies
In the latest BSN Rockies podcast, Drew Creasman has a lot to say about how national writers and reporters evaluate players from Colorado. Much of the discussion around social media lately stems from MLB.com’s Mike Petriello’s recent ranking of Nolan Arenado as the fourth best third baseman in the game. I’m not sure I understand what exactly the criteria are for this ranking system—not just by Petriello, but those who disagree with his assessment as well. Is it who was better in 2017? Personally, I’d say Arenado if this were the case. Is it who was better from 2016-2017? Then, I think Kris Bryant has a better case. Is it a career examination? A projection for 2018?

Ultimately, I think this is what is making so many people are upset over these rankings. For what it’s worth, I don’t see anything in Petriello’s article that is off-base, at least statistically. We’re being treated to several great third basemen in our generation and we should celebrate all of them.

However, Creasman also points to the lack of support being received by Larry Walker for the Hall of Fame, even though several statistics show Walker to be objectively better than many of his peers on the ballot. Many voters undoubtedly looked at Walker’s achievements as a “product of Coors Field,” and some even stated as such upfront. Todd Helton is also going to receive such backlash when it is his turn to be considered for Cooperstown.

And while I was not personally as upset as others about the results of the 2017 BBWAA MVP voting, there were voters who wrongly downplayed Blackmon and Arenado’s numbers as inflated by their home ballpark. Creasman raises the ultimate question of why would a player want to spend their entire career playing for the Colorado Rockies if they could put up extraordinary numbers and yet be discounted when it comes to MVP and Hall of Fame voting. I found this point particularly interesting, and the entire podcast is well worth a full listen for more information surrounding this topic.

Former Rockies 3B Castilla big fan of Arenado | Rockies.com
One thing’s for sure- former Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla is a big Arenado fan. You can read Castilla’s praises for Nolan in Thomas Harding’s latest at MLB.com.

Colorado Rockies: How Jonathan Lucroy impacted Ryan McMahon | Rox Pile
Rox Pile has a compilation of very interesting Ryan McMahon quotes from the Rockies’ Winter Caravan. Among other topics, McMahon discusses how Jonathan Lucroy was a big help after his first big-league call-up, with Lucroy taking time to show him different aspects of his plate approach in the video room. McMahon is sticking to his normal routine during the offseason, even though the number of people who have asked him if he is going about his business differently leads him to jokingly say, “I am starting to wonder if I should be doing something different.” Despite the plans to primarily play him at first base, McMahon also mentions that he continues to fine tune his work at second base and third base. He seems very cognizant of the organization’s approach to seeking versatility.

All in all, McMahon’s comments are worth a full read. They represent a young prospect hungry for more opportunities in the Major Leagues, and McMahon seems to be doing all the right things to be worthy of advancing to the next level.

Rockies ace Jon Gray on pitching at Coors Field: ‘The mind plays a big part of it’ | Mile High Sports
Jon Gray also has a very intriguing interview with Mile High Sports. There are some good quotes about Gray’s mindset when it comes to pitching at Coors Field. Gray talks about how aggressive he is at home, and how he takes pride in pitching well at elevation. Gray notes that most of the time, he feels confident in getting outs before he’s even thrown his pitches. The entire interview is available in a roughly 10-minute audio sample.

Black wants to change perception of NL West | Rockies.com
Manager Bud Black is not content with the Rockies just being in the conversation in the NL West. He wants to show that the team can compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the top spot in the division. Black expresses confidence in the signings of Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee, noting that the mutual interest the sides expressed in one another was a key to getting these deals done. Black also mentions that the team is on the lookout for possible areas to upgrade, but expresses confidence in young players McMahon, David Dahl, and Raimel Tapia. One Twitter user feels the Rockies will be giving McMahon ample opportunity to seize the starting first base job:

Baseball Therapy: Why Relievers Are Getting Paid | Baseball Prospectus
In an excellent analysis at Baseball Prospectus, Russell A. Carleton explores why relief pitchers are undervalued by WAR, and how their contributions are more accurately measured by WPA (Win Probability Added). Rockies closer David ranked second in WPA-minus-WAR in 2017, showing that he was very undervalued in terms of WAR, when he in fact added win probability to his team in high leverage situations. The entire piece is well worth a read.