The Rockies made a surprising signing this week at the winter meetings when they brought Ian Desmond in on a five year deal worth $70 million. Not many saw this move coming with an already crowded outfield in Colorado, but early reports indicate Desmond will be playing first base in 2017 - a position Desmond has never played in his career.
A transaction like this signals the Rockies plan on contending in 2017, but as currently constructed they still fall short of matching up well with the other National League contenders. Our own Nick Stellini previewed the offseason for the Rockies over at FanGraphs and suggested some moves they should make on a path to contention. Now that the offseason is in full swing and the Rockies have made moves towards contending, let’s see what else they can do to contend in the NL West.
- Sign Mark Trumbo
There were some rumblings about the Rockies pursuing Trumbo last week at the winter meetings and it could be their next move. Trumbo is coming off a 47 home run season and has hit 30 or more home runs in three of the last five seasons. One can only imagine what he could do if he played half his home games at Coors Field. Also, signing Trumbo would allow the Rockies to play Ian Desmond in the outfield (I’ll address that logjam later), a role he adapted to well last season. This would take some pressure off Desmond by not having him try and learn a position he has never played at the Major League level.
MLBTraderumors has Trumbo projected to sign a four year deal worth $60 million, an AAV of $15 million. The Rockies have roughly $83 million in 2017 payroll when counting in arbitration projections, according to Spotrac, which leaves them with about $30 million to reach the Opening Day payroll of 2016.
My initial thought was for the Rockies to trade for Jose Abreu of the White Sox since the Sox are in full rebuild mode and Abreu is controllable through the 2019 season. However, with the way the White Sox have been acquiring prospects, the White Sox may hold out for acquiring Brendan Rodgers, Jeff Hoffman, or Riley Pint in any deal for Jose Abreu. Of the three I would be in favor of trading Hoffman in a package for Abreu, but why trade prospects for Abreu when Mark Trumbo is still on the market? If Trumbo is signed and we assume he makes $15 million next year, that would still leave the Rockies with $15 million left to spend to reach the payroll of 2016.
2. Trade Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez for pitching
In this scenario the Rockies now have five outfielders (Blackmon, Gonzalez, Dahl, Parra, and Desmond) and must clear this logjam. If there is one area the Rockies need to improve it is their pitching and the Rockies need to use one of their outfielders to acquire it.
Trading Carlos Gonzalez may be the preferable option since he is a free agent after 2017, but the Rockies may be able to get more for Charlie Blackmon since he is under team control for the next two seasons. The primary return they most focus on is starting pitching. Until the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler, I thought they matched up well in a deal for Blackmon for possibly Michael Wacha or Luke Weaver. If the Rockies acquire starting pitching that can slot into the rotation to start 2017 and remain controllable for the next few seasons, then they can allow Jeff Hoffman to develop further in Triple-A before calling him up some point in 2017 when another starter is needed.
The Rockies have a platform of Jeff Hoffman, Riley Pint, Kyle Freeland, as well as Mike Nikorak and Robert Tyler. If they can add more pitching than the Rockies can hopefully do the one thing that has alluded them in their existence - develop their own (power) pitching. As for the current situation, assuming Blackmon makes $9 million in arbitration, as projected by MLBTradeRumors, then trading him could open up more payroll, bumping it back up to roughly $25 million in the scenario I have created above.
One team that could use an outfielder would be the Cleveland Indians. Michael Brantley is expected back in some capacity, but he’s likely best used in left field at this point, and even then Cleveland’s outfield isn’t exactly a position of strength right now. In return the Rockies could receive something Mike Clevinger and Rob Kaminsky, who is currently ranked 18th in the top 30 of the Indians’ farm system.
3. Sign Neftali Feliz
Mark Melancon was thought to be a potential target of the Rockies when the offseason began since Melancon is from Colorado, but he has since signed with the San Francisco Giants. Arolids Chapman and Kenley Jansen were always out of the Rockies price range, leaving only Neftali Feliz as an answer in the bullpen. Feliz did not close last season, but he has in the past in Texas, so he brings that late game experience to the Rockies. There may be some other options out on the free agent market (Joe Blanton, Joe Smith, and Jerry Blevins to name a few), but I chose Feliz based on the fact that Coors Field serves as the venue for half of the team’s games. I would want a strikeout pitcher rather than someone who pitches to contact, and Feliz misses bats.
Colorado appears to be going in an upward direction and their bullpen could use a jolt. He would pair well with left-hander Jake McGee, and the Rockies could have a serviceable set-up situation with Adam Ottavino waiting in the 9th inning. Following the projections of MLBTradeRumors, we’ll give Feliz a three year deal for $18 million, an AAV of $6 million.
Assuming the Rockies follow the above steps, then they would still fall roughly $20 million short of the 2016 opening day payroll, thus allowing Jeff Bridich and his staff more room to improve their team throughout the 2017 season. Also, there is a distinct chance owner Dick Monfort may allow payroll to go higher, as he has recently stated his intention of making the Rockies contenders through a “record payroll”. If all goes according to plan, the Rockies will be returning to playoff contention with a crop of Brendan Rodgers, Riley Pint, and others waiting to make an impact at the big league level in the not so distant future. There’s a definite path towards contention here. The Rockies only need to take the next steps.
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Carl Triano is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and Minor League Ball.