The Colorado Rockies are in a similar position to a number of teams as the trade deadline approaches. They are on the fringes of the playoff race and don’t look like they’ll make it. On the other hand, they are one winning streak away from being back in the thick of it
The distinction between buyers and sellers won’t be as clear as it might have been in previous seasons. Teams might be reluctant to make big investments or bold moves with such a cluttered playoff race. The Rockies currently reside in that gray area, and it might stay that way until the day of the deadline.
Given the Rockies’ recent struggles, however, they might be lucky to even get into that murky gray area. If things continue this way they might be pushed to the sell category. But if they are sellers, there’s an obvious question that weirdly doesn’t have an obvious answer: who would they sell? Let’s take a look.
A funny thing happened this season: Desmond started playing well and made it such that his inclusion on this list isn’t just a punchline, a passing joke about how the Rockies need to get out from under his contract. It’s still unlikely they would find a trading partner for him, but it isn’t impossible either, so that’s something!
Desmond is slashing .269/.322/.495 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: the reviews on his defense have been mixed, to be generous, and his efforts have him at -0.9 rWAR. He set the bar so low the last two seasons that 2019 has felt dramatically better, but he still isn’t exactly going to be getting MVP votes.
But think about what playoff teams look for. A bat with some pop, maybe even a guy who can come off the bench. A versatile player who can cover multiple defensive positions. A veteran leader.
What teams aren’t looking for, of course, is a bloated contract for a 33-year-old outfielder. The Rockies have the worst year of that deal behind them, but Desmond is making $15 million this year and is due $15 million next year, along with an $8 million team option in 2021. It will definitely take the Rockies eating some salary, but the prospect of a team wanting him in a trade is no longer completely absurd.
This would be a nibbling move for some contending team, but nevertheless one that could provide value. Iannetta is a proven commodity at a scarce position, and his offense has ticked up slightly this season. The return would probably be modest at best, however, so the Rockies might just decide to keep Iannetta’s leadership as some young pitchers get reps down the stretch.
So here you have the Rockies’ only good reliever. And Oberg has been great. He has a 1.35 ERA and a 9.6 K/9 mark. If there is a playoff push left in this team, they’re going to need him. If not, he’s under team control through 2022 and is relatively affordable. It mostly seems crazy to think they would trade him this summer.
Yet he would bring back the biggest return in a trade — every team needs bullpen help, and he would be among the top pitchers available if the Rockies were willing to deal him. Oberg presents the Rockies with a chance to make a bold trade.
It would be a case where the Rockies would sell high. And remember, we are talking about a pitcher who was in Triple-A for part of the season just one year ago. We have no idea if he’ll be good for the rest of the season, let alone in the seasons to come. That’s the deal with pitchers, and especially relievers.
If the right trade was there, I think the Rockies should deal Oberg. You might think that’s crazy. If you do, I get it. Just remember that I am a beaten down blogger, a broken old man (old at least by blogger standards). I’ve been hurt too many times, and I just don’t trust any relievers.
John Axford’s season with the Rockies is my platonic ideal of a bullpen acquisition. I once advocated for the Rockies to sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year deal and I meant every word. If nothing else, we have reminders on the team right now of how quickly things can go wrong for relievers.
Oh hey, Jake! Didn’t see you there. The lefty’s entire tenure with the Rockies has been up and down. He’s gotten on track this year to an extent, sporting a 3.22 ERA up to this point. Plus he’s left-handed and has some name recognition, something that was clear in a recent trade article from our friends at Twinkie Town. The third year of his contract is potentially a hiccup — he’s guaranteed $9.5 million next year. Even so, I think he might be the most likely to be dealt if the Rockies shift into a more aggressive selling mode.
He’s different than McGee in that he’s right-handed, but otherwise he checks a lot of the same boxes up to an almost identical contract. He was especially bad last season. He looked to have turned things around this year but has struggled lately with his ERA ballooning up to 4.47. Still, a stretch of strong outings might establish some value for Shaw.
Name recognition. That’s all that’s going on here. Davis is a disaster right now, but he’s a guy who people have seen saving games in the World Series. You would think that he wouldn’t need to do much to convince a team to want him. But the ugliness of his 6.07 ERA is only outdone by his 5.7 BB/9 mark. And oh yea, the Rockies owe him $17 million next year, and in 2021 he has a $15 million mutual option that becomes a player option if he finishes 30 games in 2020. That one hell of a four-year contract, in case you forgot.
So maybe he isn’t somebody the Rockies could trade even if they’re full blown sellers. But maybe he’s the guy who will bring you to my side when it comes to never trusting any relievers.