Hanging Out in the Smoke-Filled Rocky Mountains
I’ll come straight out with it. I’d love to send Alex Cobb or Chris Archer over to the Rockies for something small or large, respectively. They’re getting to watch their fast-moving, highly touted prospects actualize at the Major League level, and I want in on some of that.
Their rotation displayed actual competence this year and will return four good-to-ok starters in the blossoming Jon Gray, good righty Bettis, strike throwing lefty Tyler Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood. Jeff Hoffman and the familiar German Marquez are beating on the door, and Jorge de la Rosa might be the kind of guy that could flourish in a multi-inning role. I just don’t know that any of those last four names aren’t better off as a Plan B.
Much like how Rays hitters catch a bit of shade from playing under the dome, Rockies pitchers get hung out to dry. It is incredibly hard to pitch in that park, and often you see guys have to eat a big run total because somebody has to get those innings. I remember when Cobb wore an 8 RA outing, but he got the team eight innings, and he handled it with complete class.
I know his value is down, but as a guy that gets a ton of grounders, strikeouts, pop ups and limits his walks he might be well-equipped to hang in at home and dominate on the road. That’s the upside. The downside is that none of those things returning is certain. There is risk here and so the price must adjust. His cheap salary helps out, but if you think he’s like a low-heavy 1-3 WAR guy it’s hard to see him having a ton of surplus in a normal market.
Fortunately, this market isn’t normal for starting pitching. I think the mid-tier or higher risk guys benefit the most from this drastic of a seller’s market. Pitchers like Chris’s Sale or Archer already command such a significant return that it becomes difficult to find the right matchup if that already ludicrous price is pushed higher by market conditions. Guys like Jake Odorizzi or Cobb, who might have had some greater or lesser trade value, in that order, now see a fairish trade get pushed a little more in the direction of the Rays. I think this is the niche in the market that the team should be exploiting.
Back to the Rockies, I think they have a surplus of left-handed outfielders that will make it difficult for them to get everybody the playing time they would like. Sure, they’re well-positioned in the event of an injury, but on top of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, and Gerardo Parra they also have guys like Jordan Patterson and the perhaps-green Raimel Tapia waiting in the wings. All are lefties. I know they would like to move Gonzalez, and maybe a team like the Yankees would like that, but until this luxury tax thing gets sorted out I’m not sure you’ll see any of the bubble teams take on salary like CarGo’s. Making the Yanks even less likely is that a decent trade chip in Brett Gardner is also a lefty, which doesn’t really alleviate the situation.
I think for Cobb that the Rays might be able to get something like Raimel Tapia, who has his own bit of risk associated with his skillset, but nevertheless should be something like a league average player, and probably pretty soon. I think his upside is something like a Carl Crawford-lite as a rangy defender in left field that turns doubles into triples. Another way they are similar players is that both are hackers that rarely walk, but put the ball in play often as they don’t strike out all that much, either. Crawford started to develop those old-man skills of drawing walks and hitting more homers as he started to fill out, but I’m not sure I’d project that same growth onto Tapia. The latter can steal bags, but nobody could pilfer the pillow like Crawford. I’m not sure I’d project that type of production on the paths, either. As a good, but perhaps risky or flawed, prospect he also carries some risk. I think these two match up nicely in a one-for-one trade.
With Smyly and Odorizzi being so fly-ball prone, even with good pop up rates to add to already nice strikeout rates, I don’t see the Rockies having much interest in the those two guys. That leaves Chris Archer. You know about the strikeouts, but he also burns worms at an average rate. Good skillsets to have in a park like Coors. As previously mentioned he carries an enormous trade value in a normal market. In this climate he brings back a first-born. The Rockies just happen to be a large family with many children. Building blocks like Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu or Trevor Story are probably off limits. The Rays would not have much interest in Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon or Gerardo Parra due to the length of control, but the Rockies do have a young player with a ton of control who looks like a stud coming up.
I’ll admit that I’m enamored over David Dahl‘s climb through the minors. He didn’t let a freak injury derail his promising start in the minors. Last year he put it all together as he climbed from AA to an aggressive stint in the show that saw him more than hold his own as a good lefty stick that wasn’t a bum in the field. Unlike most hitters, he actually hit worse at Coors Field (103 wRC+) than on the road (120 wRC+). While I would expect some regression to the mean in both cases, I think it bodes well for staying productive if he were moved off the mountain.
While I think he carries a ton of value, and might be worth Chris Archer straight up in a normal market, I think the premium of this market would be another close and potentially good player. I would want the catcher Tom Murphy. He rates as pretty average across the board in framing, blocking and throwing, which is nice, but Murphy makes his bones with the stick.
The righty has hit everywhere he has been, including two brief stints in the show. As Mr. Longenhagen mentioned he does have a bit of whiff to his game, but it does come with league average or better walk rates, and a raft of power in the plus column. I think he could be something like an above-average hitter in the bigs, and not just for the position, while being around average behind the plate. Pairing him up with a developing defender in the beaten, but not broken, Curt Casali might not give the Rays the lefty-righty combo behind the plate that I was craving, but it would give the team the chance to maybe give a younger player the chance to run with a starter’s gig.
Maybe you need a little bit more than that, I don’t know. The Rays would be getting six years of a middle-of-the-order lefty in David Dahl who should be around average in a corner. Add in six more of a bat-first catcher who can also hold his own at the most demanding position on the diamond in Tom Murphy, and I think I’d be willing to move Chris Archer. That is no slight to Chris who I have long said is a great talent, yet somehow he’s an even better person in an industry where that is incredibly rare. He’s a very good pitcher with an enviable contract from a team-perspective. I think he could be Pedro Martinez someday if everything breaks right. The problem is that the word breaks has more than one meaning. Pitchers eventually break down, and it’s a fool who will tell you they can predict when that sort of thing will happen. When it comes down to two equally good players I’ll take the one that swings the bat.
So whether the Rockies want to go big or small I think the Rays have a pitcher that can help fill out their rotation, provide depth, and push other guys down to lower leverage roles for which they’re probably better suited. It would be a challenge trade, of sorts, with both offers including present talent for both sides. Both teams would be better positioned by redistributing surplus to shortage. However, I’d think you a sucker if I thought you believed me or anyone else has a good handle on just what this seller’s market might entail. Perhaps I’m being conservative here, and you can add something else on for either pitcher. I’ll leave those smaller things not worth arguing for the lawyers.