Colorado Rockies: 4 Trade Chips the Rockies Should Cash in This Year
The Colorado Rockies currently sit in fourth place in the National League West with an overall record of 23-30. The team has been riding a mini-surge as of late, going 7-3 over their last 10 games, and climbing to within a reasonable seven games of the second National League Wild Card birth.
Given its past history of late-season surges, this team is by no means out of contention. Their offense currently ranks third in MLB in runs scored and has the power to score with any team. On the flip side, their top SP carries an ERA of 5.28, and their team ERA stands at a woeful 5.07—highlighting the glaring weaknesses in both their rotation and bullpen.
With the enormous amount of hitting potential already in their lineup, plus batting talent scattered among their minor league prospects on the farm, the Rockies have potential trading pieces that could allow them to shore up their pitching and make another patented playoff push in 2012. Let's examine four chips that the Rockies should cash in this season.
1. Tim Wheeler (OF)
Outfielder Tim Wheeler was a first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He is a 6'4", 215 pound lefty from Sacramento State University.
Last season at Double-A Tulsa, Wheeler smashed 33 homers to go along with 22 SB while hitting at a .287 clip—earning him a spot as one of the Colorado Rockies top hitting prospects. Numbers like this would garner the attention of many teams across the MLB, should the Rockies decide to move him.
So why should the Rockies deal him?
The Rockies are loaded in the outfield. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez already solidify two of the Rockies outfield positions for a decade to come.
Prospect Charlie Blackmon has the tools to be a capable third or fourth major league outfielder as he batted .337 in Triple-A Colorado Springs last year while hitting 10 HRs and swiping 12 bags in a mere 243 at-bats.
Former Clemson QB Kyle Parker also has shown promise, blasting 21 HR in 445 AB for Single-A Asheville in 2011.
With OF depth like this, packaging Wheeler along with another one of their trading chips could plausibly land the Rockies the front line starting pitcher that they desperately need.
2. Trevor Story (SS)
John Sickels from minorleagueball.com rated the 6'1", five-tool SS as the No. 4 prospect in the Rockies organization to begin the season.
Story has speed, can hit for power, and has a "rocket for an arm" according to Matt Garricoch.
So far this season, Story is batting .300 with 10 HR and 4 SB through 190 ABs in Single-A Asheville, and is on the fast track to the major leagues.
So again, why should the Rockies deal him?
The answer is simple. Blocking Story's route to the majors is none other than Troy Tulowitzki. The other-worldly Tulowitzki is locked in as the Rockies SS for at least the next decade, meaning the only chance Story has at the big leagues would through another position.
Why not just package Story and the aforementioned Wheeler to land a SP due to be a free agent at the end of 2012? Ideal candidates include: Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke, Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum.
3. Michael Cuddyer (U)
During the off-season, the Colorado Rockies signed veteran utility man Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $30 million contract. Cuddyer is a career.274 hitter who is batting .283 with seven HR ad 37 RBIs in 2012.
Because Cuddyer was signed this offseason, the chances that the Rockies would trade him are slim. However, the veteran Cuddyer could prove to be an asset to a team in need of some run production (see: Nationals, Washington and Phillies, Philadelphia).
As for the Rockies, I consider Cuddyer to be an expendable luxury. The team is already third in the majors in runs scored, and OF Tyler Colvin could produce similar numbers in place of Cuddyer if the team was to deal him.
And even if Colvin is not the long-term solution to replace Cuddyer, the Rockies have plenty of other options in their farm system, aside from the aforementioned Wheeler, Parker and Blackmon.
Spencer Fordin, from MLB.com notes that outfield prospects Corey Dickerson and Rafael Ortega have flown "under the radar" and are indeed making cases for themselves as legitimate prospects.
Dickerson batted .282 with 32 HRs in Single-A Asheville last season, and his teammate Ortega swiped 32 bags, tacked on nine HRs and batted .293.
Additionally, outfielder Kent Matthes (who could also play 1B if needed) batted .334 and added 23 HRs in just 374 ABs last season in High-A Modesto.
4. Rex Brothers (RP)
Tracy Ringolsby from Baseball America lists the Rockies left-handed, closer of the future, as their No. 7 overall prospect.
Brothers was just called up to join the Rockies woeful bullpen, and brings a 95-97 mph fastball to go along with a nasty slider with him. He carried a sparkling 1.69 ERA with 13 strikeouts in just 5.1 IP at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2012. In 2011 at Colorado Springs, Brothers punched out 45 batters in just 28 innings en route to posting a 2.89 ERA for the season.
Rex is widely regarded as the future closer for the Rockies, and many teams across the league would be interested in trading for a lock-down left-hander to have out of the back of their bullpen.
So why can the Rockies afford to move him now?
The answer lies in their other possible closer of the future, Chad Bettis. Although he is currently a starter, the powerful armed Bettis could project better as a closer down the line. Last season in Modesto, Bettis struck out 184 batters over a span of 169 innings while posting a 1.102 WHIP.
Packaging Brothers along with journeyman Cuddyer could possibly land the Rockies a much needed SP (such as the aforementioned McCarthy or Marcum) and/or a proven arm out of the bullpen.