It’s been seven long years since Huston Street blew the save in game four of the 2009 NLDS, crushing the Colorado Rockies World Series hopes. Since that season, the Rockies haven’t returned to playoffs. In fact, the Rockies have been above .500 just once since that year.
While they have been dwelling in the cellar of their division the last few years, they’ve been steadily building one of the greatest farm systems in baseball, and it’s starting to show at the major league level. Guys like Trevor Story, David Dahl, and Tyler Anderson all were highly-touted prospects, but what they did in 2016 exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. In addition, they have rookies who are still getting their feet wet, such as German Marquez, Jeff Hoffman, and Carlos Estevez, who are all expected to make a significant impact at the major-league level.
A rather glaring issue they need to address is the gap at first base. Yes, they have some internal options such as Jordan Patterson and Ben Paulsen, but those aren’t the kind of guys who push you into October. They also have a outfield logjam that could possibly force a man to first base, such as Gerardo Parra or Carlos Gonzalez. Parra looked below-average manning first base in 19 appearances last season, and the 5-foot-11 height certainly doesn’t help. Gonzalez hasn’t played first base in his career, has arguably the strongest outfield arm in baseball, and you’d hate to see that go to waste.
They amount of young talent on this club is overwhelming, and for the first time in a while the Rockies look like a legitimate contender. Colorado is in the perfect position to launch themselves into the playoffs next year, and Rockies GM Jeff Bridich needs to be aggressive this winter to make that a reality.
The Rockies have the farm to be able to pull off some big trades, but it may make more sense to solely focus on the free-agent market to ensure they have the depth needed for the near future.
There’s a few standout names on the free-agent market, such as Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion, and then a few lower-tier players such as Adam Lind and the possibility of re-signing Mark Reynolds. If the Rockies are serious about contending in 2017, and they should be, they need to not settle for a lower-tier guy. It’s time for this club to make a bold move.
Encarnacion will be one of the highest-paid free agents this offseason, and deservedly so. His track record of the last five seasons contains a .912 OPS and a monstrous 193 home run total. The 33-year-old is coming off a 3.7 WAR season in which he hit 42 homers with a very solid .263/.357/.529 slash line. His ability to play 160 games this season assured possible suitors that health is not a concern, and that will help raise his price tag.
Trumbo, who is coming off of a career-year, will also be trying to land a contract that reflects his performance. He hit a league-leading 47 homers while driving in 108 runs. His slash line is a little worrisome — just a .316 on-base percentage — but still managed to carry an .850 OPS through the season due to his power. Trumbo’s defense is also concerning, but this is mostly due to him starting 96 games in the outfield, where he has a -23 DRS in his career. Compare that to the 12 DRS he has in 371 games at first base, and the Rockies shouldn’t be too worried about him taking over. He’s the cheaper option, sure, but there’s still a lot of reason to believe he can repeat his 2016 season, especially in Colorado.
Given that the Rockies play in Coors Field, free-agent hitters are naturally drawn to Colorado. Throw in the fact the Rockies are nearing contention, and the majority of free agent hitters have got to like the idea of coming to the Rockies this offseason.
Both of these players will likely have a qualifying offer attached to them, but the Rockies are in a place where they can afford to give up a draft pick in order to increase their chances of winning in 2017.
It’s possible this could backfire in the long run, but adding firepower to the already loaded team makes it a risk worth taking.