For the first 22 years of the Colorado Rockies’ 26 years of existence, first base was a point of pride. A big bat in the lineup and a solid glove to anchor outs in the field. Andres Galaragga (1993-1997). Todd Helton (1998-2013). Justin Morneau (2014). Obviously, others filled in (see PurpleRow’s first base history story from 2017), but times were good at first.
Year after year since then, it’s been a hard spot to fill for the Rockies, which is not news to any Colorado fan. Since 2010, the Rockies rank 30th in the MLB in production at first base with a -1.6 fWAR—the only team with a negative figure in that category. The Rockies ranked No. 28 last year, and No. 29 each of the two years before that.
Mark Reynolds had ups and downs in 2016 (.282/.356/.450 in 393 at bats) and 2017 (.267/.352/.487 in 595 at bats), Ian Desmond wasn’t a good fit (.236/.307.422 in 555) and struggled fielding, and Daniel Murphy didn’t live up to expectations of his 2016 season (comparing hitting .347/.390/.595 in 531 at bats to .279/.328/.452 in 438 at bats in 2019) at the plate or with the glove. What made it all the worst was seeing DJ LaMahieu play first rather well, with a .327 batting average, in a Yankees jersey for the same price tag as Murphy.
So this brings the Rockies to the same old question this offseason: What should be done at first base?
In the first of a position-by-position series on the Rockies from The Athletic, Nick Groke takes a look at how things have been at first over the last decades are and what Colorado’s options are moving forward. The possibilities include these, or any mix of these, options:
• Start Daniel Murphy, hoping he returns to the glory days and can benefit from a healthy season; in addition to being a bridge to the future while prospects develop.
• Trade Murphy to an American League team (who might want him as a DH), or anyone who will take him and (all or most?) his contact.
• Possibly acquire a first baseman in that Murphy trade.
• Start Ryan McMahon at first and allow him to build on his success from 2019.
• Start Murphy or McMahon to bid time for Tyler Nevin, a Double-A infielder who the Rockies protected from the Rule 5 draft by placing on the 40-man roster on Wednesday.
• Have lots of options and continue to build farm system prospects like Colton Welker, a Double-A third baseman who has transitioned to first, Michael Toglia, a former UCLA star and got started at Single-A Boise in 2019, and Grant Levin, a promising 20-year-old who played for Single-A Asheville this year.
One idea for the first base conundrum pitched by Roxpile’s Noah Yingling is that the Rockies could trade for Baltimore first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini. He hit .291/.364/.535 with 97 RBI and 106 runs scored. He would be an upgrade defensively and offensively from Daniel Murphy, but brings the same questions about how could we pay for Mancini. Is it worth trading Ryan McMahon or Brendan Rodgers? What do we do with Murphy? Mancini is 27 and has three years experience at the major league level, which could mean he is a more solid bet for the future. More questions than answers.
In FanSided “Fake Winter Meetings” and pretend trade simulations, Roxpile’s Kevin Henry posits this trade:
Rockies trade: Daniel Murphy, “along with his $8 million contract this season and $6 million buyout from a $12 million mutual option for 2021, per Spotrac.com,” to the Chicago White Sox, who need a designated hitter.
Rockies get: Double-A outfielder Blake Rutherford, 22, who hit .265/.319/.365 last year as Chicago’s No. 9 ranked prospect.
Pros: This saves money and opens up the left side of the infield to Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, and Garrett Hampson.
Cons: It’s a pretend trade with unknown (perhaps very small?) likelihood of happening in reality.
Roxpile has another simulation on an imaginary trade that sends Wade Davis and left-handed pitching prospect Helcris Olivarez to the New York Mets for Dominic Smith and Jed Lowrie, the first baseman/outfielder and utility player, respectively.
Gerardo Parra is taking his talents to Japan.
The camaraderie-inducing former Colorado fan-favorite pinch hitter, “Baby Shark” phenomenon-maker, and current World Series Champion signed a deal with the Yomiuri Giants on Tuesday.
The deal is reportedly for $2 million with a $3 million vesting option for 2021. Relegated to a bench role in the MLB, this could be a move for more playing time for the 32-year-old, two-time Gold Glover. The Venezuela native leaves the MLB with 88 homers, 522 RBI, and he hit .276/.323/.404 over 11 seasons.
The Giants, who play in Japan’s Nippon Professional League, are the oldest professional team in Japan (1934) and made it all the way to the championship Japan Series before losing to Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. If I was a Yomiuri Giants fan, I would be psyched.
With the progress and potential of Jon Gray in an otherwise dreary 2019 pitching performance from the Colorado Rockies, rumors have been swirling that other teams are interested in trading for righty. We know about these rumors and I am assuming most of us have the same response as Mile High Sports’ Aniello Piro: For the love of having any dream of a successful rotation, please don’t do it!
With his team-best 11-8 record and 3.84 ERA among Rockies starters, not to mention his offseason spent refining his technique at Driveline and his rank as No. 3 in PurpleRow’s Rockies Players Reviews series, Gray is a staple in the Rockies rotation who is learning to pitch at altitude. He might be the most constant thing we have in our young and inconsistent lineup. He has to be there next year for the Rockies to get back into playoff contention.
Piro also notes that the Padres are one of the most interested suitors and in-division trades are awkward and could come back to bite the Rockies. Noting the self-imposed lack of financial maneuvering space, the Rockies are also getting Gray for a good bargain of $5.6 million in 2020. If history is any indication, hopefully the Rockies will continue to be hesitant to trade system-developed talent.
There’s not a lot of optimism in much of the 2019 or post-2019 analysis of the Rockies, but Drew Creasman makes the case here that the Rockies do have a solid foundation and an ability to rebound in 2020. He believes the Rockies are more likely working to lock down Trevor Story, Jon Gray, and Scott Oberg, in addition to creatively adding pieces, instead of blowing it all up and building for the future. He could be right that sitting out bidding for overpriced free agents and trades that may not show benefits until 2023 and beyond. Plus, it is just nice to look at the bright side sometimes and think about the 2017 and 2018 that could be rekindled in 2020. It could happen, right?