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Colorado needs to realize it’s at a crossroads with Germán Márquez

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, October 16, 2021

The 2016 Colorado Rockies finished the season with a losing record for the sixth straight season. The team had not sniffed the postseason since 2010, but there was hope for the future both in the farm system and on the major league roster. It also marked the debut season for Germán Márquez.

Márquez became a fixture in 2017 and his consistency and high-strikeout performance quickly turned him into a cornerstone piece for the franchise. After setting a franchise record with 230 strikeouts in 2018, he signed a $43M contract extension to stay the ace in Colorado through as long as the 2024 season.

Rockies SP since 2016

Pitcher Innings ERA+ SO%
Pitcher Innings ERA+ SO%
Germán Márquez 793.2 116 23.7%
Jon Gray 788.2 108 24%
Kyle Freeland 654 117 18.1%
Antonio Senzatela 579.2 102 15.7%

Unfortunately, the 2019 season that followed the Márquez extension that April was a sign of times to come. Since achieving consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in team history in 2017 and 2018, the Rockies have posted three straight losing seasons with a 171-212 record and winning percentage of .446% during that stretch.

But 2022 is not shaping up like 2017 did. The competition in the National League is much steeper than it was five years ago, the talent pool surrounding Márquez has continued to shrink, and Colorado has only recently begun to restock the prospect cupboard.

Save for a few bats like Elehuris Montero and Ryan Vilade, the reinforcements are once again on the distant horizon and the current offensive core needs to re-generate it’s backbone. The franchise is once again in the midst of a window of non-contention as currently assembled and the front office needs to be proactive with their roster management if it plans to return to relevance in the near-future.

No piece is bigger to that equation than Germán Márquez.

Márquez has two guaranteed years left on his contract at $11.3M in 2022 and $15.3M in 2023. The club also holds a team option for $16M in 2024 (that converts to mutual option if Márquez finishes top-3 in CY Young voting in both of the next two seasons). That gives the Rockies likely three years of control left to either build around - or build from - Germán Márquez.

If the Rockies do intend to build around Márquez, then it is clear they have a lot of work to do. Their offense has been seeped of its power, is likely losing its best player, and just featured arguably the worst outfield in team history. Add in a bullpen that ranked among the worst in baseball (once again) and it’s clear that a monumental retooling would need to be executed flawlessly to quickly right this ship.

An off-season influx of Marcus Semien, Kris Bryant and Nicholas Castellanos with a complete bullpen face-lift could do the trick and flip the Rockies’ fortunes at the drop of a hat. That level of maneuvering only exists in video games with imaginary currency, though, and the 1,031 days that have elapsed since the last major league free agent deal to Daniel Murphy shows the Rockies are petrified of dipping their toes back in the free agent pool anyways. Becoming a big-swinging, trade market buyer is also an option, but the cost of multiple top prospects from an already-thin system would be even more out-of-character for the Rockies than a major free agent splash.

Instead, maybe Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon quickly hit their peak ceilings and put up numbers worthy of MVP votes. Maybe Sam Hilliard and/or Raimel Tapia turns into a borderline All-Star for a whole season instead of just a few hot weeks. Maybe Charlie Blackmon’s bat defies father time, C.J. Cron and Elias Díaz continue to be the players we saw for most of last season and the bullpen does a complete 180-degrees turn. Maybe Montero or Vilade exceeds expectations and become above-average starters as soon as they arrive for a full season, or there is a Juan Soto-esc teenage ascent laying in wait for a prospect like Zac Veen, Benny Montgomery or Ezequiel Tovar.

All of it could happen, but that is a hope and not a plan. Hoping seems to be the plan for Colorado, however, so if the majority of this fever-dream doesn’t pan out then the Rockies are not currently in a position to thrive for the next three seasons.

So then why not consider trading Germán Márquez? Colorado has made it a well-known fact that they have no intention in moving the right-hander, but that doesn’t mean their insistence shouldn’t be questioned. There’s no doubt that Colorado is a better team with him than without him, but the difference between 68 and 76 wins is irrelevant and seems to only matter to the brass.

In Márquez, however, they have a proven top-of-the-rotation piece that is durable, in his prime, and has multiple years of control remaining at an affordable rate. The asking price would - and should- be high, and could ultimately be the shot in the arm this franchise needs to return to contention sooner rather than later.

Comparable SP traded since 2016

Player Prior 4 years Years Remaining IP ERA+
Player Prior 4 years Years Remaining IP ERA+
Gerrit Cole 2014-2017 2 665 112
Germán Márquez * 2018-2021 3 631.2 116
José Berrios * 2017-2020 2.5 601.1 115
James Paxton 2015-2018 2 484.1 114
Blake Snell * 2017-2020 3 467 132
* Includes 2020 abbreviated 60-game schedule statistics

Multiple recent deals involving starters relatively comparable to Márquez with multiple years of a control left have shown to benefit the selling team. Just on the surface, José Berrios netted Minnesota a blue chip middle-infield prospect in Austin Martin in a deadline deal. Tampa turned Blake Snell into major league starters Luis Patino and catcher Francisco Mejia. Even an under-cooked Gerrit Cole netted Pittsburgh Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran before he went on to reach his full potential in Houston. Even injury-prone James Paxton required a top-50 prospect to headline a return for Seattle.

Maybe the Rockies go big with external additions this off-season, or maybe the best case scenario with most of the internal options becomes a reality. Most Rockies fans will happily eat their words if either of those scenarios play out (myself included), but are not holding their breaths that it will. Ultimately, selling high on Márquez seems like the best option to get a stuck Rockies franchise out of the mud. It would be a difficult decision to make and just as difficult to sell to the caual fan base, but if the team is not able to do what it takes to make the most out of the time Márquez has left then they need to make the most out of his value for the health of the team’s future.

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Top pitching prospect Rolison to play in D.R. | mlb.com

After a 2021 season mostly lost to injuries, Ryan Rolison will join the the Tigres de Licey at the end of October with the hope that the atmosphere in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana (Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League) will get him back on track for the big leagues next season.

“The original plan was for me to go to the Arizona Fall League, but [general manager] Bill Schmidt called me that there were a few conversations with [manager] Bud Black, and they wanted me to go and throw in that kind of environment, against that kind of talent, and get my innings up,” Rolison said. “There, every game matters. That can get me ready for Spring Training so I can go and compete for a starting rotation job.”

On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition

Salt River Rafters 2, Peoria Javelinas 1

Michael Toglia hit his first career Arizona Fall League home run in Salt River’s second win of the young season. Toglia’s bomb came in the second inning off Phillies’ hurler Hans Crouse and was his lone hit of the ballgame. Ryan Vilade went hitless out of the lead-off spot for the Rafters while Ezequiel Tovar fared just as well at the bottom of the order. Willie MacIver added a single in his lone plate appearance in the ninth inning.

Jordan Sheffield picked up a hold with a scoreless frame in the seventh inning and Jake Bird earned his first save with a scoreless ninth. Both threw nine of their 15 pitches for strikes.

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