The pursuit — rather, the avoidance — of 100 losses is back on for the Colorado Rockies following a 14-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.
At 32-51 (.386) and 5-17 against the National League West, including zero series wins in seven meetings, the annual look towards future Rockies seasons is officially upon us.
With 10 players currently on Colorado’s injured list following the activations of C.J. Cron and Kris Bryant in consecutive days, opposing teams will not have a full menu of options when calling GM Bill Schmidt and inquiring about his player.
Even those with trade value may have nothing to fear following one deal at the 2021 trade deadline and zero in 2022, as Colorado was the only club to abstain from the annual flurry of player exchanges.
Going to a postseason contender and having the chance to win a World Series ring comes with challenges when being dealt, but players with the Rockies have little to worry about as the organization has operated as the exception to the rule.
“It’s one of those things as a player, it’s cool to think about just knowing that if you were to get traded, it’s going to be a contender,” veteran Randal Grichuk explained. “But on the flip side, you know in the past Rockies really haven’t done much moves in that aspect. It’s one of those things it’s fun to see, it’s good to hear that teams might be interested, but until (Schmidt) or (Assistant GM Zack) Rosenthal calls me in, it’s just talk.”
One former GM on how the industry looks at the #Rockies following the trade deadline:
— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) July 31, 2021
There are currently 46 players on the 40-man roster — Why? That’s Baseball! — with 34 currently not on the injured list. (LHP Ryan Rolison has not pitched since June 2 and is on the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes 7-day IL while 3B Warming Bernabel is nearing a return with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats after missing action since May 24.)
The following is a tiered player assessment of how the Rockies will operate ahead of the August 1 trade deadline:
Hurt & Off The Table (11)
Pitchers: RHP German Marquez*, RHP Antonio Senzatela*, RHP Ryan Feltner*, LHP Lucas Gilbreath*, RHP Tyler Kinley*, LHP Brent Suter, RHP Nick Mears, RHP Matt Carasiti
Hitters: 2B Brendan Rodgers*, OF Sean Bouchard*, DH/OF Charlie Blackmon
*- 60-day Injured List
Is he coming back before the Aug 1 trade deadline? Would any team want to take on any portion of his remaining salary? Are the Rockies confident they can deal him and resign him during the 2023-24 offseason?
If the answer is no to any of these for a given player, then they will remain with the club for the rest of the season. Ultimately, this exercise may be moot as the only ones not on the 60-day IL, Charlie Blackmon and Brent Suter, may not be healthy in time.
Blackmon, 37 on Saturday, still has a cast on his hand and said it will stick around for another two weeks. The original prognosis was six weeks for his right-hand fracture on June 10. Should it take even a few days longer than expected, there may not be enough runway for teams to be convinced he’s fully healed. It’s a similar situation to last season when Cron was hit in the hand, sat out a few days, and seemed sapped of his power; teams low-balled Colorado because of this and no deal was struck. Besides, does Colorado really want to trade away their 13-year veteran in the final year of his deal?
Suter’s oblique strain is healing nicely and sounds ahead of the 42-day average for healing such an injury. The down time will do wonders for his arm after being used aggressively through the first three months of the year once the starting rotation fell apart and failed to eat innings. Suter… 2.81 ERA. (he’ll be close to returning before Aug 1)
Untouchable Tier (1)
Hitter: SS Ezequiel Tovar
This will not happen. Zero chance. Betting my life on it.
📁things you love to see
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) June 29, 2023
The best starting point for an exercise examining trade tiers should start at the top: who do the Rockies want to keep around for the next three seasons or more? No one has more value to the organization going forward than their 21-year-old shortstop. 3B Ryan McMahon and LHP Kyle Freeland may have contracts that will keep them around through the 2027 season, and OF Kris Bryant’s goes through 2028, but only Tovar has the potential to contribute beyond then.
His rookie campaign has gone about as well as hoped and the upside is still palpable. He’s the cornerstone. He’s set to enter free agency after the 2028 season at the age of 27, but expect Colorado to lock him up to an extension that goes well into the 2030’s.
Ezequiel Tovar has a 9-game hit streak and is slashing .351/.342/.595 with one double, one triple, two home runs and six RBI over that span.
