With Trevor Story set to decline the qualifying offer in search of a multi-year contract elsewhere, the Rockies enter the offseason with a question mark at shortstop for the first time in years. Among the options under consideration: moving third baseman Ryan McMahon up the defensive spectrum to short, reports Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
“(Moving McMahon) is something we have discussed,” Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt told Saunders. “Ryan has good range and that’s something we saw last year when he played third base with the shift on.” While McMahon told Saunders he’d yet to hear anything from the organization about that possibility, he sounded amenable to the idea. “I’d like to think that I could work at any (position) and become at least a solid defender there,” the 26-year-old said.
Kicking McMahon over to shortstop on a regular basis would be quite the risk. Not only has he never started a game there in the major leagues, he’s logged all of three innings at the position in his professional career. The California native moved from shortstop to third base in high school, and he’s bounced between the hot corner, second base and first base as a pro.
As Schmidt suggested, though, McMahon’s coming off an excellent defensive season at multiple spots on the diamond. Defensive Runs Saved estimated he was twelve runs above average over 848 2/3 innings at third base (a position at which he was a Gold Glove finalist) and pegged him as an incredible nine runs better than average in just 368 1/3 frames at second base. Statcast credited him with twelve Outs Above Average between the two positions, a mark that tied for tenth among infielders league-wide.
Were the Rockies to address the position internally, it seems McMahon is likelier to shoulder it than Brendan Rodgers. While Rodgers came up as a shortstop prospect, he’s spent the bulk of his time at second base in recent seasons. That was primarily in deference to Story, but Schmidt reiterated when speaking with Saunders that the club would prefer to keep Rodgers at the keystone.
Of course, the Rox aren’t foreclosing the possibility of addressing shortstop from outside the organization. Schmidt told Saunders the front office is exploring the free agent market. A full-fledged pursuit at one of the market’s top shortstops seems unlikely, but the club could pursue a shorter-term agreement with a player like Andrelton Simmons or Freddy Galvis to at least stabilize the defense.
While a run at one of the top shortstops probably won’t be in the cards, the Rockies have been expected to target a power-hitting outfielder over the coming months. Schmidt confirmed when speaking with Nick Groke of the Athletic the front office sees an addition in the grass as the “best place” for a meaningful upgrade to the lineup. Kyle Schwarber, Chris Taylor, Avisaíl García, Jorge Soler and Michael Conforto are among a fairly strong group of free agent outfielders available.
Signing Taylor or Conforto — both of whom rejected qualifying offers from their previous clubs — would cost the Rockies their third-highest pick in the 2022 draft. With the Rockies facing an uphill battle to compete in a loaded NL West next year, there’s a case that Colorado should prioritize future draft considerations over nearer-term adds.
Schmidt isn’t ruling out a run at a qualified free agent, though, telling Groke he’d be open to surrendering draft compensation in the right scenario. “You have to take it case by case and explore your options,” the veteran executive said. “You can’t blanket say, ‘There’s a draft pick compensation, we’re out.’ You have to consider who the player is, what the acquisition cost is, and what are your alternatives.”
Schmidt’s win-now attitude is the latest reaffirmation that Colorado brass doesn’t view themselves being far from contention. It’s unsurprising given that stance that the Rockies aren’t expected to trade staff ace Germán Márquez this offseason, writes Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. While Colorado could surely bring back a massive haul for a talented, controllable rotation building block like Márquez, they seemingly gave very little consideration to moving the 26-year-old at this past summer’s trade deadline. Instead, it seems the right-hander will be back for his third consecutive Opening Day start in purple and black.