The Rockies have played half of their regular season games in 2018, the trade deadline is mere weeks away, and the Rockies postseason prospects look grim. It would be surprising if they make the postseason for the second consecutive season. Jeff Bridich and the Rockies now have to think about what to do at the trade deadline. There’s a lot to be said about whether the Rockies should sell, and there’s even a case about whether they should buy. Let’s leave those arguments aside though. Instead, let’s think about what it could look like, and what it could mean if the Rockies did decide to break precedent and sell at the trade deadline.
The obvious trade candidates: DJ LeMahieu, Gerardo Parra, Adam Ottavino
These three players will all be free agents after this season, so if the Rockies are opening up their phones for trade offers, it would make sense for them to direct the conversation to this trio. There doesn’t seem to be room on the roster, or the future, for LeMahieu or Parra. Brendan Rodgers looks about major-league ready, and the Rockies also have Garret Hampson and Colton Welker in the middle infield pipeline. That makes a LeMahieu return unlikely (though we’ve said things like that before).
The same mostly applies to Parra, who is a really valuable player but not on an expiring contract for a team unlikely to sniff the postseason. LeMahieu is a free agent after 2018 and it doesn’t seem likely the Rockies will re-sign him (though we said the same thing about Carlos González).
Ottavino is an obvious trade candidate if the Rockies decide to sell, but he also provides a more complicated case. On the one hand, he’s a dominant reliever, and every competitive team should want a dominant reliever. He’d probably bring in the largest return. On the other hand, he’s also the type of player the Rockies need if they want to compete in 2019. (We’re out of hands, but the third one might be something about the danger of investing too heavily in relievers). If the Rockies want to re-sign Ottavino and believe they have a better shot of doing so by not trading him first, then Bridich might hesitate to entertain offers. Of course, there is that golden scenario where the Rockies trade Ottavino and re-sign him this offseason, but Ottavino would be the fourth reliever on a multi-year contract in the bullpen.
The not so obvious trade candidates: Wade Davis, Ian Desmond
These two players are less obvious because of their current multi-year contracts, but a selling Rockies team could get interest for them. Davis is the second reliever mentioned, but in reality if the Rockies are selling any reliever not nailed to the ground could be traded and that’s because all competitive teams need bullpen help. Davis is different because he’s still owed a lot of money — $36 million guaranteed over the next two seasons. And while he’s also having a mediocre season, he could be an under the radar candidate to pitch the seventh or eighth inning for a team competing for a playoff spot.
Desmond is a really under the radar possibility. He’s been the Rockies best hitter over the past month, but because he had such an abysmal start to the season he’s still just hitting .215/.296/.433. It would depend on how much a possible suitor trusts the most recent weeks of play over the first couple months of the season. Like with Davis, the money and years Desmond is owed hides him from trade talk, but at the very least Desmond’s biggest paycheck comes in 2018 ($22 million) and he’s set to make $40 million guaranteed over the next three seasons. That may be a swallowable pill.
The “I don’t even want to think about it” trade candidate: Nolan Arenado
There’s also this. Arenado will be a free agent after 2019, and I’m as confident as I can be without knowing first-hand that the Rockies are already getting calls about him. If the Rockies are selling, it would only involve Arenado if both of these things are true: the Rockies don’t believe they’ll be able to re-sign him after next season and they also don’t believe they’ll be competitive in 2019 even with Arenado. We don’t know what the Rockies think, but we can take a well educated guess that they don’t believe both of these things. While the Rockies as sellers scenario could include Arenado, it doesn’t seem likely.
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When the Rockies traded Troy Tulowitzki in 2015, it seemed like a rebuild was on the horizon. It ended up being more of a retool. Trading any of these players mentioned above could have the same result. In other words, if the Rockies did decide to enter the trade market as sellers, it wouldn’t mean the closing of a contention window. The team has too much young talent for that. It also wouldn’t mean they’re laying the foundation to compete in 2022. That’s not the Rockies’ style of doing things.
It would, however, mean entering territory the team doesn’t usually go. In a season that has had its share of fun, frustration, and confusion, the Rockies in a new register would add some welcome liveliness to the middle of the season.