A studious professional, Charlie Blackmon is using the 2019 disappointing Rockies season as a chance to learn and improve. While it seems cliché, it is what Chuck Nazty enjoys. He likes evolving and changing, and it’s what keeps him one of the best and consistent hitters in the Rockies lineup.
In this feature from Thomas Harding, Blackmon discusses combating pitchers’ strategies of avoiding throwing fastballs against him (because he historically crushes them), instead opting for off-speed pitches outside of the zone, and his goals of improving his discipline at the plate, as well as the bright spots and woes of the 2019 campaign.
As Rockies fans, we saw a wide variety of experimental lineups in September when the Rockies were long out of playoff contention and youngsters were getting more chances. One of the more interesting lineup combinations was Blackmon in the cleanup spot, which Harding suggests could be something we see again in 2020.
In 2019, Blackmon hit .314/.364/.576 and drove in 86 runs (all second-best on the team behind Nolan Arenado), while also hitting 32 homers (third-best behind Arenado and Trevor Story). Of course, he slumped just like the rest of the team did in July when the nose dive started in full effect. Moving forward, Blackmon is hoping to keep being a solid presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse.
Since it’s paired with a close-up photo of Charlie Blackmon, you might think this article is about mullet and big beard maintenance and the problems that could present to clubhouse plumbing; however, it is not. Nick Groke rehashes most of the foundational problems we know the Rockies have: a self-imposed spending limit, a struggling pitching rotation, and no predicted big changes as the front office is putting all its eggs in the hope basket. The one that believes 2019 was an anomaly and the Rockies can return to 2018 by “tightening the screws” instead of a full remodel or demolition.
Interestingly though, Groke lists a woefully inept defensive outfield as second in the two-item list of biggest problems behind the starting pitching. He proposes a logical idea: why not be all about defense in the outfield to help those struggling pitchers, even if means sacrificing offensive production, just like teams often do with catchers? Groke pitches trading for Gold Glove finalist Harrison Bader of the St. Louis Cardinals to put between David Dahl in left and Blackmon in right. (Something Ben Kouchnerkavich did in SB Nation’s simulated offseason.)
This is interesting to ponder. I do want the Rockies to make some moves, but I am not sure if it is outfielders that we need most. Can Raimel Tapia be a consistent fielder after showing glimpses of beautiful foul-ball grabs and diving snags? Is Sam Hilliard the answer? There are many options and hypotheticals, but the key here is no more Ian Desmond in the starting lineup.
Since this article isn’t a petition for players to shave beards and mullets as a courtesy move to stadium janitors, Groke ends with a bombshell hypothetical trade proposal, raised by Levi Weaver of The Athletic: The Texas Rangers send the Rockies CF Leody Taveras, RHP Hans Crouse, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Davis Wendzel and UTIL Danny Santana for Arenado, Desmond (with $13 million of his remaining salary paid by Colorado), and Kyle Freeland. Insert freaking out and screaming meme here. Groke describes as “preposterous on its face” but notes that something this big needs to occur “if the Rockies want an external move to free themselves from the hairball that is clogging their roster.”
Even though most reader Q&A’s with sports reporters look at hypotheticals, generally offering some thought-provoking ideas or wacky wonderings, this one with Thomas Harding broke some news on Wednesday: He talked to Brendan Rodgers who says he is on the mend. He is rehabbing at home in Orlando, Fla. and hopes to begin throwing in a few days. When spring training commences, Rodgers expects to be healthy and ready to go.
What’s yet to be seen is if the promising prospect can translate his Triple-A success to the big leagues. He only played in 25 games in 2019, but certainly didn’t deliver in the way we had expected and Dante Bichette, who scouted Rodgers as a five-year-old kid, believed. He hit .224 with 17 hits in 81 at-bats, two doubles, zero homers, seven RBI, and right runs scored. He also struck out 27 times with only four walks. The sample size is small, but Rodgers needs a solid spring training to contend with Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson. The front office seemed to be saving a roster spot for Rodgers, but he’s got some legit competition at second base now.
