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For years the Major League Baseball trade deadline has come and gone, with the Colorado Rockies being irrelevant.
With the exception of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade on July 30th, 2011, the Rockies have done next to nothing around the deadline. Similarly to the offseason, the Rockies seem to ignore this important date on the calendar.
For a draft-and-develop organization, that is a huge mistake.
Dan O’Dowd, for the final four years of his tenure in Colorado, made excuse after excuse as to why winning on a consistent basis at Coors Field is nearly impossible. The problem is, he did nothing to improve the personnel from the outside of the organization. He never adjusted the quality of players within his organization by looking outside of it.
The model that the Rockies follow is a good one. Frankly, for being in a league that has no salary cap, where teams from huge markets will always win the bidding war for free agents, the Rockies model to draft and develop their own talent is the only way they will be consistently good.
However, the Rockies forgot one critical aspect of drafting and developing. The draft is a great place to find young, affordable talent. However, even in the best of drafts, only three or four guys will make any sort of impact in the big leagues. Even fewer will remain for several years. The draft is great, but it can’t be the only option.
There has to be a plan to fill the holes that inevitably arise at the higher levels of the minor leagues, and at the big league level by utilizing the trade deadline to acquire even more young talent to push the other prospects and also to stockpile available players to make success happen at the big league level.
For the Rockies, the problem is that they developed talent, then crossed their fingers that each and every player would work out exactly perfect, with no setbacks, injuries, inconsistencies, or failures. The problem is, that simply isn’t reality. Even the best of scouts will admit that of three prospects with all of the talent in the world, only one will make it. One will get hurt, one will fail and the other will live up to his potential.
If that is true, then the Rockies can’t draft enough talented players to keep the team from having gaping holes at the big league level.
There is a way to fix that. When the team, like the Rockies, are clearly not in the race, they need to be willing to make tough decisions. The Rockies need to be willing to part with some of their big league talent, even if they are really in love with what the guy brings to the table at the big league level.
That means that Jeff Bridich, in his new role with the Rockies, needs to be willing to make tough decisions when opposing teams who are looking for that final piece to push them into the playoff race comes calling.
If a team wants to add another left-handed bat and they think that Charlie Blackmon might be the right guy, the Rockies should listen. If a team needs a slick-fielding second baseman who has had a breakout year at the plate and is finding ways to get on base, the Rockies should be willing to part with DJ LeMahieu. If a team wants to make a move to acquire John Axford to be another piece in their bullpen, the Rockies should deal him.
There is one caveat. The Rockies should make sure that they receive multiple prospects for each one of these guys. The prospects don’t have to be top talent, but they must possess the ability to make it to the big leagues.
By trading the guys at the big league level, the Rockies can sell at a time when a team is willing to mortgage a tiny bit of their future in order to win in 2015. That gives the Rockies a chance to sell high and get good talent back from a team for a guy who is good, but not great.
Being willing to trade big league players helps fill in the gaps in the higher ranks of the minors, and eventually feeds additional talent to the big league level.
Instead of relying on the guys the Rockies have in their farm system to accomplish this goal, the Rockies need to strike while the iron is hot. They need to be bold and make moves that will pay off in the long run and help them win in 2016 and 2017.
The idea that a team can draft talent, then just cross their fingers and hope that they have enough talent that will morph into big league stars is simply being unrealistic. The Rockies must make tough moves in order to start building for the future. If that entails losing some of the fan favorite players, they must be willing to do that.
It will hurt in the short term, but it will help make the process of turning around a losing franchise go quicker, which everyone is rooting for at this point.