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Why the Colorado Rockies will not trade Michael Cuddyer or any outfielder

Before the season it seemed so simple. The Colorado Rockies were counting on Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer to be studs in the corners of their outfield. The team could then simply let things fall where they may with the likes of Drew Stubbs, Charlie Blackmon, Brandon Barnes, and Corey Dickerson.

While each of those guys had some upside, you can’t blame the Rockies for thinking that the competition would yield tidy results. They were probably counting on an outcome like this or some variation thereof:

  • CF Platoon: Stubbs/Dickerson
  • 5th outfielder: Blackmon
  • Triple-A depth: Barnes

When a quirky roster situation emerged at the beginning of the season the team decided to carry six outfielders. Combined with an injury to Cuddyer, the Rockies had the chance to get every one of the outfielders an extended look. It was at that point that a welcome and well-known problem presented itself. Illustrated in the form of slash lines below:

  • Blackmon: .352/.385/.614/.998
  • Dickerson: .375/.393/.714/1.108
  • Stubbs: .297/.341/.446/.787
  • Barnes: .343/.398/.447/.845

At this point you might think that defense has created separation among the group, but not so: Stubbs and Barnes are elite defenders while Blackmon and the much-improved Dickerson present minimal drop-offs. Blackmon and Barnes tout the most versatility in terms of Weiss’s willingness to play them in the corners, but that is splitting hairs.

So what you have here is four guys playing well and nowhere to play them when Cuddyer returns. At this point we should note that Cuddy’s production pre-injury was nothing to sneeze at either: .317/.373/.533/.906 through 16 games. And if you think playing Cuddyer at first base is a solution, you will quickly remember that is not much of an option with Justin Morneau batting .329/.356/.593/.949 so far and holding his own against left-handed pitchers (.300 average in 20 games).

When faced with such a situation, a surplus of quality players at the same position, the natural solution seems to be a trade. In the case of the Rockies and their historical issues on the mound, the solution becomes: trade one of those outfielders for a pitcher.

It’s not that simple, though, and frankly it probably is not an option. As Drew Creasman notes over at Purple Row, the Rockies will likely opt for depth over the risk of trading one of these guys, especially given the uncertainty of the return you could get for one of them.

I have crafted and perpetuated the following motto in the last couple years: video game trades don’t happen in real life. Yes, it would be awesome if the Rockies could trade Stubbs for a solid starting pitcher or if they could just turn and deal Cuddyer to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija. People think those options are real and then get mad when the Rockies do not act.

Those options are not real. Those kinds of clean, convenient trades do not happen in real life. Pitching is the currency of Major League Baseball. These points just start to explain why nobody should be surprised or upset if the Rockies’ front office does not trade one of these outfielders for pitching.

Here are some more reasons, one outfielder at a time, why there will not be a deal for an outfielder.

Michael Cuddyer – the Qualifying Offer

The questions about a Cuddyer trade will be asked a lot in the coming weeks and months. It makes sense: he is a veteran in a contract year on a deal that overpays him, right? Why wouldn’t they trade him?

The Rockies place tremendous value in Cuddyer’s presence in the locker room. That will be the answer offered in many cases when folks ask about trading Cuddy. But the real reason might have more to do with the cold-hearted business of baseball: the now infamous qualifying offer.

I refer you to a tweet from Jon Heyman all the way back on April 1st.

Of all the scenarios with Cuddyer’s uncertain future in Colorado, the Rockies probably figure that the best value they could possibly envision in return for losing him is the high draft pick they would receive if a team went crazy and signed him after he turned down a qualifying offer.

Those kinds of clean, convenient trades do not happen in real life.

We should also stop for a moment and look at the second half of Heyman’s tweet: with Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew toiling away in free agency waiting for the amateur draft to pass, future Q.O. players might be more willing to take the deal. And of that group Cuddy might be the guy most likely to do it of them all.

If that entire complicated scenario plays itself out then the Rockies get to keep Cuddyer, something they surely will not complain about because they love him. The logic of trading a player in his walk year is that the team knows they will lose him anyway so they might as well get value for him; the Rockies are not ready to assume that Cuddyer is gone after the season and they would presumably like to see if they can keep him.

Granted they could end up keeping him for a big number if he does get to that stage and accept the offer, but it would only be for one more season. The Rockies would likely find that risk to be well worth it for a combination of the reasons offered here.

In the end, the Rockies probably want to wait and see with their beloved silver-fox outfielder. They can afford to do so because of the protection offered by the qualifying offer. They will not trade Michael Cuddyer in 2014.

Charlie Blackmon – too valuable

When he was a risk to not make the team I thought a trade for Blackmon was very much in play. The combination of his hot start and the versatility he offers make him too valuable at this point. Unless a team goes crazy with an offer because they either believe in his hot start or have a thing for his beard, @Chuck_Nazty isn’t going anywhere.

