If you can get value at the trade deadline for a 41 year old closer who doesn’t strike anybody out, don’t you take that deal?
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That is an opportunity that the Colorado Rockies will potentially have with LaTroy Hawkins. To give full credit to the popular veteran, he has been nothing short of stellar this season. In 37 appearances he has posted a 3.09 ERA and recorded 17 saves. That relatively low number of saves is a product of lack of opportunities, to be absolutely certain.
What might be more impressive is the fact that Hawkins is able to overcome a depressing 4.4 K/9 mark and still post a 3.68 FIP, a metric that accounts more for the things a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs). Not walking people helps in that regard, sure, but Hawkins’ 1.89 SO/W ratio this season falls well short of his ridiculous 5.50 mark in that category last year.
It is nothing if not intriguing that the Rockies could flip Hawkins for value after signing him to a low-risk deal this past off-season. Thomas Harding reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in trading for Hawkins:
"The Rockies don’t appear to be willing to make a major trade at Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but interest could pick up in a smaller deal for closer LaTroy Hawkins……the Pirates are believed to be interested in the 41-year-old right-hander. With the Rockies requiring players that can help them at the start of next season and always searching for young pitching under club control, a deal could be difficult but not impossible."
In many senses it seems obvious that the Rockies should trade Hawkins. The veteran’s ability to defy regression into his 40’s is impressive, but the Rockies still have to wonder about getting caught with their pants down if he does come back to earth when they could have traded him.
Harding does note that the Rockies see reasons to keep Hawkins, having mostly to do with the organizational unrest of the moment:
"But Hawkins enjoys Colorado, and the Rockies believe he has value even if the team doesn’t win this year. The Rockies’ young pitchers have struggled but some have bright futures, and the club believes Hawkins’ work ethic and willingness to lend experience are valuable even if it doesn’t show up in the younger pitchers immediately."
Normally I would find this to be a silly reason to keep an aging relief pitcher, but I wonder about his value for this specific Rockies team. Dick Monfort is still trying to dig out of his P.R. hole, nobody knows how the front office works, and the trade rumors surrounding Troy Tulowitzki are going to remain fast and furious. Overblown though distractions can be, that sounds like a tough environment in which to play.
The Rockies need certain young players to play and develop between now and the end of the season in that chaotic context. Maybe there is truly value in this case in keeping Hawkins to provide stability in the locker room.
Should the Rockies focus on the notion of getting talent in return for Hawkins, or should they keep him for his work ethic and leadership? That is the question for the front office, pending the quality of an offer from the Pirates or some other interested suitor.