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.

Tags: Carlos Gonzalez Colorado Rockies

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