Colorado Rockies: Youth could push DJ LeMahieu out after this season
By Kevin Henry
There has been a lot of discussion about some of the contract decisions the Colorado Rockies will face during this upcoming season. As the season goes along, those discussions will only become more pronounced, especially as the trade deadline approaches.
Colorado has three big decisions coming up in the not-too-distant future. Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu will become unrestricted free agents after the 2018 season. Nolan Arenado will be free to listen to what should be massive contract offers from many teams after the 2019 campaign. All three are All-Stars. All three have been key pieces to Colorado’s recent success.
However, it’s very likely that all three won’t remain with the Rockies. It’s not economically feasible to think, based on franchise history, the Rockies will spend big dollars on all three players. That sets up what could be decisions that will determine the future of the Rockies.
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So who stays and who goes? It’s logical to think that Colorado will save as many resources as possible to keep Arenado as the face of its franchise (we have estimated it may take $280 million to keep Arenado). That’s also the decision that is the furthest away on the timeline.
So if it comes down to LeMahieu or Blackmon staying with the Rockies, it could well be the bearded leadoff man who sees a new contract (that could be around $20 million per season) rather than LeMahieu. Why? Part of that thinking has to do with Blackmon’s historic pace as Colorado’s top of the order hitter and his ability to kickstart the Rockies offense on any given night. Another part has to do with who is coming up behind LeMahieu in Colorado’s farm system.
At the age of 21, Brendan Rodgers was just named as the 15th-best prospect in all of Major League Baseball. After hitting .387 in 51 Class-A games last season before being called up to Double-A Hartford, it’s easy to think that Rodgers could well make the next step to Triple-A this season if he performs as he has in the past. A stint on the disabled list while in Hartford limited Rodgers to just 38 games with the Yard Goats last season. He will likely start the year back in Hartford with every opportunity to advance to Albuquerque. That would put him on track to potentially make his Major League debut in the 2019 campaign.
While Rodgers has had more game experience at shortstop than second base (33 games at shortstop versus six at second base last season at Hartford), he said in an interview with Purple Row last season that he has been taking plenty of pregame reps at second base. The timing, perhaps, couldn’t be better for the Rockies and their payroll with the 29-year-old LeMahieu, who is scheduled to make $8.5 million this season, soon to be asking for a larger, long-term contract.
Additionally, Ryan McMahon told me in a recent interview that he is still working on his fielding techniques as first base, second base and third base. While he may “penciled in” at first base this season, it’s quite possible the Rockies could shuffle him to second if Rodgers might not be ready to take over the reins next season. A possible scenario is that Ian Desmond could play first while McMahon (the 41st-best prospect in all of baseball) plays second until Rodgers is ready.
And hey, don’t forget that Garrett Hampson is lurking as well as the seventh-best prospect at second base in MLB today.
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There is no question that DJ LeMahieu is an integral part of Colorado’s success. However, with the Rockies coming to a critical time with their payroll decisions with three of their biggest stars, youth could well be served at the expense of Colorado’s current Gold Glove-winning former league batting champion. At the end of the day, baseball is a business and letting LeMahieu go could be tough but, at the end of the day, what’s best for the Rockies business.