Manager Bud Black has been nothing short of impressed with the 21-year-old rookie. pic.twitter.com/0TZ0LFU5zv
— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) June 26, 2023
No Interest Tier aka Never Say Never Tier (4)
Pitchers: LHP Kyle Freeland
Hitters: 3B Ryan McMahon, OF Nolan Jones, OF Brenton Doyle
As a Denver native who has an opportunity to finish his career with many of the top pitching records in franchise history, dealing Kyle Freeland is a look Colorado typically tries to avoid. (Yes, we all remember what happened with Nolan Arenado.)
Ryan McMahon is the familiar name and face to long-time Rockies fans, a true homegrown player that produces on both sides of the ball. He’s no longer fresh-faced and making the league minimum or being underpaid in arbitration, so the $56 million remaining on his deal actually tamps down his value to other teams.
Three straight games with a HR for Ryan McMahon! pic.twitter.com/wQJ2YUmBy0
— MLB (@MLB) May 28, 2023
Nolan Jones has been the needle in the haystack Schmidt was hoping he’d find with the influx of new players this past offseason. His value has never been higher and could bring back a young pitcher in a Zac Gallen for Jazz Chilholm Jr. type of deal, but this has never been Colorado’s style.
Brenton Doyle is learning that the big leagues will adjust to his successes time and time again. A blistering month of May has been greeted with a difficult month at the plate in June. Even still, the 25-year-old center fielder has shown some loud tools during his nine-plus weeks with Colorado. Also, owner Dick Monfort raved about Doyle the entire offseason, so he won’t be going anywhere.
Controllable & Contributing Tier (4)
Pitchers: RHP Connor Seabold, RHP Jake Bird, RHP Justin Lawrence
Hitter: 1B/DH Elehuris Montero
To trade or not to trade. That is the question. These four players still early in their careers could be a part of the next contending club in, say, 2026. However, would dealing any number of these players expedite the process of bringing Colorado back to relevancy? It’s hard to say either way, but if someone inquires about any of these players with less than a full-year of service time, Schmidt might as well listen to see if he can poach a future All-Star like his predecessor Jeff Bridich did with Germán Márquez.
Elehuris Montero has shown glimpses of a power-hitting first baseman that may require more time at designated hitter than is desirable. Of Rockies with 185 plate appearances or more last season, Montero had the second-best slugging percentage behind only Cron. That’s a small sample, but a positive result, nonetheless. He hasn’t found his groove yet since rejoining the club on May 29 after dominating the Pacific Coast League. Since then, he’s started in just 15 of Colorado’s 29 games.
— Kelsey Wingert-Linch (@KelsWingert) June 25, 2023
Connor Seabold has the trust of Black and the rest of the coaching staff. He keeps walks to a minimum and, outside of the four-homer barrage by Atlanta on June 17, isn’t prone to the long ball. Great combination for a Rockies’ starting pitcher.
Both Jake Bird and Justin Lawrence appear to be the kind of reliable relievers that teams covet since they are still years away from making any real money in arbitration. Teams will overpay, but not with any so significant that a top 100 prospect will change hands. In a multi-player deal, one of these relievers with a veteran below set to become a free agent could actually return a notable talent.
Priority Tier (7)
Pitchers: RHP Pierce Johnson, RHP Chase Anderson, LHP Brad Hand, LHP Ty Blach
Hitters: 1B C.J. Cron, OF Randal Grichuk, OF Jurickson Profar
This list had seven names on it before last Saturday’s trade of INF Mike Moustakas to the Los Angeles Angels for minor leaguer RHP Connor Van Scoyoc. Schmidt did well to get a High-A starting pitcher for a player brought in on a non-roster deal in March.
Caption this greeting between Bud Black and Mike Moustakas. pic.twitter.com/RmeVaNJ7TP
— DNVR Rockies (@DNVR_Rockies) June 25, 2023
The six names above will all be free agents at the end of the season. None will receive a qualifying offer, so there’s zero speculation about holding onto anyone in order to receive draft pick compensation like with Trevor Story in 2021. Brad Hand has a $7 million team option for 2024 that includes a $500K buyout. Otherwise, these assets will lose all value after August 1; until then, they are assets with varying degrees of value that can improve the 2024 roster and beyond.
