Starting pitching is at a premium this deadline season perhaps more than ever before, but Rockies skipper Bud Black rather decisively stated that one of the more coveted options on the market will be staying put. In an appearance with Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link, with audio).
“He’s on a multi-year deal, so we have him a couple more years,” Black said of Marquez. “…He’s not going anywhere. Even though it might be out there — there might be some noise — we let our guys know, these guys aren’t going to be traded. That’s how our owner feels. That’s how so many people in our organization who are the decision-makers feel about German — and a few other guys, too.”
Obviously, Black doesn’t have final say over baseball operations in Colorado, but he’s no doubt in regular contact with interim general manager Bill Schmidt and the front office regarding the team’s direction as the July 30 trade deadline approaches. Absolutist statement such as this are rare this time of year, as most clubs take an open-minded approach to the deadline, but it seems the Rockies are none too keen on parting with their top starter. They’ve been unwilling to commit to a rebuild in recent years, and that doesn’t appear to have changed for the time being — in spite of a front office exodus that has seen GM Jeff Bridich step down and assistant GMs Jon Weil and Zach Wilson resign.
On the one hand, it’s understandable that any club would be reluctant to part with the 26-year-old Marquez. Under the contract extension he signed in April 2019, he’s being paid $7.5MM in 2021, $11MM in 2022 and $15MM in 2023 before the Rockies must decide on a $16.5MM club option (or a $2.5MM buyout) for the 2024 season. Pair that affordable contract with Marquez’s generally strong track record, and he has the makings of a core piece.
Despite pitching his home games at the hitter-friendly Coors Field, Marquez has pitched to an ERA comfortably south of 4.00 in three of the past four seasons. He’s sitting on a 3.59 mark at the moment and has combined an excellent 54.5 percent ground-ball rate with roughly average strikeout and walk percentages (24.2 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively). He’s also extremely durable. Marquez has only had one trip to the injured list since breaking into the Majors in 2016 — a brief stint for arm inflammation at the end of the 2019 campaign. He averaged 30 starts per year from 2017-19, made all 13 of his starts in 2020, and hasn’t missed an outing so far in 2021.
On the other hand, however, there’s a clear argument that these are the exact reasons the Rockies should be looking to move Marquez. Nolan Arenado is now in St. Louis. Trevor Story and Jon Gray will either be traded in the next 24 days or will very likely depart via free agency this winter. The Rox are on a collision course with their third straight losing season and their ninth playoff miss in 11 years. The farm system is ranked among the thinnest in baseball, and the top of the NL West looks more formidable each year. A Marquez trade could be the catalyst for a reshaping of the team’s farm system and its long-term payroll outlook.
That, however, simply hasn’t been the modus operandi for owner Dick Monfort. Even on the heels of a 71-91 recird in 2019 and an offseason in which he brought in zero help for the big league roster, Monfort proclaimed that the 2020 Rockies would win 94 games.
“I interpolated ’07, ’08 and ’09,” Monfort told the Denver Post in early February 2020. “I had an analytical staff go through and interpolate those numbers — and so in 2020, we’ll win 94 games and lose 68.” (Obvious, unforeseen circumstances rendered that prediction impossible to come true, but the 2020 Rockies went 26-34 — a .433 winning percentage that was actually worse than their 2019 percentage.)
Fatal optimism has been a hallmark of Rockies ownership, and the wholehearted dismissal of even considering a Marquez trade so far in advance of the deadline looks like a continuation of the status quo. It’s possible, of course, that a club blows the Rockies out of the water with a strong initial offer they can’t ignore, but such strong comments from Black make that decidedly unlikely.
It should be noted that an unwillingness to trade Marquez right now does not mean the Rockies will be similarly closed to the notion this winter. Schmidt is only the interim general manager in place of Bridich, and it would be sensible for Monfort to want a transaction as substantial as a Marquez trade to be engineered by whoever is hired to oversee baseball operations on a permanent basis. That’s a luxury the Rockies don’t have with regard to potential trades of Story, Jon Gray and C.J. Cron, all of whom are impending free agents, so it’ll fall to Schmidt and his lone remaining assistant GM, Zack Rosenthal, to spearhead any such negotiations.