The Colorado Rockies signed beloved outfielder Charlie Blackmon to a six-year contract extension this week. This surprising move has energized team and fanbase alike while also reflecting a unique situation given the current state of MLB free agency.
It was not clear that Blackmon would be with the Rockies beyond this season before this extension was announced. Now that he’s signed up to be a Rockies lifer, let’s take a look at how this move affects the rest of the roster.
It maybe means a Nolan Arenado extension is more likely
Hopefully this is true. This topic has been kicking around from the very first reactions to the extension, and rightfully so. Any move between now and Arenado’s potential free agency will be viewed through this lens. Jeff Bridich told us to collectively buzz off at the suggestion that Blackmon’s extension had anything to do with extending Arenado, but his newly paid center fielder was not so dismissive of the idea.
Ultimately Arenado will probably be interested in the team’s ability to consistently contend above anything else. The good news is that Blackmon’s extension probably helps in that regard too. Think about it: two superstars signing contract extensions to stay with the Rockies for a long time. What could go wrong?
There might not be room for three of the franchise’s top prospects
Gerardo Parra and Carlos González will be free agents at the end of 2018, so they’ll be out of the picture. Maybe. They also might both be back because the Rockies can still be weird. Even if they’re both gone, David Dahl and Raimel Tapia might be fighting each other for playing time instead of flying around that Coors outfield together.
Why? You know why, friend. Ian Desmond, he of the early season hot streak, is not going anywhere. He can just settle in at first base, you say. That bumps Ryan McMahon. On the one hand you might just call that depth. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel quite right to think that any of those guys would be ready for the big league level and not playing in the everyday lineup. And let’s just remind ourselves that scenario assumes Parra and CarGo are both gone. Are you ready to make that assumption?
David Dahl can still eventually be the center fielder
Blackmon plays stellar defense, giving the Rockies’ announcers an excuse to lecture those darn analytics nerds on a regular basis. That said, Dahl will still probably play better defense in center field in the years during Blackmon’s extension, and if health and other factors allow, Blackmon can shift to a corner and play alongside Dahl.
DJ LeMahieu is probably playing his last season with the Rockies
We knew that this might be the last run with Blackmon, LeMahieu and Arenado on the same team. This would be the season to make sure to enjoy watching them play together. Now we know Blackmon will be staying and that Arenado will at least be around for a few more years. It seems obvious that LeMahieu is the odd man out and he apparently knows as much, according to Patrick Saunders.
It makes sense that the Rockies cannot afford to keep all three players. Unless...unless the context around free agency has been turned on its head. Oh, that’s right!
DJ LeMahieu could still be back?
There are two factors here. The first is the money. Are we sure the Rockies cannot afford to also re-sign LeMahieu? Wouldn’t he be just the kind of player that would sit in a cold free agent market, good enough to want real money but not so good that teams aren’t willing to wait him out? The reality is that extending or re-signing LeMahieu might come at a modest cost in terms of money and years for a player of his caliber.
That stinks for LeMahieu, and I hope the Rockies or some other team will pay him at least a decent portion of what he’ll deserve. But if the Rockies don’t bring him back, I’m not persuaded it will be because they cannot afford it.
That brings us to the second factor, and his name is Brendan Rodgers. It looks more and more like he’ll be ready for the big leagues just as LeMahieu’s contract runs out. That seems to be the most likely scenario here, and it probably makes sense. I can think of another way LeMahieu might be back with Blackmon and Arenado, though.
The Rockies are in a position to make a big trade
Maybe it’s a big name at the trade deadline. Maybe it’s an offseason move where teams are willing to deal proven players, even if there’s no Miami Marlins selling off all their talent. If the Rockies are willing to make a bold move to build a winner around Blackmon and Arenado (and maybe LeMahieu), that boldness might mean a willingness to trade prospects.
It wouldn’t have to be Rodgers, although that’s the first name teams would ask about. It might be Tapia or Dahl or McMahon. Depending on the player, it might be more than one of them. What about when teams ask for “big league ready” players, as they so often do? Trevor Story might be an interesting trade piece.
The Rockies will have options as they think about how to build a consistent contender after signing Charlie Blackmon to this extension. They can let their minor league talent graduate and work with that depth, they can look at a big trade, or they can do a little of both. The fact that they have those options says some nice things about the future. Presumably Chuck Nazty agrees.