You won’t hear any proclamations about how the Colorado Rockies “won” the offseason. Considering the mega moves made by division rivals like the Dodgers and Padres this winter, along with the fact that the Giants are once again the defending World Series champs, you could easily look at the lack of big offseason moves by Colorado and let out that familiar sigh of disappointment and resignation. Yes, it’s looking like another one of those years.
Doing so would be missing the big picture, however. Because the big picture isn’t really about 2015. It’s about a lot of things that have to happen throughout the organization during the next few seasons before the Rockies are a serious contender.
As for the soon to be completed 2014-15 offseason, the Rockies did exactly what they should have done: Nothing major. We could still see a move like the potential addition of a middling pitcher like Kyle Kendrick, but otherwise, no big free-agent signings – and most importantly – no big trades involving their best assets, namely Mr.’s Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. This winter was not and is not the time for big moves.
That time is coming. It’s on the horizon. At some point, the Rockies are going to have to pull the trigger and trade both their mega-stars. We’re past the point where Tulo and Cargo are “build around” guys. Neither is a young, up-and-coming star any longer. They will get moved. And you know what? It won’t be a bad thing when it does happen.
Considering that the Rockies have been forced to dig into their farm system frequently during the past few years due to injuries, we already know what life without Tulo and Cargo will look like. It won’t be any sort of shock. Remember, even without Tulo most of last season, the Rockies still had a pair of Gold Glove winning infielders. And they also have a major league ready glove man in young Cristhian Adames to plug in at shortstop. In Cargo’s absence, Charlie Blackmon thrived, earning a spot on the National League All-Star team. Even without those potent bats for most of the season, the Rockies still led the NL and were third in MLB in team batting average.
The Rockies are in a rebuilding situation (again) this season. This team will not be a true contender until the young pitching in the farm system has established itself as being ready to compete with the Kershaw-Grienke combo on a regular basis. We aren’t close to being at that point and won’t be this season.
Down the road, there will be a point in time when Colorado can and should trade Tulo and Cargo – when each has have proven himself to be 100 percent healthy. That’s when new Rockies GM Jeff Bridich and the rest of the front office can get what they want for these prized assets, not what some fast talking wanna-be contender tells them they should want for Christmas.
The most publicized non-move of the offseason is a perfect example. The New York Mets made repeated overtures this winter in an effort to pry away Tulo. Reportedly, the Rockies asking price was exorbitant and the Mets wouldn’t oblige. Why would they? While reports are that the All-Star shortstop will be ready to participate when spring training starts following last year’s hip surgery, he has not proven to be healthy yet. If you were the Mets, would you give up the farm for a suspect asset?
Make no mistake, the Rockies were asking for a big part of the Mets farm, including prized pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. On the flip side, Colorado’s asking price was and should be exorbitant in December. On top of that, the Rockies refused to take on any of Tulo’s remaining $118 million salary obligation, nor should they. If you’re the Mets, that’s a reasonable request at this point; but if you’re the Rockies, that’s bad business. So instead of doing something knee jerk, the Rockies brass played it perfectly. If the Mets wanted to badly overpay for damaged goods in December, then fine. Otherwise, call back when you’re ready to pay our price.
That’s why waiting was and is the right thing to do. Waiting for Tulo to prove he’s healthy (however narrow that window might be, long term) and then listening to offers when the asking price doesn’t seem so quite so unreasonable. There will come a time when teams are ready to pay the Rockies price.
As we near the trading deadline at the end of July, some contending team(s) will be in need. Badly. Some team, like perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals, who figure to be in contention (as always) and in the market for an upgrade (as always), will come calling. If you’re Bridich, at that point you’re sitting in the catbird seat (pun intended.) You’re in a much stronger position with a healthy (fingers crossed) Tulo, talking mega-trade with a team who a) has a nice deep farm system to pillage and b) has a sense of urgency at the major league level. How great would it be to snag Ft. Collins native son Marco Gonzalez away from the Redbirds? And forget about paying any of Tulo’s remaining salary. An in-need contender will swallow that part (which is not outlandish by today’s payroll standards) if they want Tulo bad enough. And St. Louis (and others) probably will.
Same goes for Cargo. While outfielders aren’t quite as valuable as shortstops, talents like Gonzalez aren’t available every day. With so many contenders like the Yankees, for example, starving for offensive production, a healthy Cargo will be highly coveted. Keep in mind that the Yankees just gave Chase Headley a four-year, $52 million contract; sorry folks, but Chase ain’t no Cargo.
So while it’s frustrating looking at the upcoming season at 20th and Blake and seeing more of the same (at least at the outset), fans need to understand the big picture. Bridich won’t be snapping his fingers and turning the Rockies into contenders overnight. Given the business model and constraints that the team operates within, the future success of the franchise is 100 percent about the young pitchers coming up through the system. Future playoff runs won’t revolve around a star shortstop or outfielder.