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If the Rockies refuse to sell, they should learn how to buy

Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, July 30, 2022

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Yes, another deadline column as we are now just three days away from the August 2nd cutoff. We’ve kicked the dead horse on the need to face the truth that they should sell pieces that are unlikely to be a part of the next winning team. But, staring a fourth straight losing season, the Colorado Rockies are again looking likely to defy the industry consensus out of hubris.

So…okay, fine. If the organization doesn’t want to acknowledge the reality of the situation and try to build a better future at the expense of a worse present, so be it. But maybe we can look at it from a different angle. Instead of selling, how about the Rockies lean into being an aggressive buyer instead?

The deadline headlines will always be dominated by the biggest commodities or impactful rentals on the market, and this year is no different. So let’s start with the most obvious question first: should the Rockies seriously pursue Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani?

Yes, full stop.

The price will be enormous, but so is the talent. No team wants to give away their top prospects, but they’re also all hoping they’ll turn into a player that can even be in the same conversation as Soto or Ohtani (well, half of Ohtani, at least). Acquiring the services of the real thing is a superior option, and undoubtedly makes you a better team.

But these players are only available because of their dwindling team-control years. So you have to be determined to make the most of your time together and be aggressive in trying to lock them up for longer. It’s impossible to imagine Colorado willing to do either, though, because they’ve shown they’re unwilling to try any other path than the one they’re on. On top of that, they also don’t have the farm system to compete with better offers out there, so the question of “can” is just as relevant as “should”.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to rentals. This is a hard no, as spending on a rental in a lost season is nothing but flushing prospects. If anything, selling rentals to other teams is the obvious role that Colorado is refusing to fill.

So, if they can’t afford or justify trading for the biggest stars and acquiring half-season rentals is futile, then what can the Rockies buy? Well, it will take some creativity and easing the grasp on their prospect hugging, but modest, cost-controlled talent is the demographic the team should be aiming for.

Let’s go back to the Washington Nationals. A significant talking-point in the Juan Soto discourse has been taking on Patrick Corbin’s remaining contract. Corbin is owed roughly $60 million over the next two seasons and is an albatross Washington wants to get rid of. That won’t change if they don’t include him in a Juan Soto deal. But they could be willing to depart with Victor Robles, Kyle Finnegan and more – all pieces under team control for at least the next two seasons – as the price to get out from the Corbin deal, similar to how the Cincinnati Reds did when they shipped Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Seattle Mariners before the season. The prospect cost would be minimal, but the monetary commitment would not.

Taking on bad contacts to acquire more talent is a route Colorado has not explored, and could be a path to improving the franchise’s next window of contention. Elvis Andrus’ production has taken a nose-dive in the past five years and he has a $15 million player option in 2023 that Oakland surely isn’t looking forward to. Will Myers ($20M / 1 year) and Eric Hosmer ($39M / 3 years) of the San Diego Padres have been marketed in this respect for at least the past year and some other players that could fit in this box are Madison Bumgarner in Arizona ($37M / 2 years), Mike Moustakas of the Reds ($38M / 2 years), and Marcus Stroman with the Cubs ($46M / 2 years).

*Note: financial commitments represent remaining salary after 2022 season.

Selling prospects to get out of a lofty commitment is nothing new in the industry, and the Rockies could take advantage of this trend if they wanted to. But it would require ownership to spend more, something that feels incredibly unlikely given the $182 million they just committed to Kris Bryant.

Instead, the Rockies could look to go the more conventional route and move some of their prospect depth to improve other areas of the organization, specifically at first base. There has been no resolution to the Elehuris Montero conundrum and Colorado will soon have to face adding Michael Toglia (No. 7 PuRP) and Grant Lavigne (No. 22 PuRP) to the 40-man this off-season. Both are behind Montero on the depth chart…who is behind C.J. Cron.

First base prospects are generally not well-valued in the industry, so the Rockies have a glass ceiling on many of their trade chips because they’ve stockpiled at a less-regarded position. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be part of an attractive package.