Cron just returned from the injured list on Tuesday and went 3-for-10 with an RBI against the Dodgers during the series loss. The 33-year-old will have about $3.5 million remaining on his contract, meaning some teams will be quick to prefer cheaper options at first base. His market should be limited once again.
With Bryant back on Friday after missing 27 games due to left heel bruising, the probability of a Jurickson Profar or Randal Grichuk trade increases exponentially with regular playing time necessary for rookies Doyle and Jones.
The Colorado Rockies announced today that they have reinstated outfielder Kris Bryant from the 10-day injured list and have selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Ty Blach from Triple-A Albuquerque. Additionally, they have placed right-handed pitcher Matt Carasiti on the…
— Rockies Club Information (@RockiesClubInfo) June 30, 2023
Chase Anderson put together six solid starts from May 16 to June 13 once he was selected off waivers, posting a 3.16 ERA in the process. Since then, it’s been a 21.21 ERA over his last three starts as the 35-year-old has struggled to get past the fourth inning. Ty Blach was added to the 40-man on Friday and has been a serviceable option for Colorado after making the Opening Day roster as a non-roster invite the past two years.
Pierce Johnson did well for a stretch as Colorado’s closer, recording a save in his first 11 opportunities before losing that role to Justin Lawrence. Since June 10, his 2.25 ERA has been amongst the best among the team’s relief corps.
Aggressive Tier (5)
Free Agent after 2024 season: C Elias Díaz, RHP Daniel Bard
Free Agent after 2025 season: LHP Austin Gomber, INF/OF Harold Castro
Free Agent after 2028: OF Kris Bryant
Elias Díaz has been the most valuable player for Colorado this season, leading the team with 45 RBI and managing a pitching staff brutalized with injuries. Manager Bud Black can’t stump for him enough to become the first catcher in franchise history to earn a spot in the All-Star Game. Díaz is on the books for $6 million next year, and since catchers of similar quality are going for $15 million over two years, the 32-year-old is a relative bargain.
— DNVR Rockies (@DNVR_Rockies) June 30, 2023
Could Austin Wynns and Brian Serven from Triple-A Albuquerque, not to mention another veteran catcher from another organization, handle this pitching staff? Sure. Could they do the work of Díaz who has been with this staff since 2020? No. Does it matter that much in 2023 and 2024 if they can add a player or players who can contribute in future seasons when wins and losses will be more critical? Certainly not.
The same exercise is true for Daniel Bard, who serves as a combination late-inning reliever mixed with a bullpen coach that specializes in mental skills. His value may be less than last year when he was in the midst of an all-time season for a Colorado closer, not to mention $9.5 million due in 2024 when he’ll be 39 years old.
Two games in Boston
Two wins for Daniel Bard 💜 pic.twitter.com/9gdij75Kxg
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) June 14, 2023
Harold Castro has been used as part of a platoon at second base and was a nice acquisition as a minor league signing last offseason. As a role player, he’s not a player to which teams typically stay married.
Austin Gomber has been streaky since being acquired from St. Louis Cardinals in the Arenado deal. His 5.16 ERA in purple as a starter is far from making him untouchable, but as a rotation member in good standing — nine of 16 starts in 2023 have been five innings or more, including eight of his last 12 — Colorado may not have the luxury of dealing him at this moment unless they can get another relatively reliable starting pitcher.
Of course, there’s still the issue of Kris Bryant and the remaining $136 million due over the next five seasons. It’s not a contract teams want. It may not be a player that teams want right now given his injury record the last two seasons. And, it may not be something the organization wants the deal with right now: should they open the most expensive can of worms to determine if they want to shed that kind of money from their payroll?
Still Establishing Career & Value Tier (12)
Pitchers: RHP Gavin Hollowell, RHP Noah Davis, RHP Karl Kauffmann, RHP Peter Lambert, RHP Riley Pint
Hitters: C Austin Wynns, C Brian Serven, 2B Coco Montes, SS Connor Kaiser, 1B Michael Toglia, INF Alan Trejo, INF Julio Carreras^
^ – Has yet to make Major League debut
It’s not crazy to think Colorado could deal any of these players, but since none have established themself as a big leaguer, the teams that contact Schmidt will not offer up much. These players could act as sweeteners to push a deal with more significant players over the finish line. However, the 19 players above this tier are the priority for all teams involved, so don’t expect any from this group to move.