The Rockies started a much-needed rebuild following the trade of Troy Tulowitzki in 2015. It wasn’t an easy move, but a somewhat necessary one given the Rockies being nowhere close to contention. This offseason the club has continued to shop around star players, as general manager Jeff Bridich said he’ll listen on everything.
“We’ll operate the same way we have, which is we’ll listen on just about anything,” Bridich told USA Today. “The only way to operate in this industry is that you have to keep options open and have to be creative and aggressive at times.”
The Rockies have been stuck in the mud following five straight seasons of 88 losses or more. Bridich realizes they aren’t contending unless they develop talent, which makes Colorado one of the most desirable trade partners this offseason.
What Colorado has is depth in the outfield – a hot commodity. Jason Heyward was handed a $180 million contract, and Alex Gordon is in line to get a big deal (though not as big as Heyward’s) as well. Teams like the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals are on the hunt for impact outfielders, and the Rockies have three players which should appeal to most teams.
Carlos Gonzalez is coming off a bounceback season where he hit a career high 40 home runs, drove in 97 RBI, batting .271 with a .325 OBP. Now those numbers are somewhat fueled by the thin Colorado air, but they were impressive nonetheless. He’s a three-time Gold Glove winner in left field and he posted five defensive runs saved while starting all 151 games played in right field in 2015. He’s owed $37 million over the next two seasons, which is a high-price tag but not all that much considered what his peers are getting on the open market. What may scare teams is Gonzalez hitting .195 with just five home runs in 168 at-bats versus lefties, plus his .972 vs .758 OPS home/away split. He’s probably a 25-30 home run hitter in the long run. Even with those warning signs, the Nationals, Cardinals and San Francisco Giants are all interested in him. He’s a risk, but on a two-year deal it’s not a crazy gamble to take.
Another Rockies outfielder who could bring in a great haul of prospects is center fielder Charlie Blackmon. He was a beast in 2015, hitting 17 home runs and 58 RBI, stealing 43 bases and scoring 93 runs. He’s an ideal leadoff hitter, bringing some pop and speed to the top of a lineup. His splits were bizarre, as he hit much better at home than away (.331 vs .238) but ended up hitting more home runs (7 vs 10) on the road. His splits do suggest he favored hitting at Coors Field however, as his OPS dropped dramatically elsewhere (.890 vs 695). He’s an average fielder, but not going to win a Gold Glove anytime soon. What works in Blackmon’s favor is he’s due to make $4.5 million in arbitration (via MLBTradeRumors) and won’t hit free agency until 2019. The only sure thing with Blackmon is he’s controllable and has some pop and speed, but nothing is assured outside Colorado. I’d proceed with caution, but he’s a legit, inexpensive MLB outfielder.
Left fielder Corey Dickerson broke out in 2014, when he hit 24 home runs and batted .312, but the 26-year-old missed more than half of 2015 dealing with broken ribs and plantar fasciitis. He still posted solid numbers in 65 games with 10 home runs, 31 RBI to go with a .304 average and a .333 OBP. Like Blackmon and Gonzalez his numbers are much better at Coors Field (1.143[!!] vs .724 OPS), but 2014’s numbers away from Coors Field were solid with nine home runs and a .735 OPS in 64 games. Again, there’s some risk betting on those numbers to repeat but Dickerson is only 26-years-old and is under team control until 2020. A team acquiring him may have to pay a bit more considering he’s still establishing himself in the league.
If Colorado truly wants to start fresh, all three players – who probably aren’t a part of the Rockies future – would bring in decent value. They don’t have the best farm system and could use more of everything (especially young arms and a future catcher). Trading their established hitters would help.
What seems sure at this point is the Rockies won’t start 2015 with Dickerson, Blackmon and Gonzalez in the outfield together. Now would be the right time to trade one – or all – of them as the outfield market is scorching hot.