This could be the foundation for a player the Rockies to buy-low on. Jo Adell of the Angels, Jarred Kelenic in Seattle and Forrest Whitely of Houston are all examples of prospects that have fallen from grace and could be sold off while they still have value. This is also true of big leaguers that have hit a wall due to injury, such as Mike Soroka in Atlanta, Sixto Sánchez of the Marlins and Brendan McKay with Tampa Bay.

Would it cost major league talent as well? Probably, but you need to give to get in any trade. Plus, the simple narrative shift of looking to add rather than trying to avoiding the “seller” label would be probably go a long way for the decision makers. Not to mention the upside of a player that has fallen behind elsewhere finding new life with the Rockies.

Would teams be willing to move on from these players while their value is at their lowest? Probably not, but if the Rockies don’t entertain the idea they’ll never know. That viewpoint also applies to acquiring young talent at the expense of taking on a bloated contract. There’s a risk that an acquisition doesn’t work out. But that risk applies to doing nothing, as well. A stagnant approach is the likely outcome for Colorado again this deadline, but it shouldn’t be. If they expect to improve then they need to pick a direction and lean into it. If they don’t they’ll simply be setting-up the franchise for more of the same in the future.

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Where do the Rockies stand ahead of MLB’s trade deadline? | The Athletic ($)

Nick Groke provides his take on the Rockies deadline plan. Much like we’ve stated here at the site, his expectation is little will occur. Although Groke points out value in trade chips like Daniel Bard, C.J. Cron, Connor Joe and others, he sees Alex Colomé, José Igleasias as the most likely to depart. When it comes to Bard and Chad Kuhl, Groke reinforces the Colorado’s idea to try hold on to them and try for an extension, instead.

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On The Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 11, Las Vegas Aviators 6

Trailing by a run early, Coco Montes tied up the game with an RBI double in the second inning before Wynton Bernard gave the Isotopes a two-run lead with his base knock. That set the table for Elehuris Montero, who broke the game open with a grand slam to give Albuquerque a six-run lead. The closest Las Vegas would get the rest of the way was three runs down, as Montes and Carlos Perez each went deep in the fifth before Bernard and Dom Nunez helped tack on two more in the eighth to put the game away.

Double-A: Portland Sea Dogs 7, Hartford Yard Goats 6

The Yard Goats were never able to get the lead after Portland posted five runs in the first two innings against starter Michael Baird, who gave up all seven runs in his 5 13 IP. Hartford would fight back, getting within a run in the fifth after RBI singles by Aaron Shunk and Brent Doyle, but Portland answered with two in the sixth. Another run-scoring single by Schunk followed by the same from Kyle Datres brought Hartford within one again in the seventh, but that is as close as they would get in this one.

High-A: Spokane Indians 4, Tri-City Dust Devils 3

The Dust Devils posted three runs early against Austin Kitchen, but that’s all they would get off the lefty as he held them scoreless for the next three innings, finishing with five strikeouts in five innings. Spokane’s bats still needed to fight back, though, and homers by Trevor Boone in the third and Julio Carreras in the fourth, followed by a Colin Simpson RBI double, tied up the game heading into the fifth. It would stay that way until Warming Bernabel drove in the eventual winning run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Blake Goldsberry, Shelby Lackey and Anderson Bido combined to throw four scoreless innings out the ‘pen to lock down the victory.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 10, Modesto Nuts 4

Case Williams delivered a strong performance, holding Modesto scoreless through the first three innings before being touched for one run in the fourth and another in the fifth. All told, Williams allowed two over six innings with seven strikeouts but did have to dance around five hits and four walks. He departed with the lead, however, as a Yanquiel Fernandez triple got the Grizzlies on the board in the fifth before Walking Cabrera doubled home two more. Cuba Bess drove home two with a single in the fifth and Ben Sems did the same with his home run in the eighth. The Nuts would get within three in the eighth, but Braxton Fulford and Sems would blow it open, driving in three run in the ninth to put the game to bed.

★ ★ ★

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