The Rockies enter deadline season at the bottom of the NL West. They’re positioned to listen to trade offers on veteran players, particularly those whose contracts are expiring at season’s end.
General manager Bill Schmidt discussed the team’s outlook with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post in a piece Rockies’ fans will want to read in full. The baseball operations leader told Saunders the club is getting the most interest in some of its veteran relievers. Schmidt declined to specify which players. However, Saunders reports that left-hander Brent Suter is drawing the most attention, with righty Pierce Johnson and southpaw Brad Hand also generating some interest.
All three players are fairly straightforward trade candidates. Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote last week the Rox were taking offers on their impending free agents. Johnson and Suter are ticketed for free agency. Hand is controllable via $7MM club option, but that price point might be a bit beyond Colorado’s comfort zone. If the Rockies did trade him, that provision would convert to a mutual option.
Suter, claimed off waivers from the Brewers last offseason, is playing this season on a $3MM arbitration salary. The 33-year-old carries an excellent 2.81 ERA across 41 2/3 innings. He’s only striking out 19.2% of batters faced on a modest 8.4% swinging strike percentage. Yet he’s long shown excellent control and an ability to stay off barrels, allowing him to keep his ERA below 4.00 in each of the last four seasons.
His trade candidacy could be complicated by his health with less than a month until the August 1 deadline. Suter is currently on the 15-day injured list after straining his left oblique in late June. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out of action, although Saunders writes that he completed a 20-pitch bullpen session yesterday.
Of course, the Rockies have shown a willingness to operate outside the norm for deadline sellers. Colorado has resisted trading some impending free agents in past seasons when they’ve been well out of contention. Players like C.J. Cron, Elias Díaz and Daniel Bard were signed to multi-year extensions. Trevor Story and Jon Gray walked in free agency, with no compensation in Gray’s case since Colorado declined to make a qualifying offer.
Schmidt suggested the organization would take a similar approach this summer. “We are going to listen on guys, but people have to remember that teams have to want your players, too. … You’re not going to run out a Triple-A team out there — for the integrity of the game,” he told Saunders. “But if there is interest in our players and we think it’s a good decision for our organization, long-term, then we will make considerations.” He said the club would ideally bring back minor league pitching in deadline deals; Colorado’s one move thus far saw them ship out Mike Moustakas for High-A righty Connor Van Scoyoc.
It’s possible the Rockies retain Suter even if he’s healthy enough to draw continued interest at the end of the month. Schmidt implied they could look into an extension, saying he “could see him, going forward in the next year or two, giving us veteran experience in our bullpen.”
The GM also expressed openness to listening on the team’s veteran position players, although Saunders unsurprisingly suggests there’s been less interest in the bulk of that group. Cron, Randal Grichuk and Jurickson Profar are all impending free agents. None has played especially well in 2023. Cron and Grichuk missed notable chunks of time with early-season injuries; Profar has been healthy but stumbled to a .246/.328/.382 line despite playing in the sport’s most hitter-friendly home venue.
Charlie Blackmon is also in the final season of his deal. He has never seemed a particularly plausible trade candidate for myriad reasons. The veteran has full no-trade rights as a career-long Rockie with over 10 years of MLB service. He’s making $15MM this year and is likely to be on the injured list into August after suffering a right hand fracture last month. Demand figures to be minimal, but Schmidt said he’d discuss potential trade scenarios with Blackmon if they arose. The GM noted there’s interest on the club’s part in bringing him back for a 14th season if Blackmon wants to continue playing.
Díaz might be the most interesting Colorado trade candidate on the position player side. Schmidt tells Saunders he’s willing to listen to “legitimate” offers on the first-time All-Star, who’s amidst arguably the best season of his career. The 32-year-old backstop is hitting .279/.331/.442 with nine homers through 296 trips to the dish. He’s making $5.5MM this season and under contract for $6MM next year. Given that extra season of club control, it seems Colorado is prepared to hold to a high asking price on the veteran.