Recently, MLB Network shared a graphic of the “All-Trade Rumor Team” as selected by MLB.com experts and I was almost surprised to see Elías Díaz made the team.
The stove is hot ♨️— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 12, 2023
Could these players be on the move? pic.twitter.com/k1xWFlVgNp
After losing 103 games in 2023, it would be foolish for the Colorado Rockies to stand pat and not explore every possibility to improve their roster and/or depth. In terms of veterans the Rockies have a few pieces that other teams could be interested in, one of which could be their primary receiver. So, should the Rockies trade Díaz?
Pros of a trade
As will be described in a future article in the Ranking the Rockies series, Díaz was one of the more valuable players on the Rockies this season. He set a franchise record for catchers after playing in 141 games, 20 more than any catcher in a single season. In his career with the Rockies, he has batted .249/.303/.409 with 43 home runs in 378 games. For all intents and purposes, Díaz has etched himself as one of the best all-around catchers in team history.
2023 represents what his highest value is going to be at this point. Díaz enters the final year of the three-year deal he signed with the Rockies prior to 2022. He turns 33 on November 17, a reminder of the ticking clock and passage of time. This past season he had a scorching first half was named the first All-Star catcher in team history and was the Rockies' lone representative at the Midsummer Classic. He then went on to make more history as the MVP of the All-Star Game. Díaz didn’t garner much attention in the second half but he was still consistent and productive.
He batted .267/.316/.409 with 14 home runs and 72 RBI in 2023. Compare that to someone like J.T. Realmuto who played in 135 games and batted .252/.310/.452 with 20 home runs and 63 RBI. Any team looking for more offensive production from the catcher’s position should be looking into acquiring Díaz who is only making $6 million in 2024 by the way.
The offense is great but a catcher’s greatest tool is his defensive capabilities. Luckily for Díaz, he has shown plenty of evidence of his skills. According to Statcast, in 2023 Díaz ranks eighth in Caught Stealing Above Average with five. He has also ranked in the 70th percentile in pop time and is league-average when it comes to blocking behind the plate. His framing ranked near the bottom of the league but overall he was one of the better overall catchers in the league.
Coors Field has inflated his catcher ERA, a direct result of his pitchers' struggling, but a career 5.15 ERA still isn’t awful for a catcher under those circumstances. He works well with pitchers and has done well navigating one of the toughest places to pitch in all of baseball. Any team would gladly take a solid veteran catcher like Díaz to guide their staff as they aim for contention. Trading Díaz could enable the Rockies to hopefully gather a controllable starting pitcher who is big-league-ready or close to it.
Cons of a trade
The looming concern if the Rockies trade Díaz is a matter of who would replace him. As of writing, the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Brian Serven. Serven started the year with the Rockies but went only 3-for-21 (.143) with an RBI double and nine strikeouts in nine games in April. Things didn’t fare better in Triple-A where he batted .199/.241/.331 in 38 games with the Isotopes. Serven could end up being a non-tender candidate this offseason, leaving the Rockies with few options.
Other prospects would involve Willie MacIver or Drew Romo. MacIver could prove himself to be ready after a strong showing in Triple-A when he’s been healthy, but he’ll have to continue to prove that is capable of being productive on both sides of the ball. The same would go for Drew Romo, who cracked Triple-A at the end of last season but still needs time to develop at that level before the Rockies feel he is ready to ascend to the big league level.
There is also the matter that the free agent market isn’t that deep for catchers. If Díaz were traded, the Rockies would be limited in any directions they would want to go. Former Rockie Tom Murphy would be the closest equivalent to Díaz in terms of offensive and defensive capabilities and an ability to serve as a primary catcher. But, for the most part, the majority of the free-agent options would be better served as back ups.
It would be tough to lose Díaz’s offensive contributions to an already struggling offense but it would be a blow to the pitching staff. The pitchers enjoy working with the Díaz and his knowledge has been helpful when working with younger pitchers and veterans alike. He’s a universal player that is popular among his teammates and his presence would be tough to fill.
Whatever reasons are used, it’s my belief that the Rockies should explore the market and seriously consider trading Díaz. Prospects like Romo are getting closer to the big league team by 2025 and probably could manage without Díaz for 2024. Trading him away now with a full year left on his deal would net the largest return and avoid the gamble of him not having a good year next season. The team needs pitching and the best thing Díaz could do for the Rockies pitching staff is netting them another arm that could perhaps be a good addition.
The stove is slow to heat up for the Rockies but they did make one signing this week. On Monday they appeared to have signed 30-year-old reliever Geoff Hartlieb to a minor league deal. As stated by MLB Trade Rumors, “Hartlieb spent the 2023 season in the Marlins organization and tossed four innings of one-run ball in the Majors. The rest of his season was spent in Triple-A Jacksonville, where he notched a solid 3.63 ERA with a 23.8% strikeout rate, 9.3% walk rate, and 47.6% ground-ball rate in 44 2⁄3 innings of bullpen work.”
Additionally, the Rockies announced on Tuesday that they added four players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule-5 draft. Adael Amador, Yanquiel Fernandez, Juan Mejia, and Angel Chivilli were all added to the roster prior to the deadline on Tuesday. The Rockies currently have a full 40-man roster, with more moves likely to come, at least we can hope.
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