Days away from the August 31 MLB Trade Deadline, the typical fervor and intrigue that surrounds this day may end up yet another harbinger that 2020 is a year unlike any other.
Between the addition of six playoff spots that has turned every pretender into a contender and a shortened schedule that has allowed for the grandest of luck for small sample size, there are probably 12 teams prepared to answer calls on their best players.
Of that dozen, only half could make a significant move.
Rumors are swirling about everyone being up for grabs such as the likes of Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto, Boston’s J.D. Martinez and even Milwaukee’s Josh Hader. Since so much can change in a week – just ask Rockies’ fans – any or all could be pulled from shelves, so to speak.
Colorado is in contention for one of the eight postseason births in the National League even after an atrocious 2-12 stretch that included seven consecutive losses.
With a track record to suggest the September rush towards Rocktober will not include anyone new of note, nor any departures, here are a few names that could don the purple pinstripes if owner Dick Monfort and General Manager Jeff Bridich think this team is worthy of making a run.
Bullpen Needs (Pt 1)
As if any team doesn’t need support in the late innings, Colorado is most likely going to target an acquisition at this role above all others.
Several candidates on less than stellar clubs have emerged as the most desirable relievers; cross off each one as a target for Coors Field.
RHPs Greg Holland (KC), David Phelps (MIL), Justin Grimm (MIL) and Jesse Chavez (TEX)
A reunion with Juan Nicasio (TEX) is unlikely, but one with former closer Greg Holland has greater potential. He appears back on track after two years of searching for stability after becoming an All-Star with Colorado in 2017.
Phelps has been coveted a lot in his short career as a part of three separate trades. Since being converted to the bullpen in 2016, he’s never had an ERA above 3.83 in any of his last five seasons. The 33-year-old has a 2.25 earned run average this year with a 0.667 WHIP, so he may end up being too pricey.
Should Colorado opt for the bargain basement, veterans Grimm (17.18 ERA, 3.2 IP) and Chavez (8.74, 11.1 IP) will come cheaply once returning from IL with a blister issue and sprained toe, respectively.
That duo might not spark a lot of confidence, but consider this: if Jake McGee (0.90 ERA, 10.0 IP) can go from being cut with a 30-man roster to dominating for a first place club, just about anything can happen with fresh blood in the dugout.
Bullpen Needs (Pt 2)
Without a left-handed option that has stepped up – Phillip Diehl has an 8.31 ERA in 4.1 innings pitched and James Pazos is at a 13.50 ERA in 4.2 frames – and a reticence by the organization to give top pitching prospect Ryan Rolison an opportunity to salvage the ‘pen, only a few options have emerged on the trade front from the left side.
LHPs Tony Watson (SF) and José Álvarez (PHI)
Watson has a proven track record to get out batters from both sides of the plate late in games. He’s been particularly adept at retiring left-handed batters this season (2-for-11) and has kept all hitters to just a .489 on-base plus slugging.
Álvarez has typically been better against same-side batters (.664 vs .765), but has struggled through his 10 matchups this season in 6.1 innings pitched.
While both players are free agents after this season, their bosses will still want something in return. The biggest hurdle with acquiring Watson is that the Giants would probably prefer not to give any assistance to anyone in the division and, much like the probability of Realmuto being dealt, the Phillies are more likely to still give this a shot than sell off any pieces.
Starting Pitching settled
Entering Monday, Colorado starters had accumulated the sixth-most fWAR in all of baseball.
Thanks to the fourth-best walk per nine innings rate (2.30) and, before seven long balls against Los Angeles on Sunday, a home run per nine rate that had been in the top 10 for starting rotations, the Rockies are all set in this area.
Ideally, a team in their position with a real potential at a World Series might upgrade the staff with a big name like the Angels’ Dylan Bundy, Rangers’ Lance Lynn or Cleveland’s Mike Clevenger. However, mortgaging the future would not be wise at this juncture for Colorado.
David Dahl’s absence this season, both in the hit column and on the lineup card, has created quite a void for the Rockies. Raimel Tapia and Garrett Hampson have done a solid job, but another bat would greatly improve depth.
Kevin Pillar (BOS), Jarrod Dyson (PIT) and Danny Santana (TEX)
Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo ($7,777,778 for the pro-rated season) and Mariners’ Dee Gordon ($5,090,449) will be too expensive and the duo simply has not been contributing enough at the plate to this point.
Pillar has been productive with the Red Sox after spending a majority of his career in the AL East with the Blue Jays. The former defensive wiz in center field can still track it down while providing improved ability at the plate across all slash lines in his age-31 season.
Dyson and Santana have not been good in 2020 so far. Even so, Dyson is an above average defender in whom Colorado has some familiarity after the last two seasons with Arizona.
Santana missed two weeks with calf tightness and has yet to get back into the groove that saw the 29-year-old hit .283 with 28 home runs and 81 runs batted in with Texas in 2019.
Infield of Dreams
Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story take up half the space on the dirt and Ryan McMahon is a fixture on the right side of the infield. That doesn’t leave a lot of room to make any additions.
Brendan Rodgers has started in three of the six games since being called up from Metro State University and looks to get a bulk of the playing time over the final month.
In light of Chris Owings’ disappearance due to a strained hamstring, the Rockies could bring in a depth piece like either of Milwaukee’s Eric Sogard (.511 OPS) or Jedd Gyorko (.837 OPS).
The most likely trade scenario on the diamond is via subtraction as Daniel Murphy looks to be a good candidate to help a more formidable contender in need of a capable left-handed bat with tons of playoff experience.
Offensively, this unit has been among the worst in baseball.
With Dom Nuñez still an option at the alternate site and the trio of Tony Wolters, Drew Butera and Elias Díaz handling the pitching staff so well, it’s improbable to think Colorado would bring in a fresh face.
Robinson Chirinos (TEX) wouldn’t be too costly, nor would El Toro (CA) High graduate Austin Romine (DET).
Do not hold your breath for favorable breaking news on a deal before Monday’s deadline. Even if the Rockies decide to ship out a few players to create space for younger players, the return will not be inspiring as any team making the postseason will need to survive a gauntlet of four rounds.
Barring some kind of shocking swap, the core of this club will be able to return for one final run in 2021 as Trevor Story and Jon Gray enter their final season before free agency and Nolan Arenado decides whether or not to opt out of his current deal.