It’s time to break up the Rockies
Now that Nolan Arenado [28.8] has openly voiced his frustrations about his situation in Colorado, his relationship with the Rockies seems to have passed the point of no return. A trade now seems inevitable.
Relatedly, the Rockies’ near-term future looks challenging at best. They finished in last place in 2019, completely collapsing after their playoff run in 2018. They did nothing to improve the major-league team this offseason (which is one reason why Arenado is upset). They seem to be financially hamstrung by several underwater contracts, including those of relievers Wade Davis [-12.3] , Jake McGee [-11.4] and Bryan Shaw [-11.0] , and outfielders Ian Desmond [-25.0] and Charlie Blackmon [-19.6] , none of whom seem moveable in trades.
Meanwhile, the farm system is not great. There’s Brendan Rodgers [38.2] , then there’s a big drop-off in value, and importantly, not much in the way of young pitching, which the Rockies always need, since they have trouble attracting free agent pitchers to Coors Field.
So wouldn’t it make sense to just blow it up?
On the positive side, four veteran players — Arenado, Story, Gray and reliever Scott Oberg [13.8] — have significant surplus value (a combined $129.8M, by our estimates). And if they trade Arenado, they might as well trade the other three, too, and just start fresh. The team can then build around their best young pitcher, German Marquez [118.3] , and use trades to bolster both the future lineup and future rotation. There’s enough surplus value among those four to generate a nice rebuild.
So what might that look like?
Here are some potential options — your mileage may vary:
The condition here is that Arenado agrees to waive both his no-trade clause and his opt-out, in exchange for an extra year at the back end of his contract. The Rangers get a star to fill their 3B hole for the long-term, creating more excitement for the opening of their new ballpark (and they might be able to afford his contract, which is an important condition to any acquiring team). Colorado gets the Rangers’ top prospect in Huff, a toolsy OF prospect in Taveras, and a lottery ticket arm.
The Reds fill their SS hole with an all-star whose window of control matches their win-now push. The Rockies get a potential replacement for Arenado at 3B with India, along with high-upside pitchers Lodolo and Santillan, and a bit of a lottery ticket in De Leon, who is a former Top 100 prospect himself.
The Phillies bolster their rotation for their current window. The Rockies get their top two pitching prospects.
The Mets bolster their troubled bullpen, and the Rockies get the Mets’ top pitching prospect and a placeholder arm (who was also a former Top 100 prospect).
Summing up the returns for the Rockies, they get:
3B Jonathan India
C/1B Sam Huff
OF Leody Taveras
SP Spencer Howard
SP Tony Santillan
SP Nick Lodolo
SP Matthew Allan
SP Francisco Morales
RHP Jose De Leon
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
LHP Taylor Hearn
These prospects would complement a younger core in Colorado that also includes Rodgers, Garrett Hampson, Ryan Vilade, Sam Hilliard, and Michael Toglia on the offensive side, and Marquez, Peter Lambert, and Ryan Rolison (and maybe Kyle Freeland if he bounces back) on the pitching side.
The Rockies also receive significant salary relief, which they can then use to fill the gaps when their next competitive window starts. Unfortunately, they would have to eat those dead-money contracts on their books, but on the bright side, Blackmon can play the role of veteran leader for the incoming kids.
In my view, that’s a strategy that makes much more sense than sticking with the status quo. It will take patience, and not all of these prospects will pan out, but it would give Rockies fans a lot to dream on for their next wave.