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Perspectives: What should the Rockies do at the trade deadline?

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Buy? Sell? Nothing?

The trade deadline is next Wednesday, July 31. The Rockies have been losing a lot lately, but they’re still in contention for the Wild Card race. Should they go buy? Should they sell? What about a little of both? Or, get this, maybe they should do nothing? Purple Row staffers weigh in below. What do you think the Rockies should do?

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Nick W: I’m going to state the obvious—the Rockies need serious help in the starting rotation. At the beginning of the year this might have been the position that we least expected to need to supplement at the deadline, but here we are. There are a number of potential targets for the Rockies, but I believe their best bet would be to go after Marcus Stroman.

Stroman has been vocal about his desire to move on from the Blue Jays, and Toronto would be wise to begin the rebuilding process in yet another down season. Marcus himself is having one of the best seasons of his career, however, with a 67 ERA-, 3.61 FIP, 2.6 fWAR, and nearly 60% groundball rate (which we love at Coors Field) while giving up less than one home run per nine innings.

At the trade deadline, the name of the game is Team Control, and Stroman also offers that. He is still arbitration eligible next year before hitting free agency in 2021, so he is more than just a rental for the Rockies, who should be doing everything they can to keep their “championship window” open right now. Like Craig Edwards of FanGraphs said in June, everyone should want Marcus Stroman, and that should include the Rockies.

Renee: Recommendation: Stand pat and play through. This has been a tough year for the Rockies who have experienced injuries (e.g., Anderson, Oh, Rodgers) and problems with the starting rotation, perhaps exacerbated by changes to the baseball. The 2019 Rockies got off to a terrible start before clawing to above .500 only to fall back again. Given how on the edge this team is, spending for a highly competitive wildcard spot doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, selling would be out of character for the Rockies front office — and they don’t have much to sell anyway. Besides, the core of Freeland, Márquez, Gray, Dahl, Lambert, Wolters, Arenado, Blackmon, Story, and Oberg is solid, and the Rockies will need them to be competitive during the contention window.

Nick Groke does a good job of laying out the Rockies’ options and makes clear that the Rockies’ deadline moves depend on their play between now and the end of the month. The decisions on Sunday to DFA Mark Reynolds and purchase the contract of Sam Howard suggests that the Rockies are going to look in-house for their initial changes. I don’t see the Rockies as spending a lot for two highly competitive wildcard spots — and I’m not sure that it makes much sense. This team has just been too uneven. Jeff Bridich may make a minor move — a lefty reliever or a right-handed outfielder — but the 2019 Rockies are going to have to work it out and show what they can do with what they have.

Adam: In 2015, Cole Hamels was one of the most attractive trade candidates, toiling for a 38-64 Phillies team. There were a lot of contending teams in the running for his services, which is why so many were surprised when the Texas Rangers sent six players for Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman. At the time of the trade, the Rangers 48-52, eight games out of their division, four out of the second wild card, and 11th overall in the AL. Many considered it a “win-later” move for the Rangers, who were waiting for Yu Darvish to return from Tommy John in 2016. That they went 40-22 the rest of the way and won the division.

The Rockies (47-52, 18.5 back in the division, 5 in the Wild Card) are in a similar position as the 2015 Rangers. As such, I propose a similar approach for the Rockies at the 2019 deadline: buy, but for 2020. The controllable pitching help available at this deadline (from Stroman to Jake Diekman, who has a mutual option for 2020) is attractive, especially considering top free agents like Gerrit Cole and Will Smith probably aren’t itching to come to Denver in the offseason. Shopping now gives Jeff Bridich the luxury of securing a player under contract who can help the Rockies in 2020 and, who knows, just might launch them through a crowded NL Wild Card race this year. In any case, the market for what the Rockies need most, pitching help, is going to be more favorable in July than it will be in December, and Jeff Bridich would be wise to keep that in mind, regardless of what happens in the next nine days.

Eric:

The season won’t be officially “lost” until the Rockies are eliminated from the race. But we know a few things about the 2019 Rockies that advance us toward that conclusion, official or not. First, the pitching has been weak, and they have at most two reliable starting pitchers right now. Second, this team is prone to go stone cold and lose a lot of games in a short period of time. They’ve had two such stretches already this season. Now, in order to clinch a postseason spot, they need to win about 41 of their final 63 games — probably more. I don’t think this team can do that.

So my answer is to sell strategically. As others in this post have noted, the Rockies don’t have a lot of obvious sell candidates. Two, however, come to mind. The first is Daniel Murphy. Murphy is the type of veteran hitter that any contender, especially one in the AL, could use. He’s under contract through 2020, but at a reasonable price. This would create a vacancy at first base for the 2020 Rockies, but they have the infield depth to handle that. They can go with a right side of the infield of Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon. We don’t know how well that duo will perform. But, then again, Murphy hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations thus far either, and what he’ll do in his age 35 season is just as much of a mystery.

The second is Scott Oberg. Oberg is under control through 2021, and is currently a very good reliever. He’s the type of player that could yield a pretty good group of prospects from a contending team. As Hayden noted last week, it may seem like a bad move to trade the team’s best reliever. But relievers are notoriously inconsistent. I would feel okay going into 2020 with Jairo Díaz and Carlos Estévez as the hopefully reliable guys. And maybe Wade Davis will even rediscover the strike zone.

Ideally, one or both of these players can be turned into close to the majors pitching. If so, the Rockies will be just as well positioned to compete in 2020.