If the Colorado Rockies were to trade Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez this off-season, could it be in an effort to clear salary for future moves?
Perhaps the strongest argument for trading Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez this off-season is the scarcity of impact position players who are available in free agency.
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That seems to be the mindset of a Rockies’ front office that is willing to “listen” but nothing more on their two star players this winter: they don’t feel like they have to trade either of them, but Jeff Bridich and company are willing to keep the door open in case a potential trade partner gets desperate and overwhelms them with an offer.
In assuming that it is a matter of getting a crazy offer in terms of players offered, have we overlooked the potential motivation for the Rockies to get out from under some salary? It seems like everyday that I write that Troy Tulowitzki will never be overpaid as long as there is even the remote possibility that he stays healthy, but the combined money left for him and Carlos Gonzalez remains problematic, as does the team’s top-heavy payroll.
We talked about the possibility that the Rockies will have to make a trade to sign any impact free agents, and now Tracy Ringolsby writes that he thinks the Rockies need to get serious about such deals for the payroll flexibility it would create:
"As things have developed, the daring thing would be to trade both of them in search of salary relief — which means there’s a good chance five years from now fans will talk about how the team didn’t get anything in return. The key to that, however, would be opening up payroll to address areas of concern, sort of like when the Rockies traded Larry Walker."
Well, kinda. Walker was 37 when the Rockies traded him mid-season, and while he was great, he was not entering his prime like Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are. The point is still well taken, however, especially given the context of the injury histories that linger over both players. Ringolsby continues:
"What will be overlooked, however, was by moving Walker they saved $2 million in salary, which provided scouting director Bill Schmidt money to sign Dexter Fowler the day before he was to head to the University of Miami. So you could say the Rockies acquired Fowler in that deal and also had salary space opened for the coming years."
The point, I think, is that the Rockies might have to make a trade now to get out from under one of these salaries in a deal that won’t immediately look good for Colorado. What might happen in the case of such a trade, however, is that the value will emerge down the road because of the proactive move, even if the return was not immediately apparent.
I am OK with this logic for a Carlos Gonzalez trade. Take a lesser return in terms of players to unload the entirety of CarGo’s salary. Especially considering the potentially diminished returns for Gonzalez coming off knee surgery, that might very well be the right course of action.
I am not OK with this for Troy Tulowitzki. If the shortstop ever stays healthy, however unlikely that feels, the Rockies will have one of the five best players in baseball. Trading that upside for some room in payroll is a no-go, at least in this writer’s opinion.