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The Colorado Rockies have 71 games remaining. Now what?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, July 11, 2023

That the Colorado Rockies have not had an especially good 2023 season is clear. In addition to their record, consider some of the data:

  • Four of five starting pitchers have suffered significant injury.
  • The pitching staff has the second-lowest fWAR at 2.5. Only Oakland’s is lower.
  • They have the third-worst ERA- (116) and the second-highest ERA (5.79).
  • The Rockies’ -0.9 fWAR is the worst in baseball, and they are the only team with a negative total. (For comparison, the Royals are 29th with 2.9 fWAR.)
  • They have a collective 80 wRC+, which ties them with the Royals for the lowest total in MLB.
  • Despite playing half their games at Coors Field, the Rockies have only hit 81 home runs, which ties them with the Tigers at 25th.
  • They have stolen the fewest bases with 34. The Giants are 29th with 41.
  • They have 11 DRS, which is 15th in MLB.

That’s all in the past now, and it can’t be undone -- though it should inform the future. Let’s consider, then, the possibilities moving forward.

By the way, I like to deal in what’s realistic, and these recommendations will reflect that. So just to be clear, Dick Monfort is not going to sell the team; the Rockies are not going to fire Bud Black; and they are not going to trade Ryan McMahon, Daniel Bard, Jake Bird, or Justin Lawrence and lean into a complete rebuild.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions for the Rockies going forward.

Make trades for pitching

The obvious candidates are players who will be free agents at the end of the season.

Last September, Bill Schmidt expressed the Rockies’ resolve to get more pitching during the offseason, and to his credit, he did. Indeed, much of the leverage the Rockies will have in the coming weeks stems from those moves, especially in the bullpen.

Who should the Rockies trade? Let’s start with Brad Hand, Pierce Johnson, and Brent Suter. For those saying no one is interested in Hand or Johnson, their home-road splits suggest that both are experiencing the Coors Effect.

  • Hand: 6.14 at Coors; 4.20 away
  • Johnson: 8.27 at Coors; 3.86 away
  • Suter: 3.44 at Coors; 2.31 away

According to Patrick Saunders, Suter is the player who has received the most interest. Although he is coming off an oblique injury, reports suggest his recovery is ahead of schedule. All of these relievers should be traded.

As for position players, Randal Grichuk is an obvious choice, and he seems to have found his swing. Currently, he has a wRC+ of 105, and he has reduced his GB% from 50.9% (one of the highest in MLB last season) to 39.4%, which is consistent with his career average. He’s also now hit four home runs and has a OBP of .359, the highest (by far) of his career.

Defensively, he would be a solid fourth outfielder. His salary for 2023 is just over $10 million with the Blue Jays contributing $4.3 million.

The Rockies should also consider any offers on All-Star catcher Elias Díaz. In terms of all MLB catchers, Díaz is ranked 8th by fWAR (0.6). His nine home runs also tie him for 8th. Defensively, he has been solid. Díaz is in the second year of a team-friendly $14.5 million contract. Trading Díaz probably gives the Rockies their greatest opportunity.

For various reasons, it seems less likely the Rockies will be able to trade Charlie Blackmon, Harold Castro, CJ Cron, and Jurickson Profar. That they would keep Blackmon makes sense. After the deadline, however, the Rockies will need to decide how these players fit into the team’s plans.

Let the kids play

This is an old refrain, but the Rockies need to allow young players to make mistakes and develop. To be fair, they’ve seen some success this season. Currently, Nolan Jones, for example, is the Rockies’ best hitter (though he’s cooled off a bit) with a terrific arm. Ezequiel Tovar is on the cusp on being an elite shortstop.

For the rest of the season, the Rockies need to allow players who represent the future to get additional experience.

On the flip side, they need to consider adding to trade packages players such as Elehuris Montero, who do not appear to have a clear place on the roster.

Utilize Bud Black’s skill as a manager

This is where you’re probably going to disagree with me, but Bud Black is the manager for this moment.

I realize that a common complaint here is his unwillingness to play less-experienced players — and I’ll agree to an extent. However, the Rockies’ commitment to Tovar, Doyle, and Jones shows that the team will give consistent playing time to those who are productive. That said, in the near term, the Rockies will need to play the veterans to improve their trade opportunities.

After the trade deadline, however, if the Rockies regularly play less-experienced players as they should, it’s probably going to mean some tough losses. The manager will need to balance those learning experiences with keeping a positive atmosphere in the clubhouse. That’s a big job that requires an experienced leader, and Bud Black is that person. (This topic is addressed at length in the podcast linked below.)

Let me provide an example.

I was there for the Angels series and that historically bad 25-1 loss. Black’s handling of the postgame situation was masterful. I don’t know what he told players in the clubhouse, but I know what he told the media and, by extension, the public. That night after the loss, he said it counted the same as any other loss and that it was time to move on, minimizing the shellacking as best he could. The next day, he met with the press before the game — something he does not always do on Sundays. Black understood that his job, in addition to managing a team, was changing the narrative.

This was happening as Mike Moustakas was moving into a new clubhouse. He was popular with the Rockies players, and this change coupled with the previous night’s loss created substantial stress. Bud Black handled it, and that’s no small thing.

I don’t agree with all his decisions (what’s with a different lineup every day?), but I believe a managerial change at this time would be a mistake.

The players appear to like and trust Bud Black. Given how the rest of the season will probably play out, that’s important.

Closing thoughts

The rest of the season is going to be challenging because there is probably more losing than winning ahead, but that’s part of getting better — and the Rockies need to use what remains of this season to prepare for the next one.

In the offseason, Bill Schmidt did much of what he said he would do, and I expect him to bring the same approach to this trade deadline.

★★★

The Park Adjusted Rockies Podcast #83 | Mark Knudson and Manny Randhawa

This podcast includes an interview with Bud Black (who addresses adjustments he’s had to make given injuries) as well as a roundtable discussion with Knudson and Randhawa as well as Patrick Saunders and Thomas Harding. It is a frank assessment of where the Rockies are now.

Saunders vs. Newman: Will the Rockies Lose 100 Games This Season? Does It Matter? | Denver Post ($)

Saunders and Newman debate whether they think the Rockies will lose 100 games (they do) and the possible effect on the players and the organization.

★★★

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