The MLB trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and while there’s been plenty of talk about the Colorado Rockies being sellers, they should also be looking to add pieces that can help them in the near future (namely 2017).
With first base looming as a question mark for next season, here’s a modest proposal for how the Rockies can add a proven big bat to their lineup for cheap.
It might be a cliche, but every baseball player (and person, for that matter) develops on their own timeline. The career of Oakland Athletics third baseman Danny Valencia is a prime example of this.
Originally drafted by the Twins, Valencia hit the big leagues in 2010 and found immediate success; he had a .311 batting average and finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting. The hype around Valencia grew dramatically, but in 2011 the league adjusted to him and he struggled to adjust back.
By 2012, the Twins had essentially given up on Valencia and shipped him off to Boston for virtually nothing. The Red Sox eventually designated him for assignment, and over the next three years, Valencia had stops in Baltimore, Kansas City and Toronto before arriving in Oakland in August of last season.
So, why do the Colorado Rockies want a 31-year-old third baseman who’s played for almost half of the teams in the American League in the last five seasons? Well, because even though no one seems to want him, Valencia is a dangerous power hitter and would be a massive improvement over any of the Rockies current first base options.
Since the start of 2015, Valencia has put up a slash line of .294/.354/.497 (BA/OBP/SLG). That’s roughly equal to the level of offensive production that Eric Hosmer has given the Kansas City Royals, except Hosmer was the MVP of the All-Star game this season and the A’s are considering designating Valencia for assignment.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week on how Valencia doesn’t fit in to the A’s future plans, writing that, “With little trade interest in Danny Valencia and the A’s deciding to go young, Valencia… might wind up as a DFA, as he was in Toronto at this time last season.”
If Oakland is considering the DFA route, you’d have to imagine they’d be happy to get any kind of return for him. The Rockies can move on Valencia now and probably get him without giving up anything of long-term value. Valencia will only have five years of MLB service time at the end of the season, which means Colorado would get his last arbitration year (and could retain him for a reasonable salary) in 2017.
Obviously, this is not a flawless player Colorado would be receiving. Valencia has always mashed left-handed pitching, but his track record against right-handers is spotty up until joining Oakland. He’s also not particularly athletic, and as a result, he’s a mediocre defensive infielder.
These are concerns the Rockies can forgive though, especially when they wouldn’t be committed to him long term and he costs less than Jake McGee. If the Rockies trade for him and he stinks in Colorado, they can cut ties and move on with little consequence.
Danny Valencia isn’t a future MVP, and he’s probably not a player you’ll tell your grandchildren about, but he’s affordable, he’s available, and he looks like a big upgrade over Mark Reynolds, Ben Paulsen or any of the first baseman due to be free agents at the end of the season. That alone should be enough to get Colorado’s attention.