Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Colorado Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez?

The Colorado Rockies have six outfielders on their big league roster. Pending another (not unlikely) injury, manager Walt Weiss will continue to face a daunting challenge when it comes to finding enough playing time for all six guys.

That raises the possibility of a trade, something that has been explored a little bit since the days before the 2014 regular season started. I wondered at the time if the Rockies would trade Charlie Blackmon. That obviously is not going to happen. Drew Stubbs could maybe be a candidate, but it just seems unlikely.

The most logical trade piece would probably be veteran right fielder Michael Cuddyer. His contract is up at season’s end, and rumors are that the Rockies plan to issue him a qualifying offer. With the pop he has shown and the fact he will be a free agent, the coldblooded truth is that he is the guy who might fetch decent value and make the most sense to move.

That doesn’t matter, of course, because everybody loves Cuddy and the front office will surely insist that he is off-limits because he is just the best guy ever.

So if not Cuddy…should the Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez? Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports argues that they should in a column that posted Tuesday morning:

That’s right, CarGo, who comprises one-half of the duo the Rockies supposedly cannot win without, the other half being Tulo, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Well, the Rockies aren’t winning with CarGo, and they aren’t trading Tulo, the best shortstop in baseball.

The best way to build a lasting contender would be to get a decent return for Gonzalez while escaping the bulk of his remaining guarantee — about $7 million more this season, then $53 million combined from 2015-17.

The Rockies are loaded with outfielders. They need to create more at-bats for Corey Dickerson. Gonzalez, 28, lacks a no-trade clause, making ownership the only real obstacle to moving him.

Let me preface each and every one of the following comments by saying that I’m not sure if the Rockies should trade CarGo or not, but I lean towards no.

Here is something we have learned this year. The Rockies can afford to lose CarGo if Tulo is healthy. They cannot afford to lose Tulo, even if CarGo is healthy. Their importance is not equal, partially because of the superior options behind Gonzalez on the outfield depth chart and partially because of the fact that Tulowitzki plays shortstop and partially because Tulo is just that damn good.

The back ends of CarGo and Tulo’s contracts stand to present a problem. That has topped the list of reasons why people assume that the Rockies will have to trade Tulo. But if it is just a matter of not being able to keep both, the team should clearly move the outfielder and not the shortstop.

As far as justifying a trade as a necessary move to clear up the situation in the outfield, I am not totally persuaded by that. Count me among the people who believe that Corey Dickerson absolutely needs to play more, especially when the team is grasping for offense. But it’s just about him, right? We aren’t overly concerned about freeing up at-bats for Drew Stubbs (who is gone at season’s end, possibly) and Brandon Barnes, right?

The Rockies can afford to lose CarGo if Tulo is healthy. They cannot afford to lose Tulo, even if CarGo is healthy.

The Rockies need four good outfielders, both to account for injuries and for games when Cuddyer plays first base. If the Rockies quit treating Dickerson as an interchangeable part with Stubbs and Barnes, could that do enough to get him at-bats? Maybe not, but you might opt for that instead of the considerable risk of trading Gonzalez.

It would also be a question of the return you would get for CarGo, at which point I would push back on Rosenthal’s claim that the “only” thing standing in the way of a CarGo trade is ownership. There is also the problem of getting the desired return, or even a good return, for a guy who is regarded as elite when he is right. At the present moment it just wouldn’t happen.

It is also important to remember the following bit of wisdom that I made up myself: video game trades don’t happen in real life. 

The Rockies don’t get to just announce their price to a potential trade partner and get it: we will take three top pitching prospects and a major league ready player, thank you! It’s been a pleasure doing business with you!

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Teams would low-ball the (bleep) out of the Rockies in any offer for CarGo. The fact that he is under team control for a number of years would certainly give the Rockies a bit more leverage, but they would have to also factor in his home/road splits (according to Rosenthal) and his trouble with injuries.

Which brings us to the most complicated part of this conversation about Carlos Gonzalez, both as a potential trade chip and generally speaking: these injuries have changed the kind of player he is. As indicated in Patrick Saunders’ piece in the Denver Post about CarGo this morning, these finger issues and especially this knee injury have sapped the five-tool part of CarGo’s game…at least for now.

For now, he has been reduced to an outfielder who can hit and play an OK outfield with an outstanding arm; he is more like a 2.5-3.0 tool player. On the one hand, that might take a big bite out of his trade value. On the other hand, I suppose you could argue that it might make it easier to depart with him if the Rockies did pursue a trade.

Ultimately my preference would be to keep CarGo and hope that he gets healthy every time you ask. I still find that to be the option that is less risky and that has higher upside than trading a proven star for unproven prospects.

But I did not find myself completely aghast at the notion, making my reaction different enough from all those Tulo trade rumors that I suppose it might at least be worth a discussion.

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  • Richard Bergstrom

    I remember something Geivett said at the SABR Analytics conference which was something similar to “We built this team around core players. Those core players have not created a winning team.” I think they may pull the trigger on CarGo just like they did with Ubaldo.

    • Hayden Kane

      See that’s really interesting. Do you think they could get a good enough return for him?

      • Richard Bergstrom

        Well, the trick is that how I value players and how the Rockies do are drastically different. For example, I would’ve thought the Rockies could’ve gotten more for Fowler or given up less to get Lyles. I didn’t like Iannetta for Chatwood or trading Seth Smith while signing Cuddyer.

        If the Rockies traded Gonzalez right now, they’d be selling low. If the front office thinks that they are not contending in 2014, there’s little reason to trade him right now unless they get a bundle of goodies that they like. Just as Blackmon was hot for a month, Cargo has some time to recoup his value (and has a better track record of doing so than Blackmon).

        But if it’s midseason and the Rockies are middling around .500 without sniffing contention, I think a Cargo trade is very realistic.

        • Hayden Kane

          It seems to me that if they wanted to make a “bold” move, it would involve trading CarGo when he’s playing more like himself – then you stand a chance to get a nice haul for him. To do so while he is struggling so much with his numbers and with injuries would be panicky, I think. But the comparison to Ubaldo is a very interesting one…

  • CharlieMurphy

    I could see the Red Sox and Rockies matching up well for a CarGo trade if they decide to move him this season. The Sox obviously have a huge OF need, and they also have a surplus of prospects at some positions where the Rockies might be looking to upgrade. I guess a lot of that depends on if the Sox are worried about CarGo’s home/away splits… but a deal centering on Cecchini, Swihart, and Webster could work out for both sides.

    • Hayden Kane

      Thanks for the comment Charlie – as far as a need in the outfield, the Red Sox would definitely top the list. It would come down to the prospects, I would think. CarGo’s home/road splits can be frustrating, but Rosenthal cherrypicked his stats a bit to support that point. CarGo mashed on the road in 2013. I wouldn’t think that would be a huge concern…IF the Rockies go were willing to listen.

  • Darian Williams

    I say just put him on the DL and let the hot hitter Dickerson start. See if its just the injuries or if he’s actually lost it. It all depends on how we go into the all star break though.

    • Hayden Kane

      After last night’s game that certainly seems like the way to go – his value is about as low as it will get right now. Thanks for the comment.