Who Are Your Colorado Rockies Untouchables?
By Bobby DeMuro
Mar 25, 2015; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) celebrates with third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) and left fielder Corey Dickerson (6) after hitting a two run home run in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
An interesting discussion on Twitter got me thinking… in a hypothetical world where the Colorado Rockies started trading almost everybody, who are the untouchables you wouldn’t part with under any circumstances?
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During the Rockies most recent slaughter – a two-game, one-day affair at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday – some smart folks from Purple Row, Rockies Zingers, and yes, even Rox Pile (and everywhere else on the Rockies web!) engaged in an interesting discussion.
After Chris Chrisman opined about what this year should mean to Rockies fans, the debate started: who’s worth keeping? If the Rockies completely tank like the last two weeks have shown, and become sellers by the trading deadline, who could you absolutely not part with from this roster?
In other words, who are your untouchables, the players you would under no circumstance consider trading to a contender this summer, if the worst were to happen to the Rockies?
While my list is, of course, my own opinion, let me make the case for the five guys I’d keep above anyone else and use to build around moving forward: Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki, Corey Dickerson, Jordan Lyles, and Adam Ottavino.
Troy Tulowitzki, who I’ll mention momentarily, is the super star of the present day for the Rockies; Nolan Arenado represents the super star of the future. In Arenado, the Rockies have arguably the best third baseman in the game – and certainly the best defensive third baseman – and he’s someone who ought to be locked up into a long-term deal sooner rather than later.
Looking far, far ahead, after many good years at third base, Arenado could then move over to first to finish his Rockies career and man the corners for the next decade or more at 20th and Blake. It’d be foolish to trade Arenado for anything now, and it’d be equally foolish not to give him a long-term contract; he’s proven himself time and again over several years and ought to be seem as a corner stone of the franchise going forward. This one is kind of a no-brainer.
I know, there’s a lot of “Trade Tulo” talk out there, and it will only ramp up if the Rockies are as bad as they’ve seemed to be the last couple weeks, so you can make a good argument to trade him. But if you’re going to trade him, you’d better get an incredible haul of players back, because Tulo is with no exaggeration one of the very best players in baseball.
Yes, he’s now 30 years old, and yes, he’s had injury problems his entire career, but if you trade away a guy with Tulo’s once-in-a-generation talent, you may not find a comparable baseball player for fifteen or twenty years.
Trade that talent away, and you’ll regret it forever. Instead, build around him (and build quick, he’s not getting younger!).
With the right young nucleus (Arenado, Corey Dickerson) around him, Tulo can still be (nearly) as valuable for the Rockies in his 30s as he was in his 20s.
Carlos Gonzalez is an incredible player, but with the cold streaks he’s prone to endure multiple times throughout each year fast becoming the stuff of legend, it’s easier to make the case to move him than it is Tulo. My point of view won’t change on this even if the Rockies lose 110 games this summer: trade CarGo, trade Justin Morneau, trade Charlie Blackmon and trade LeMahieu before you trade Troy Tulowitzki.
He’s limited defensively, but he could possibly be a long-term candidate to move to first base if his bat continues to prove to be valuable enough as he gets older. Either way, he’s a batting champ in the making who hits for average and power, and his presence already changes the feel of a lineup, whether he hits second, or further down the order.
Assuming the Rockies take my advice (ha) and keep Tulo and Arenado, the pairing of Dickerson’s left-handed bat with those two right-handed sticks would pack a hell of a punch for pitchers across the league for years to come.
Apr 23, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles (24) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
I know, this one is a little out there, but remember: Lyles is the same age (like, down to the day) as Tyler Matzek, the guy with the supposed huge “upside” who’s had massive control problems in the minor leagues and now here in Denver.
And Lyles, unlike Matzek, has a ton of big league experience already, having just thrown his 100th big league game while still being just 24 years old.
Lyles may not have the great upside a pitcher like Matzek (or Eddie Butler, or Jon Gray), but Lyles also doesn’t have as low a floor; he’s stable, and increasingly consistent as he becomes a better big league pitcher.
He’s the innings eater and quality arm that Kyle Kendrick should have been, and whether or not you’d like to admit it, Lyles is the ace of the staff this season.
Now none of this means you throw him $100 million when he hits free agency, but it does mean the Rockies ought to evaluate his consistent health (remember, his injury last season was a freak non-throwing arm issue) and increasingly steady work on the mound, and make him a part of the future as prospects and also-rans fill out the rotation around him for the next few years.
This one is also a no-brainer like Arenado, not only because Ottavino is lights out, but also because he’s likely now facing Tommy John surgery and won’t be coveted by anybody this year, anyways. But, even after he returns from elbow issues, Ottavino has a strong relief track record and is finally coming into his own with a plus-fastball and wipeout slider.
Assuming his return from Tommy John surgery next year (or whatever he decides on this week) will be complete, as it is for so many players nowadays, Ottavino is the reliever we were all hoping Rex Brothers would become.
One player I purposely didn’t mention… DJ LeMahieu.
Absolutely no disrespect to LeMahieu here, and he’s been the team’s MVP so far this year, but second basemen are relatively more expendable than, say, shortstops. It’s a position the Rockies could conceivably fill fairly easily and well enough with in-house options like Christhian Adames or Trevor Story.
Plus, depending on the offer a hypothetical team in need might possibly make, LeMahieu could fetch the Rockies a nice return if they sell high.
Bobby, does this mean you want to start trading players?
No! Don’t misread this as my manifesto to demand the Rockies blow it up, trade everyone immediately, and get worse for the rest of the year just to get some prospects back.
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That’s not my argument, and it shouldn’t really be anyone’s argument just 26 games into the year.
I merely used this as a way to start thinking about who would be untouchable if the Rockies started trading players a few months from now, or this winter.
Surely, Rockies management has an idea like this in their heads about who their untouchables might be, and will work backwards from there to evaluate the future of the club.