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The Rockies Need Another Super Slugger!

December 2, 2017

 

The Colorado Rockies just made the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but the window for the Rockies to win it all will not be open much longer. In fact, the 2018 season is the best opportunity the Rockies will have for the foreseeable future. This article will outline the path to a Rockies World Series title next season. WARNING: This plan will require excessive amounts of power.

 

Nolan Arenado is clearly the centerpiece of the Rockies right now. The 26 year old is coming off another phenomenal season where he was worth 7.2 WAR (bRef) and finished 4th in NL MVP voting. He also took home both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base for the third straight year. Arenado looks primed to put up more huge numbers at Coors field before entering free agency after the 2019 season.

 

Nolan Arenado, as great as he is, will not be able to carry this team all by himself if Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu decide to sign somewhere else as free agents in 2019. The minor league system is well stocked with many position players, but those will be 2 difficult positions to fill at that level of production. Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon are top rated prospects, but not guaranteed to reach their potential in the next year or two. 2018 may be the last year to make a playoff push behind a strong core of position players.

 

Notice I haven’t mentioned pitchers at all so far. That’s because the Rockies are cursed to never have a solid pitching staff as long as they play 81 games at 5200 ft. They have made efforts to bolster their rotation in the past, but they’ve never managed an ERA below 4 in franchise history and have an ERA of 4.62 since 2007 (arbitrary year, I know, but it proves my point). Pitchers are not eager to have their numbers inflated by the hitter’s paradise, so it’s understandably difficult to bring in high end free agent pitchers or resign their above average pitchers. In 2017, the Rockies featured a very young, cost effective rotation and a surprisingly decent bullpen bargain bullpen. They need to rinse and repeat this pitching strategy and build a juggernaut offense.

 

The Rockies have an interesting mix of players in their 2017 free agent class. One of the most notable Rockies players entering free agency is Carlos Gonzalez. The franchise star has regressed significantly over the last couple years and his history of health problems indicate he likely will not return to his All Star level of production, even though he is only entering his age 33 season. After paying CarGo $20 million in a season where he posted an atrocious -0.2 WAR (fangraphs), the Rockies would be wise to part ways with him for good, no matter how low his price tag is.

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Mark Reynolds, Greg Holland, Jake Mcgee, Pat Neshek, and Tyler Chatwood round out the Rockies 2017 free agent class (well, among players who have value). Of all these players, Lucroy is the only one I believe the Rockies should resign. Lucroy bounced back after being traded to the Rockies last season; reaching base at a .429 clip. He may be the best FA catcher this offseason, but many teams are likely wary of his defensive inconsistency. The Rockies, however, should not worry about the defensive value of their catcher with one of the worst rotations in baseball.

 

They should be worried about the loss of almost all their top relief pitchers though. Instead of overpaying to bring back Holland, Mcgee, or Neshek, they should get to work on Bargain Bullpen 2: Electric Boogaloo. A few potentially cheap options would be Neftali Feliz, Steve Cishek, or Eric O’Flaherty. There have also been rumors that the Rockies are interested in Brandon Kintzler, who is also a great option if they want to spend a bit more dough.

 

So who are the best candidates to join the Rockies Super Slugger Lineup™ ? Personally, I can think of no better way to boost baseball’s popularity than putting Giancarlo Stanton in anti gravity Coors Field with freshly juiced balls. I’m not going to waste time explaining why Stanton is really good, but Eno Sarris has a great piece on Fangraphs that makes The Case for Acquiring Stanton. The Rockies have the prospects and the money to get the deal done, but right now they lack the desire! There have been no reported links between Stanton and the Rockies to this point. Stanton is an extremely risky player to pursue, but the Rockies are one of the few teams that should pull the trigger. Based on recent reports on the Marlin’s asking price from the Giants, the Marlins want the recipient to take on $250 million of the remaining $295 million on Stanton’s contract. With Carlos Gonzalez now off the payroll, the Rockies are sitting at $67 million, currently 21st in MLB. They have the financial flexibility to take on a big contract. Another element to any potential trade is Stanton’s desire to go there, as he has full veto powers to any trade. The reason the Rockies would be a great fit for Stanton is that he would spend his prime in the best hitters environment in baseball and potentially set himself up for an even bigger payday if he opts out after the 2020 season. The Rockies also fit the contending team criteria as well.

 

In the likely event, however, they don’t trade for the player formerly known as Mike, they should definitely break the bank for Just Dingers Martinez. I’ll explain my reasoning with a simple equation:  Just Dingers + Coors Field = ALL THE DINGERS. But seriously, JD has been one of the game’s best power hitters for over 3 years. While his defense and baserunning severely pull down his WAR (only 3.8 fWAR in 2017), he is by far the best FA hitter available. Since the start of 2014, he has a .574 slugging percentage (second only to Mike Trout), is tied for 4th in wRC+, and has a 43.8 hard hit % (second only to David Ortiz). To compare to Stanton, he beat Stanton by 59 points in slugging percentage and 37 points in Isolated Power (ISO) last year. Similar to the case with Stanton, however, there are no reports linking the Rockies to Martinez right now. In fact, there has been little news on Martinez since the asking price was reportedly around $200 million, so most teams are waiting to see how the market plays out.

 

One of the only players the Rockies are known to be pursuing is Jay Bruce. While he is not equivalent to Stanton or Martinez performance wise, this would be a smart move because he can play outfield or first base. If the Rockies somehow manage to sign Bruce in addition to acquiring one of the sluggers highlighted in this article, then the Rockies will have a very dynamic lineup. Even if they make no offseason acquisitions, they have lots of depth and versatility. Desmond could play OF, 1B, or SS; McMahon can play 1B, 2B, or 3B; they have outfield depth in Parra, Dahl, and Tapia. I’ve listed the potential lineups below so they are easier to visualize.

 

With Stanton, Bruce, Lucroy (very unlikely):

  1. Blackmon (CF)

  2. Stanton (RF)

  3. Arenado (3B)

  4. Bruce (1B)

  5. LeMahieu (2B)

  6. Desmond (LF)

  7. Story (SS)

  8. Lucroy (C)

  9. Pitcher

 

With Martinez, Bruce, Lucroy (unlikely, but possible)

  1. Blackmon (CF)

  2. LeMahieu (2B)

  3. Arenado (3B)

  4. Martinez (RF)

  5. Bruce (1B)

  6. Desmond (LF)

  7. Story (SS)

  8. Lucroy (C)

  9. Pitcher

 

With Bruce, Lucroy (likely)

  1. Blackmon (CF)

  2. LeMahieu (2B)

  3. Arenado (3B)

  4. Bruce (RF)

  5. Desmond (1B)

  6. Story (SS)

  7. Parra (LF)

  8. Lucroy (C)

  9. Pitcher

 

No additions (boring)

  1. Blackmon (CF)

  2. LeMahieu (2B)

  3. Arenado (3B)

  4. Desmond (1B)

  5. Story (SS)

  6. Parra (LF)

  7. Dahl (RF)

  8. Murphy (C)

  9. Pitcher

 

The Rockies will be a good team regardless of their acquisitions, but they have to make some bold moves if they want to contend with the Dodgers, Dbacks, and even the Giants. Much of this article is based off my opinions though, so I’d love to hear what you think the Rockies should do going forward. If you have any feedback, connect with me on twitter or facebook @beattheshiftBP, or you send an email to beattheshiftbaseball@gmail.com. Also make sure to listen to our Rockies outlook podcast that goes along with this article. Thanks for reading!

 

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