With the August 2 trade deadline just over three weeks away, the Rockies are considering selling some short-term assets, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. He relays that the Rox are shopping reliever Alex Colome and starter Chad Kuhl, but not closer Daniel Bard. Despite Bard’s impending free agency, the Rockies will apparently try to extend him in the coming weeks instead of working on a trade.
As things currently stand, the Rockies are 38-48, tied with the Diamondbacks at the bottom of the NL West and eight games out of a playoff spot. Unless they can gain some ground in the coming weeks, they make on-paper sense as a team that could trade some players that are approaching free agency.
However, it’s worth considering that the Rockies haven’t allowed followed the obvious playbook in this regard. Last year, the club was in a similar situation and had a number of impending free agents, such as Trevor Story, Jon Gray, C.J. Cron and Mychal Givens. In the end, only Givens was traded, with Colorado hanging onto the other three. In Story’s case, the club evidently thought that they would be better served by making him a qualifying offer and collecting a compensatory draft pick, as opposed to whatever trade offers they received. As for Cron and Gray, the club tried to work out contracts to keep them around, succeeding in the case of Cron but not Gray. All three of Kuhl, Bard and Colome are impending free agents this year and came in at #17, 22 and 27 respectively on MLBTR’s list of top trade candidates.
Colome, 33, was signed in the offseason to a one-year, $4.1MM deal. A veteran reliever with closing experience, he’s gradually transitioned from a strikeout guy to a ground ball guy in recent seasons. From 2016 to 2019, he threw 252 1/3 innings with a 2.78 ERA, 24.7% strikeout rate, 7.9% walk rate and 46.9% ground ball rate. Over 2020 and 2021, he logged another 87 1/3 frames with a 3.30 ERA, 19.5% strikeout rate, 8.2% walk rate and got grounders at a 53.4% clip. This year, he’s continued those recent trends, throwing 33 innings for Colorado with a 2.73 ERA, 16.8% strikeout rate and 54.6% ground ball rate. He has 159 career saves, including four this season. Just about every team in baseball will be looking to bolster their bullpen at the deadline, meaning Colome shoulder garner plenty of interest.
Kuhl, 29, spent the first five years of his career as a Pirate, throwing 439 2/3 innings with a 4.44 ERA, 20.8% strikeout rate, 10.3% walk rate and 41.7% ground ball rate. After being non-tendered by the Bucs, he signed with the Rockies on a one-year deal worth $3MM plus incentives. Through 16 starts and 87 1/3 innings this year, he’s put up a 4.02 ERA, which would be a career best. However, his strikeout rate has dipped to 16.9% and his grounder rate has also dropped to 36.5%. The key thing helping Kuhl seems to be an 8.9% HR/FB rate, well below the 13.2% mark he had in previous seasons, despite moving to Coors Field. Kuhl surprisingly has a 3.27 ERA at Coors and a 4.70 ERA on the road this year. His barrel rate has dropped to 6.9% this year after being at 13.1% in 2020, so perhaps it’s not entirely just batted ball luck at play. Still, the advanced metrics place his work this season closer to his career norms, with SIERA giving him a 4.85 and FIP a 4.28.
Whether he’s taken a real step forward or not, many contenders will be looking for starting pitching this year and not all of them can acquire Luis Castillo. If the Rockies make Kuhl available, they will surely get interest. However, in a recent piece, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic notes that Kuhl is willing to stick with the Rockies and that the club generally tries to keep any pitcher that’s comfortable in their hitter-friendly environment.
As for Bard, he’s the most unusual of the bunch, having played with the Red Sox from 2009 to 2013 before a case of the yips cut him off from major league action. After several years in the wilderness, he incredibly made it back to the big leagues with the Rockies in 2020 as a 34-year-old. Since then, he’s become the closer in Colorado, racking up 44 saves over the past three seasons. Now 37 years old, Bard has thrown 32 2/3 innings this year with a 2.20 ERA, 29.4% strikeout rate, 12.5% walk rate and 55.3% ground ball rate. Despite his age, the Rockies evidently think he still has something left in the tank, as Nightengale reports that they want to work out a contract that prevents him from reaching free agency.