The 2019 campaign did not go according to plan for the Rockies, who entered it with playoff aspirations after earning postseason bids in each of the previous two years. The team ended up as one of the most disappointing clubs of the season, though, as it stumbled to a dismal 71-91 record and a fourth-place finish in the National League West.
Perhaps the Rockies will return to the game’s upper echelon next year, but they remain stuck in a division that the mighty Dodgers are likely to own yet again in 2020. Furthermore, it seems the Rox will have to climb out of the basement without any major outside improvements this offseason. Owner Dick Monfort has indicated the Rockies, who are saddled by a few bad contracts (Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Daniel Murphy and Bryan Shaw), don’t have the payroll flexibility to spend their way out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves.
In light of Monfort’s comments, MLBTR’s TC Zencka noted while previewing the Rockies’ offseason that their outlook for 2020 doesn’t look particularly hopeful. With that in mind, one wouldn’t be out of line to suggest Colorado should consider trading a couple of its top contributors whose team control is running out. Specifically, there’s shortstop Trevor Story and right-hander Jon Gray – two players who are only arbitration-eligible through the 2021 season. Story is projected to earn $11.5MM next season, while Gray should rake in around $5.6MM. Both salaries are bargains relative to what Story and Gray bring to the table, which is arguably all the more reason for the Rockies to listen to offers for the pair.
The 27-year-old Story is fresh off a two-season run in which he was unquestionably an elite shortstop, as he racked up 10.9 fWAR, slashed .293/.355/.561 with 72 home runs and 50 stolen bases across 1,312 plate appearances, and totaled 18 Defensive Runs Saved. Just about any team would sign up for that all-around production, and if you’re a club in need of a shortstop, there’s not much out there in free agency other than Didi Gregorius (who’s coming off a poor season). That’s yet another reason Story and his affordable two years of control would bring back a haul in a trade, one that could help the Rockies turn around a subpar farm system.
Although Story would generate widespread interest on the trade market, general manager Jeff Bridich and the Rockies don’t seem inclined to part with him, instead clinging to the hope that they’ll be able to extend him. Maybe a long-term pact for Story looks unlikely, though the Rox did manage to lock up third baseman Nolan Arenado last February – less than a year before he was slated to reach free agency – with a seven-year, $234MM extension. Keeping Story under wraps won’t cost that much, but the Arenado deal showed they’re willing to go all-out to keep premier talent on board.
As with Story, the Rockies appear as if they’ll retain Gray, even though the hard-throwing 28-year-old has garnered trade interest early this offseason. Gray wouldn’t fetch the return that Story would in a trade, but his aforementioned affordable salary and history of solid production are clearly appealing. Teams that may not necessarily want to splurge on the best free-agent starters (Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu, among others) could turn their focus to Gray if the Rockies are open to giving him up. But it doesn’t look as if that’s the case for Colorado, which, going forward, will apparently.hope for bounce-back seasons from its players who were letdowns in 2019 and attempt to return to relevance next year.
The question is: Should the Rockies essentially wave the white flag already on 2020 and trade Story, Gray or both standouts? With team control waning for each player, there’s a legitimate case that Colorado should go in another direction and opt for a rebuild.
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