This will not come as a surprise to anyone after reading my column earlier in July that this is not a playoff team (even though they will still likely make the Wildcard Game due to the dearth of quality in the NL Central and East). But the Rockies made the exact right move in choosing to not trade for more players before the calendar turned to August. Even in a buyers’ market, where good players could be had for very little (like Joe Smith’s acquisition by the Indians), it simply wasn’t a smart decision. While teams can become too attached to their prospects (and thus suddenly a surprise happens when players you are counting on end up not being that good – a fear the Phillies are having), trading them away without good return isn’t smart either. And good return isn’t merely measured in players they get back, but the actual return on the season. While getting a hold of a reliever who is under contract in 2018 (since Jake McGee will be a free-agent and Holland is likely to refuse his option) might have been a good idea, the options – Wilson from the Tigers and Ramos from the Marlins didn’t’ scream “we can’t possibly get better than these guys in the off-season via trade or free-agent.” I actually don’t think that the Rox are convinced they won’t get Greg Holland back in 2018. He likes the team, likes Denver, like Foster and Holmes (a fellow-North Carolinian) and with Cargo’s $20 million and Reyes $22 million dropping off even if they make an all-out push to get Nolan locked up, there should be plenty left to sign Holland if they think he’s worth it and especially if he isn’t going to try and get the very last dollar from the team. While losing McGee will hurt, a return to form by Ottovino can make up for that and there are some interesting arms coming that can contribute to the bullpen (a healthy Anderson and Bettis along with Freeland and Marquez sets-up both Hoffman and Senzatela to be exciting bullpen arms in 2018).
But that is future. So why not go all-in in 2017? After-all, Nolan can blow his knee out next year and never be that good again. And the team might fall apart in other areas. Life isn’t full of guarantees and once you are in the playoffs, who knows what can happen. That is true. But here is what I want to ask:
Does adding Addison Reed or Joe Smith make the Rox any the more likely to beat the Dodgers (who they would face if they win in the play-in game) this year? Heck, even adding in Yu Darvish, do you really believe that it makes the team much more likely to win a series with the Dodgers? If the Rox had great starting pitching 1 through 3, then maybe. But even adding Darvish would only likely set them up to be only slight underdogs to Clayton Kershew in Game 1 (yes, he’s hurt…no, I don’t think it will be serious to his performance or career – Kershaw is one of my favorite players in baseball – and if last year showed us anything, it will only make him strong in October). Alex Wood is having a career year and he is the kind of lefty who just shuts the Rox down (and has). From April to mid-June, the Rox had the better starting rotation. Since then Wood has finally tapped into his potential, Rich Hill is pitching well again, and now you have Darvish to fill-in for Kershaw. No, the Dodgers would be prohibitive favorites even if the Rox had gotten Sony Gray and Addison Reed on top of Neshek.
Now, the deals they did make, are the kind of deals that likely will make sure they don’t end up heading home after Game 162. But personally, there we no obvious moves that the team could have made on the 31st that would have made the team more likely to beat Arizona than they already are (short of getting Gray, whose injury profile is simply too big a risk unless you really have a chance to win the World Series or Darvish which would have cost too much in terms of prospects and who to be blunt, we have no idea if he won’t be freaked by Coors Field). I think the Rox still are a decent bet to win the 1st Wild Card (JD Martinez isn’t that much better of a bat than what the Rox can throw out there right now – especially if Gonzalez is actually getting hot – and his defense isn’t playable at Coors). And if they beat the Dbacks, then it is a great season, they get to play the Dodgers, will win one game against them (which is likely how much they would have won with most of the other options to trade for at the time), but have all their prospects to work trades come December when every team is a potential trading partner. In-season trades are always involving smaller number of players. Off-season theoretically all 40-men on all 32 teams are potential trade targets. If the Rox are going to trade a Castellini or a Welker, then you go after the player you want. Not the “after-hours” menu you have available in July.
This team is still a year ahead of schedule. While I would have loved for them to shop guys rather than add (like DJ, especially with Ryan McMahon beating the door down, or even a Mark Reynolds), the lack of interest in position players simply made it a bad trade market. Going into 2018 hopefully a healthy roster of Murphey, Dahl, Bettis, and Anderson as well as a cleaner roster and extra spending dollars makes me excited. Trying to fix problems when the divisional race is over and the offerings sitting in the window seemed very 2015…didn’t.
Credit to Jeff Bridich for keeping his eye fixed on the prize. While the Parra and Desmond deals look either awful or are blocking the future of some of the Rox best talent, he avoided being run over by the team’s bandwagon as it careened towards a good outcome while great ones are still to come.