On Wednesday, we looked at three hypothetical trades that the Colorado Rockies could (should?) explore. We’re back today with three more moves that would make sense for the Blake Street Bombers, starting with a long-time fixture of the pitching rotation.
TRADE 1: Colorado Rockies trade LHP Jorge De La Rosa to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for C Chase Vellot
De La Rosa has been with the Rockies for so long, it’s easy to forget that he was once a part of the Kansas City Royals starting rotation. After all, when Colorado acquired the left-hander, Carlos Gonzalez was still a prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system and Nolan Arenado was a sophomore at El Toro High School.
All De La Rosa has done since is become the most successful pitcher in team history. DLR has won 83 games for the Rockies, more than every other pitcher currently on the team combined. He has an astonishing 52-18 record in his career at Coors Field, which means he has a higher home winning percentage since joining Colorado than Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner.
Sometimes the hardest part of trading a player is overcoming the sentimental attachment. DLR has been the “The King Of Coors Field” for a long time, and it’s inevitable that the franchise would grow attached to a player like that. If you look at his numbers though, there has been a long, noticeable decline in DLR’s performance.
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De La Rosa had the best year of his MLB career in 2013, going 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA. In every season since then, the wins have decreased and the ERA has risen. DLR was so shaky at the start of this season that he was temporarily demoted to the bullpen. Since regaining his starting spot, the results have been much better, which is why the time to act is now.
For all the (deserved) praise of the Royals bullpen, their starting rotation is, once again, a work in progress. As a group, KC starters this season are 28-37 with an ERA of 4.99. De La Rosa isn’t the ace most Royals fans probably want, but he is a solid veteran who can likely be relied on to keep you in most games. With the back-end of the bullpen being so strong, that’s really all they need.
The Rockies, on the other hand, receive an exciting power-hitting catching prospect who is having a tremendous year in High A ball despite being only 19 years old. Vallot has big-time pop and a big-time arm, two tools that really just cannot be taught. While he’s still probably a few years away from being big-league ready, Vallot would probably represent the club’s best catching prospect since Chris Iannetta.
And here’s the kicker; DLR is a free agent at the end of 2016 anyway, so if the Rockies really want to get him back, they could make that happen.
TRADE 2: Rockies trade OF Gerardo Parra to the Cleveland Indians for LHP Juan Hillman and 1B Nellie Rodriguez
The addition of Gerardo Parra via free agency last off-season was (rightly) questioned by many, not because Parra is a bad player (he’s not) or because the Rockies paid too much (the deal was fairly reasonable), but because he didn’t seem to fit the needs of a Colorado team seemingly gearing up to make a run, at the earliest, in 2017.
Well, we’re now slightly over halfway through year one of the deal, and frankly, it doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then. The fact that Parra has regressed offensively after what many called a breakout season in 2015 has not helped matters.
Parra is still likely a better option in left field than Brandon Barnes, but on a team that’s not likely to be in contention come September, the extra win or two you might get from Parra is just not worth his 3-year, $27.5M contract.
The Indians are one of the best stories in baseball this season. Their success is even more shocking when you consider that Michael Brantley, probably the team’s second-best player after Francisco Lindor, has been injured nearly all season. The outfield has been left thin by the injury though, and while rookie Tyler Naquin has been outstanding thus far, his numbers (particularly his .418 BABIP) scream “REGRESSION COMING SOON”.
Parra isn’t the sexiest fix to the problem, but he is at least an established big-league outfielder, something that’s in short supply for the current leaders of the AL Central. In exchange, the Rockies would get a young left-handed prospect (Hillman) who is dominating in the New York-Penn League right now (2-0, 1.03 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) and a first baseman (Rodriguez) who has popped 21 HRs in just 334 ABs at AA Akron this season.
TRADE 3: Rockies trade 3B Nolan Arenado to
Nope. Not happening.
TRADE 3: Rockies trade 2B DJ LeMahieu to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Jon Harris, RHP Justin Maese and 1B Rowdy Tellez
DJ LeMahieu is an interesting litmus test for how you analyze a baseball player. On one hand, you have a guy with a .334 batting average who won a Gold Glove in 2014 and was an all-star in 2015. By many traditional metrics, LeMahieu is an outstanding player.
But even in the best season of his career, DJ’s WAR is 17th out of 24 qualified second basemen. LeMahieu’s contributions will always be limited somewhat by his athleticism because he’s not doesn’t hit for much power and he’s not particularly fast. That’s not to say that he’s a bad baseball player (he isn’t), but he’s not the type of player you build a team around.
LeMahieu’s offensive skill set would be a great fit for Toronto, a team that’s mostly been relying on Darwin Barney at second. Barney has actually performed capably to this point, but LeMahieu is a much better hitter and at least close to Barney defensively. DJ could either hit in front of the Blue Jays sluggers and get great pitches to hit or behind them and see a lot more RBI opportunities.
So what does Colorado get? Jon Harris, a first round pick in 2015 that’s currently 8-1 in A ball, a 19-year old who throws 96 MPH and was a two-sport star in high school (Maese), and a first baseman with a great name (and a .901 OPS in AA) in Rowdy Tellez.
It’s a lot to give up for Toronto, but the Rockies can ask for a lot with LeMahieu. He’s still fairly young, he’s playing the best baseball of his career, and he won’t be a free agent until 2019. Even if he’s not the perfect player, that’s still a pretty valuable combo.