At 36-58, the Rockies sit at the bottom of the National League and have MLB’s third-worst record overall, leading only the A’s and Royals. While Colorado has developed a reputation for hanging onto potential trade candidates at the deadline instead of moving them at peak value, manager Bud Black said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today that the Rox will likely be more active in 2023 (audio link).
“I think there’s probably more potential this year,” Black told Power Alley hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin. “…This year is the year where, possibly, you could see more movement out of us. With the players that we have, and what we have going on in the second half of this year, and going into next year and the years beyond, it could make more sense to be a little bit more active.”
Unfortunately for the Rockies, a number of their would-be trade chips are on the injured list — many with serious injuries. German Marquez won’t pitch again this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has a club option for next season, but that’ll likely be declined, as his recovery will span into next summer. Righty Antonio Senzatela is also set for Tommy John surgery, and lefty Kyle Freeland is on the IL with a subluxation in his non-throwing shoulder. Lefty reliever Brent Suter is a rental in the midst of a strong season, but he’s been out since late June with an oblique strain.
Others on the roster are sensible trade candidates from a contractual standpoint but aren’t performing well enough to maximize their value. Reliever Pierce Johnson is on a one-year, $5MM deal and is a natural candidate to change teams, but he’s also toting a grim 6.14 ERA and 13.2% walk rate. Daniel Bard, whom the Rockies extended in lieu of a trade last summer, has spent time on the injured list with anxiety issues. He’s seen a three mile per hour drop in velocity and has nearly as many walks as strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. C.J. Cron and Jurickson Profar are both free agents at season’s end, but both have played below replacement level in 2023.
The Rox do have a handful of interesting names to peddle. Veterans Randal Grichuk and Brad Hand are both impending free agents at season’s end and could draw interest. Hand was enjoying a strong rebound season before being tagged for seven runs across three recent appearances, sending his ERA ballooning up to 4.99. He’s still an affordable lefty with a 26.1% strikeout rate. If the Rockies aren’t afraid of dealing controllable relievers — particularly a pair who are of the late-blooming variety — both Justin Lawrence and Jake Bird should generate interest.
Catcher Elias Diaz, a first-time All-Star in 2023, is perhaps the team’s most appealing trade candidate, as I explored at greater length last week. Diaz is signed affordably through next season, and it’s unlikely Colorado will be in contention by the time his three-year, $14.5MM deal expires at the end of the 2024 campaign. There’s been no indication the Rockies would entertain offers on third baseman Ryan McMahon — at least not yet — but he’s signed through the 2027 season and is again playing superlative hot corner defense with solid offensive contributions as well (albeit in spite of a career-worst 31% strikeout rate that is an obvious red flag).
There’s sure to be some degree of frustration among Rockies fans to hear these types of comments in 2023 — when the Rockies have their worst roster in years — rather than in recent non-contending seasons. The Rockies, for instance, declined to trade either Trevor Story or Jon Gray when both were in their final seasons of club control. They received a compensatory draft pick when Story declined a qualifying offer but chose not to even make a QO to Gray, losing him with no compensation. GM Bill Schmidt recently suggested to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that he simply didn’t receive “legitimate” offers.
It was a similar story last summer with Bard, who was in the middle of a dominant season and viewed as one of the top trade candidates on the market. Rather than trade the 37-year-old flamethrower a couple months ahead of him reaching the open market, Colorado inked him to a two-year, $19MM extension that has quickly gone south. The Rockies also held onto Cron at the ’21 deadline and later extended him on a two-year deal that looked good this time last summer. Again, however, they hung onto Cron and, as with Bard, have seen his trade value plummet.
Time will tell how aggressive the Rockies will be and how much interest the healthy players on their roster will draw. But it’s abundantly clear the team is in need of some changes. Colorado is 19th in the Majors with 411 runs scored and 24th with 89 total home runs. The Rockies rank 13th in MLB with a .253 batting average but are 22nd with a .313 OBP and 18th with a .403 slugging percentage.
The pitching has been even worse. Injuries have surely contributed, but the Rockies’ staff looked highly questionable even coming into the season. To this point, Colorado starters have baseball’s worst combined ERA (6.44), and their bullpen ranks 27th with a 4.81 mark. Colorado pitchers have MLB’s worst strikeout rate (18.3%) and fifth-highest walk rate (9.7%). Their 1.51 HR/9 mark is the worst in baseball as well.