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What if the Rockies don’t make any moves?

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Rockies news and links for Friday, November 6, 2020

With an impressive selection of free agents this offseason, there’s lots of speculation, what-ifs, and projections about who is going where and what teams will be making moves. It’s fun to imagine scenarios of a DJ LeMahieu reunion or a player like J.T. Realmuto in purple, like Purple Row’s Eric Fayeulle examined on Thursday. Anything could happen. Who knows.

But what if nothing really happens for the Rockies? What if they just stay where they are at?

There still is, of course, the new perennial worry centered around Nolan Arenado’s future and how a trade this season or in the first half of 2021 or opt-out after 2021 would have a seismic impact on the organization. Because 2020 keeps being 2020, so begins another offseason filled with Arenado trade rumors. These regained momentum when Arenado recently told ESPN, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I think this year will be interesting. I’m hopeful that wherever—I wanna play for a winner. If that’s in Colorado, that’s great. And, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: I just wanna win.” For the last two seasons, winning and the Rockies haven’t gone together very well. The lack of moves last offseason started the Arenado departure speculation when he felt disrespected because the Rockies weren’t living up to their end of the deal in investing in the team’s success.

Sports Illustrated’s Connor Grossman is wagering that Arenado is traded to the White Sox this offseason. Arenado is ranked No. 7 on Mike Axisa’s list of top 10 possible offseason trades on CBSSports, adding that Arenado’s hefty salary of $27-$35 yearly could be too steep for the COVID-shrunk MLB economy, especially coming off a season when Arenado struggled and was injured. Conversely, Bleacher Reports’ Jacob Shafer predicts an Arenado non-trade as one of the “biggest shockers of the offseason” exactly because of the reasons above in addition to Arenado’s opt-out that could make him too risky and expensive for a possible rental. Both say the opposite scenario could happen, but Shafer is “betting [Arenado] stays put at least until next winter, when his opt-out decision will loom large.”

I am going to go with that last prognostication. I am hoping and believing Arenado will be on the Opening Day roster for the Rockies in 2021. So, pretending that is settled, what else will 2021 look like if nothing much changes?

After all, the Rockies don’t change much. They said they wouldn’t after 2019 and for the most part, they kept their word. It led to a worse product on the field, even though it was a short and weird season. After 2020, with the financial uncertainty expressed in Dick Monfort’s letter to season ticket holders from late October, indicates that fans shouldn’t expect a lot of spending this year either. If that is the reality we have to live with, what could it mean? How should we start thinking about 2021?

In order to answer these questions, I thought it might be best to compare the rosters from 2019 and 2020 to see what kind of change actually happened.

Colorado Rockies Past, Present, and (Possible) Future Lineups

Position 2019 (Record: 71-91, .438) Player (Games) 2020 (Record: 26-43, .433) Player (Games) 2021 Unchanged Projection
Position 2019 (Record: 71-91, .438) Player (Games) 2020 (Record: 26-43, .433) Player (Games) 2021 Unchanged Projection
Catcher Tony Wolters (112) Tony Wolters (39) Tony Wolters
First base Daniel Murphy (110) Daniel Murphy (29) Josh Fuentes/Ryan McMahon
Second base Ryan McMahon (113) Ryan McMahon (33) Ryan McMahon/Brendan Rodgers/Garrett Hampson
Third base Nolan Arenado (154) Nolan Arenado (48) Nolan Arenado
Shortstop Trevor Story (144) Trevor Story (57) Trevor Story
Left field Raimel Tapia (91) Raimel Tapia (36) Raimel Tapia
Center field Ian Desmond (74) Kevin Pillar (21) David Dahl
Right field Charlie Blackmon (135) Charlie Blackmon (50) Charlie Blackmon
Starting Pitchers Germán Márquez, Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, Peter Lambert, Jeff Hoffman. Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, Ryan Castellani, Jon Gray, Chi Chi González Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, Ryan Castellani, Chi Chi González (maybe Peter Lambert and Ryan Rolison)
Top 6 Relievers (by IP) Bryan Shaw, Carlos Estévez, Jeff Hoffman, Chad Bettis, Jario Díaz, Scott Oberg. Yency Almonte, Daniel Bard, Carlos Estévez, Tyler Kinley, Jeff Hoffman, Jairo Díaz Scott Oberg (hopefully), Yency Almonte, Daniel Bard, Tyler Kinley, Mychal Givens, Ben Bowden (with help from above players who don't make the rotation and prospects)

For fielding players, center field was the only difference and that’s largely because of David Dahl’s injuries and Ian Desmond opting out of 2020. The starting rotation is having a hard time finding the fifth arm. The bullpen is the biggest difference between 2019 and 2020. It didn’t get better and it has to change in 2021, even if it is just small moves or in-house adjustments with starters going to the bullpen and bringing up more prospects. That being said, the Rockies roster is better today than it was at the start of the delayed 2020 season because of its omissions: Daniel Murphy, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw.

With Josh Fuentes as the heir apparent at first, and assuming he can build off 2020, the Rockies are already better in 2021. If Dahl can stay healthy and produce 2019 numbers, that’s huge too. In order to really help the offense, Elias Díaz might need to supplant Tony Wolters and the second baseman needs to step up to be more like DJ, whether that’s Ryan McMahon or Brendan Rodgers. If you have four lineup spots that improve from 2020 and 2019, and a healthy Nolan Arenado back in the lineup, it could be ok, right? Obviously not for competing for an NL West title, but maybe by being in the Wild Card running in September?

Of all the problematic areas, the bullpen needs the most help and that could be vastly improved if Scott Oberg is able to return healthy from surgeries and blood clots that kept him out of 2020. That is a lot of hoping and ifs in there. Too many to be comfortable to be sure, but it helps when major changes don’t seem very likely.

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Breaking down All-MLB shortstop candidates | MLB.com

As the only Rockie nominee for the 2020 All-MLB team, it’s worth praising Trevor Story for a minute here. Plus, this is a great stat: “Story racked up 11 homers, four triples and 15 stolen bases in the shortened 2020 season. Those numbers would have him on pace for 29 home runs, 40 steals and 10 triples over a 162-game season. Only three players in MLB history have had a 25-40-10 season in those categories: Jimmy Rollins (2007), Carlos Beltrán (2003) and Bobby Bonds (1970).”

Fan voting goes through noon MT on Nov. 13.

One great moment of the 2020 MLB season for all 30 teams | ESPN.com

This seemed like a good opportunity to find a positive moment in 2020, even for the Rockies. Remember when Daniel Bard made his first appearance in the MLB in seven years, threw 20 of his 25 pitches for strikes, struck out Rougned Odor on a 99-mph fast ball, and got the win? That was cool.

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