With his health on track after his right shoulder surgery in July that cut his season short, this allows the rumors to continue to spread as to whether Rodgers will move forward as a second baseman rather than shortstop, or be a full-time utility infielder, and about his status as being a valuable asset in trade negotiations if the Rockies front office has decided they’ll listen to offers.
Ok, good news and bad news. First the good news: According to ESPN.com’s Sam Miller, the Rockies are a better franchise than the Marlins. Even though the Marlins have won a World Series, he gives the nod to the Rockies because of an ability to play the game different ways under different management and developing and signing a number of great players.
The bad news: Every team in the majors has won at least 93 games in a season since 1993 except for two, which happen to be the Rockies and Marlins. The worse news: Miller argues the Rockies have never had a truly great team and they haven’t figured out how to battle altitude at home and its effects on their travel, or the seemingly player-destroying confines of Coors Field. If you don’t want to get a nauseous feeling in your stomach, the one that makes you sad, and then mad, and then depressed because it very well could be true, don’t read this quote from Miller: “Until the Rockies put together a truly great team even just once, Colorado fans have to live with the existential dread of believing the universe despises them.”
Is this true? Maybe. Was the 1995 Wild Card just a miracle for a 3-year-old team? Was the 2007 Rocktober run more luck than greatness? Were the 2009, 2017, and 2018 playoff squads ones that could never get past the Dodgers or to the NLCS? There might be some harsh truths there, but it really depends on how you define “truly great.” The 2007 Rockies were truly magical in my book.
Larry Walker’s percentages in Hall of Fame voting have risen from 34.1 percent in 2018 to 54.6 percent in 2019, but he still needs another big bump to get the 75% required by the BBWAA in 2020, which is his final year of eligibility. With many still blaming thin air and Coors Field, along with injury-shortened seasons, it’s nice to see Matthew Trueblood make a solid case for getting Walker enshrined. There is hope as Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines eclipsed the 75% in their tenth and final years.
Neil Greenberg weighs the stats, the current free agent market, how WAR can be translated into dollars (one WAR equals $8 million), and how Nolan Arenado’s $260 million, eight-year deal (an average yearly total of $32.5 million) will all factor into Anthony Rendon’s price tag. While much of this article goes into trying to calculate what Washington will have to pay to keep him (an estimate of at least $248 million for seven years), Greenberg also says that “Rendon has been as productive as Arenado” since both third basemen debuted in 2013, except for Arenado’s seven consecutive Gold Gloves. He points out that over those seven seasons, Nolan has hit .295 with an OPS of .897 and a 31.3 WAR and Rendon’s average is .290 with an OPS of .859 and a 32.7 WAR.
Arenado’s contract and the fact that Rendon is one of the best, if not the best position player in the free agent market this offseason, will be huge factors in Rendon’s offers. Rendon was clutch in the World Series and had the best season of his career in 2019, as did Arenado. But how do we feel about the comparison?
In seven years, Nolan has 227 homers compared to 136 from Rendon, 188 more RBI (734 to 546) and has more hits (1,160 to 994). Rendon leads in walks (406 to 347) and has less strikeouts (610 to 664). Rendon is a great fielder, but Nolan is making an argument to be known as the best fielding third baseman of all time. As Rockies fans, it seems like we would all take Nolan over Rendon, and I believe most teams would too. So maybe it is more fun to speculate what kind of contract Rendon will net in comparison to Nolan’s.
What kind of contract will Rendon end up reaching this offseason compared to Nolan Arenado’s?
This poll is closed
Less money than Nolan’s eight-year $260 contract
More money than Nolan’s eight-year $260 contract
Close to the same as Nolan’s contract, but no opt-out because what kind of GM would offer that?
Close to the same as Nolan’s contract and with an opt-out, which is a key condition