Colorado Rockies: Biggest Trades in Franchise History: 3-1

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Aug 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /
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#1: Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith

Oct 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) in the middle of the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) in the middle of the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

While Tulowitzki may have been the rookie sensation on the 2007 Rocktober squad, there’s no disputing who the best hitter was.

Holliday’s first three years in the big leagues were definitely nothing to look down on, but his fourth season in 2007 was ridiculous. Holliday led the league in hits, batting average, doubles and RBI, and was just edged out by Jimmy Rollins for NL MVP. He also came up big in the postseason, blasting 5 home runs in just 45 at-bats.

Things soured quickly after that though. That offseason, the Rockies made Holliday and his agent, Scott Boras, a large contract offer: the deal would have bought out his last two seasons of arbitration for $23M, then given him a four-year, $72M extension with a club option for a fifth season at $12M.

The team called their offer a 7-year deal worth approximately $107M (technically true, but not totally accurate). But Boras and Holliday concluded that the extension Colorado suggested was essentially a 5-year, $84M free agent contract, well below what Holliday would fetch on the open market (again, truthful but not wholly accurate).

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Holliday ultimately ended up only agreeing to the 2-year, $23M contract that took him right up to free agency. The Rockies slumped to a 74-88 record in 2008, and while Holliday still had another productive season, rumors leaked that the front office felt like his failed extension talks and impending free agency had hurt the team.

At the end of the season, with Holliday just a year away from free agency, the Rockies decided it was time to move on and unloaded him to Oakland. He would remain there for less than 100 games before the A’s sent him to St. Louis, where he spent the next eight years generally making life miserable for pitchers.

The Rockies gave away a great player when they moved Holliday. Usually when you lose a player like this, you’re just hoping the loss wasn’t too painful. But amazingly, the Rockies actually became a better team for trading Holliday.

Let’s just assume, for simplicity’s sake, that this trade was just Holliday for Gonzalez, straight up. Here are the lines for those two players in the time since:

Holliday: .292/.379/.490, 167 HR
Gonzalez: .295/.353/.534, 197 HR

Holliday is slightly better at getting on base, Gonzalez has slightly more power. You could already make the case Gonzalez is more valuable, and that’s before you consider that he’s better defensively, faster and younger than Holliday. If all Colorado had received for Holliday was Gonzalez, they’d still probably have won this trade.

But that wasn’t all; they also managed to replace the departing Brian Fuentes with Street, who stepped right into the closer role and locked down 35 saves in his first season with the Rockies. He was slightly more prone to the home run ball than you’d prefer your closer to be, but Street gave Colorado three solid seasons before they traded him to San Diego.

And Greg Smith? Well, according to his Wikipedia, he’s currently pitching for the Lamigo Monkeys in the Chinese Professional Baseball League… so, good for him, I guess?

The funny thing about this trade: when it was made, it felt very significant, and it turns out we were right… sort of. Because even though people thought highly of Gonzalez and believed he had promise as a prospect, very few people would have ever predicted all of this from him. When MLB.com wrote their report on the trade, Gonzalez was the last player they mentioned

And that is what is so intriguing, to me anyway, about reading up on old trades. More and more in baseball, it seems like we know what to expect. We have advanced statistics that do a pretty good job of predicting what a player will do next.

But trades still can, and will, branch off and effect teams in ways that are impossible to predict.  That player to be named later acquired in some seemingly small off-season deal can become the all-time franchise leader in wins, or the star you thought you acquired might be a washed-up shell of his former self.

Trades are markers in time where a team decided to go down a different path; sometimes slightly, sometimes drastically. The beauty of it, no one knows where that path leads until you take it.

Next: See the Trades That Ranked 4-7 On Our List

Here’s hoping that in the future, the Rockies spend more time on the “Holliday for CarGo” kind of paths, and less on the “Fowler for two warm bodies” path.

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