It’s that time of year again. The Fourth of July is in the rearview mirror, the All-Star Game is right around the corner and the Major League Baseball trade deadline is within sight. So the annual speculation about the Rockies shipping their best players to contenders is officially underway.
There certainly is some merit to the conversations. After all, the Rockies limp home today after going 3-7 on their recent 10-game road trip, which puts them squarely in the NL West cellar and tied for the second-fewest wins in the National League. At 35-47, there’s little hope of things turning around in 2015.
That causes everyone to start looking toward the future, which often involves figuring out a way to parlay expensive, veteran players who aren’t currently able to combine for wins into cheap, young prospects that might be able to do it down the road. It’s a tantalizing thought, one that offers the priceless commodity of hope to a long-suffering fan base.
But don’t buy it. The offer is nothing more than fool’s gold, a pan full of pyrite that won’t solve the problem and will let the Rockies front office off the hook.
Currently, the Rockies have nearly half of their total payroll tied up in three players; Troy Tulowitzki ($20 million), Carlos Gonzalez ($16.428 million) and Jorge De La Rosa ($12.5 million) will earn more in 2015 than the rest of the roster combined. That puts a lot of pressure on that trio to deliver, as there isn’t a lot of talent behind them.
Tulo has been great since Opening Day, currently sitting with a .321 batting average, nine home runs and 44 runs driven in. But Cargo has struggled mightily at the plate, having to catch fire of late to reach his current .244 average, and De La Rosa got off to a slow start, not winning a game until May 16.
That’s a big reason why the Rockies find themselves once again irrelevant in early July. And it’s why people think it makes sense to send all three of them packing.
But that’s a knee-jerk reaction. It’s making a change simply for the sake of change. It’s an attempt to appear active, with little concern with what’s actually being done.
Instead, the idea should be met with one unbelievably simple question: How on earth is getting rid of three talented players going to help the Rockies improve?
Sure, there’s the notion that Colorado could receive a truckload of young talent in return for the trio, building a foundation for future success. But anyone they receive in a trade will be an unknown commodity; they’re just as likely to flame out as they are to become stars, simply based on the history of the game.
Yes, there’s the idea that the Rockies could obtain a bunch of high draft picks in exchange for Tulo, Cargo and De La Rosa. But anyone that has followed the franchise’s draft history knows that there is absolutely no guarantee that those selections will ever turn into big-league players.
And of course, there’s the thought that the money freed up from trading three players earning a ton of money this season could be used to lure other talent to the Mile High City. But anyone who has watched the team’s underwhelming efforts in free agency since the fateful Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle contracts knows that’s nothing but a pipe dream.
Neither option seems like a good bet. None of them are certainly worth parting with the best shortstop in the game, a five-tool outfielder and the only pitcher to ever achieve any type of sustained success pitching at Coors Field.
The reality is that trading Tulo, Caro and De La Rosa would accomplish nothing more than making the Rockies even more dreadful than they already are; they’d be a glorified triple-A team without their trio of stars.
And there’d be little hope for better days ahead, as it would take years for prospects to develop into bona fide contributors. That’s assuming, of course, that Colorado’s perennially underachieving minor-league system would be able to develop them into legitimate big-league players, which is far from a sure thing.
That would take years to discover, however, which would buy Jeff Bridich and the rest of the Rockies front office more time than they deserve, given that all of them have been a part of creating the current mess. More years of losing could be chalked up to a “youth movement,” providing a free pass for an organization that has supposedly been “building from within” for the better part of a decade. They’d get another shot at getting it right, despite having botched things over and over and over again.
And during that time, the Rockies would become even more of a cash cow for their owners. With high-priced players shipped out of town, Colorado’s payroll would plummet. But fans would continue to flock to Coors Field like they always do, stomaching more losing in exchange for the promise of better days ahead. All the while, the Monforts would keep piling up the cash.
That’s a bad recipe. The fans get shafted, having to watch more bad baseball, while the front office gets more time to wander around in the dark and the owners have a chance to pad their wallets even more.
Instead, the most-recent lost season should be cause for some actual change at 20th and Blake. Trading Tulo, Cargo and De La Rosa would be little more than a Band-Aid on a gaping wound; instead, it’s time for major surgery.
It’s time for the Rockies to hire a team president, a seat that has been vacant for nearly 63 months since the death of Keli McGregor. It’s time for Colorado to carpet bomb the front office, ridding the franchise of anyone who worked under Dan O’Dowd. It’s time for the Walt Weiss experiment to be over, as the inexperienced skipper’s ineptitude at managing the game and his players gets more painful with each passing day. And it’s time to invest in the product, spending money to bring players to the Mile High City.
And each of these changes needs to result in outsiders joining the organization. The new president doesn’t even need a baseball background; he just needs to know how to build a winning organization. The new GM must come from one of MLB’s top teams, a guy with cutting-edge ways of approaching baseball at altitude. The new manager has to have experience that doesn’t draw snickers from his players. And free agents need to be players on the rise, not over-the-hill former-Twins looking for a season or two of inflated-at-altitude numbers to round out their careers.
Those things would change the direction of the franchise. They’d certainly have more of a positive impact than ridding the team of players actually worth the price of admission.
Trading Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge De La Rosa might feel good at the moment, but it won’t solve the problem. That can only occur if the Rockies make some much deeper changes. Let’s see some of those things before July 31.