Corey Dickerson – too high an upside

Dickerson will quickly become the player opposing teams frequently ask for in a trade package; that is probably as good a sign as any that the Rockies should hold onto him long term. Any deal involving Dickerson would have to be a blockbuster, like say if the Rockies put together a giant package for David Price that involved him and multiple top pitching prospects…and before you get excited and say that the Rockies should do exactly that…just, no.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

This team cannot afford to overpay in prospects in a trade for “proven” players. The good thing is the Rockies have no history whatsoever of pulling the trigger on such deals. Dickerson isn’t going anywhere.

Drew Stubbs – $4 million

While the Rockies are thrilled with the production from Stubbs, they probably are not thrilled with the amount of money they pay him. The likelihood that another team would trade for Stubbs and take on that cap hit is quite low. The Rockies would rather pay Stubbs to play for them than for another team, especially given the value of his defense.

Brandon Barnes – seriously?

Look, Brandon Barnes has won me over. I was not a believer before the season; you probably could have called me a “hater,” insomuch as the term is used in similar contexts. He has been a pleasant surprise and I am a big fan. But even if the Rockies believe his strong start is for real, it is unlikely other teams agree. They certainly won’t agree to the extent that they will give up anything of value in a trade. Barnes also brings valuable speed and defense and plays well off the bench. He will stay with the Rockies for the foreseeable future.

MLB trade rumors are always fun. And yes, the Rockies might have possibilities to make a move with this surplus of outfielders. Maybe they will surprise me and make a trade, but I find it unlikely with any of these players.

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Tags: Brandon Barnes Colorado Rockies Corey Dickerson Drew Stubbs Michael Cuddyer

  • JD

    Barnes to AAA is the obvious move when Cuddyer returns. His offense is the least likely to remain MLB-caliber; let him regress in a Sky Sox uniform. Stubbs is better than him in every way and should be the fifth outfielder, while Dickerson and Cuddyer platoon RF (with Cuddy also seeing some starts at 1B).

    • Hayden Kane

      I agree about Barnes, but I think the team has made it clear that they love him so that complicates what might be the most logical move. It should be interesting to see. Thanks for the comment JD.

  • Eric Garcia McKinley

    Great analysis! I completely agree that stockpiling MLB-caliber OF depth is the smartest move here, at least right now. I really hope that Cuddy isn’t offered a QO, because I’m positive he’ll take it. It will also be an overpay on the Rockies part. The best case scenario for all involved is probably a re-evaluation of the roster and the state of the season in July and then, and only then, a trade near the deadline. It means that Cuddy can be a FA without the possibility of a QO, and the Rockies will create the room to give Dickerson more playing time this year and Kyle Parker some next year (who can also play first to spell Morneau).

    • Hayden Kane

      Thanks Eric – I agree with you that the thought of Cuddy accepting a QO is terrifying. I’m just not sure the Rockies see it that way because their judgment is a bit clouded by their love for the guy. One thing is for sure – it’s only going to get harder to justify blocking Dickerson from getting enough at-bats to have an impact. If everybody stays healthy, it will take some serious creativity on Walt’s part to make this work.

  • basicknowledge

    Barnes is clearly the odd man out. I appreciate the effort he’s given and the hot start, but he is 28 years old with a career minor league slash line of .261/.323/.443/.765. Basically, his only track record is hitting well for a year and a half between AA and AAA at ages 25 and 26. Also, his defense so far this year has not been what it is cracked up to be. I think your analysis is right that no other club is looking to offer much for him, but if he can be packaged or dealt for a bullpen arm do it. His value will surely never be higher than it is right now. If not he’s back to AAA. I think keeping the remaining 5 is a reasonable approach given the significant injury histories of Cargo and Cuddyer (and even Blackmon to some extent), and the fact that Dickerson is not proven and was never a can’t-miss prospect. I like what he’s done so far but he’s by no means a slam dunk. If everyone’s healthy and the Rockies are still in contention in July, deal someone for at least bullpen help. If Dickerson continues to play well, what’s the sense in keeping Cuddyer? Is he really that great in the clubhouse? He was there for the dumpster fires the last two years and the Rox recent winning streak coincided with him going on the DL. Giving him a contract next year to block Dicerson (and possibly Parker) makes no sense. Rox management is clearly obsessed with him so that’s probably what they’ll do, but it is foolish. Try to get something for him in July if Dickerson’s a success.

    • Hayden Kane

      Great points – I had actually forgotten that the Rox have lost Blackmon a couple times to injury. While we obviously want everybody to stay healthy, you do wonder if things will work themselves out without the team having to make a move because somebody goes down with an injury. If that doesn’t happen, I agree with you that Barnes should be the odd man out…I’m just not sure if Walt Weiss agrees with us.