The Colorado Rockies probably won’t trade Jorge De La Rosa.
That is a mistake.
I do not write that as a fan. Anybody who has been subjected to watching Rockies’ games with me the last few years knows how much I love De La Rosa and how important I believe he is to this franchise.
But the fact of the matter is, the Rockies are not in a position to keep an aging starting pitcher who has struggled with injuries, has a career FIP north of 4.00 (4.36), and has a 4.33 FIP this season, even if he is a favorite and even if he is one of the most successful pitchers in franchise history.
If the Rockies do somehow manage to sign De La Rosa this off-season, they will be paying him whatever amount they do because of what he has done in the past, not what he will do in the future. For a team that is going to be 20 games below .500 for much of the remainder of this season pending an unlikely turnaround, that is unwise, even if De La Rosa has 11 of those wins.
Another argument in favor of trading De La Rosa is the guarantee that you could get value for him. If he does hit free agency, the Rockies are planning on using the protection of a qualifying offer. But that plan is, if nothing else, fickle, and we know from the Q.O. guys this past off-season that those situations can get dragged out for quite a while and do not necessarily guarantee the team a first round pick.
You also technically risk losing him for nothing in that scenario, in the admittedly unlikely case that De La Rosa would simply wait until after the draft to sign a deal.
Plus, what if he takes the qualifying offer? Then you are faced with a potential situation where De La Rosa is overpaid, again, and you are taking a huge risk that he will remain such a high-quality/lucky pitcher in his age 34 season.
If the Rockies were in position once again to flip De La Rosa at next year’s deadline, there is no guarantee what they would get for him. He might be a desirable target and he might not be. That is uncertain, and given the choice, I will take the certainty of the moment.
The Rockies know they will get something for De La Rosa right now, for a few reasons:
- He is healthy
- He is pitching extraordinarily well in July, driving up his value as contending teams feel the urgency of the moment
- This is decidedly a seller’s market, especially for starting pitching
It is hard to imagine De La Rosa’s trade value ever being higher than it is right now.
The return on a potential qualifying offer this winter for De La Rosa is a set price: either a first or a second round pick (or a beloved pitcher on a bloated one-year deal if he accepts the Q.O.). If it happened, a compensatory pick would yield one high quality prospect, presuming the front office drafts well with that extra pick.
By contrast, the return for De La Rosa at this deadline, especially given the apparent reluctance from the Rays to deal David Price or from the Phillies to deal Cole Hamels, could potentially be driven up and yield the Rockies more than one piece in a deal. An ace like those guys De La Rosa is not, but a palatable backup plan he is, and possibly a backup plan for whom teams would overpay in terms of prospects out of desperation.
Now would seem an appropriate time to remind you: I am a huge Jorge De La Rosa fan. If he remains with the Rockies, a small part of me will be overjoyed, happy to have the opportunity to cheer for him every fifth day. It just so happens that there is another part of me that is trying, like so many of us, to figure out what is best for this franchise and cannot imagine that keeping him is the answer.
The risk of trading him is the risk of any trade for prospects: it is no guarantee that any of those guys will work out. But it is no more a sure thing that De La Rosa will be a quality no. 2 or no. 3 starter in the coming seasons or that the qualifying offer will work out in the Rockies’ favor.
Of all those risks, it is my belief that snagging multiple pieces for De La Rosa, if that is actually a possibility, is the best path for the Rockies to take given their current state.
The Rockies need to learn a lot of different lessons from this season. Two of them are lessons that more successful mid to low market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays learned a long time ago: you need to know when to flip a guy for value, and you need to know better than to overpay for past results. Given the fact that the 2014 season has been a garbage fire for the Rockies and they unequivocally need to reconsider what they are doing (ah hem…rebuild), now is the time to start applying those lessons.
The thought of trading De La Rosa stings because of all that he has meant to the Rockies, but the time is now to get value for him in a deal with the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, or some other willing trade partner. The fan part of me hates it, but the guys in the front office don’t get paid to be fans. Here’s hoping they make the best business decision for the franchise in this case.