Don’t look now but we are almost a month away from the trade deadline. Of course, the deadline has some faces that many believe will be on the move: Machado, Realmuto, Hamels, etc. and one key face has already been traded in Kelvin Herrera. Now it looks like there will be a nice market for infielders: Starlin Castro, Jed Lowrie, Jose Iglesias, etc. but the market will be a deep one at third. Alongside Machado, the likes of Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson will also be available given the Royals and Blue Jays struggles. And given the Mets freefall, Todd Frazier. But one name is slowly coming up and it isn’t any of those guys. It is Rockies hot corner player Nolan Arenado.
Arenado has been at the forefront of MVP talks over the last few years with Colorado. His numbers get better every year, he is a .300 or a near-.300 hitter, hits around 40 HR yearly, and has an OPS of .950 or higher (including this year where it is nearly 1.000).
Of course a few things plague Arenado. The obvious one is that he plays in Colorado, where most fans (including myself) believe players’ spiked offensive numbers are a result of being at Coors Field. Secondly, there seems to be somebody else that is having a better season over this run (Harper, Votto, Goldschmidt, Bryant, and Freddie Freeman).
To look at the Coors Field split, yes, Arenado does benefit from the Coors Field advantage. I thought last year it was an issue for Charlie Blackmon, who many believed was considered for an MVP vote here & there as the gap was a bit wide (oddly this year, Blackmon’s numbers away from Coors has been better). But Arenado’s numbers are a bit of a gap issue. He’s hitting .357 at home with 12 HR and a 1.123 OPS. On the flip side, he’s only hitting .276 with 6 HR and an .868 OPS. I mean those numbers aren’t bad, but anything from Coors levels. Then again, if three of your divisional foes have home parks that are a nightmare for hitters (LA, SD, SF though he’s done alright with being by the Bay Area), expect your numbers to decline and also Arenado has gone to two other pitcher’s parks of Miami and Washington and hasn’t fared well. However, to say that he is just flat-out terrible away and he’s a Vinny Castilla 2.0 is not called for.
So why would the Rockies trade Arenado given he is a free agent after 2019 and probably the head of his class (I was mistaken to think he was a free agent after this year-my apologies)? A couple of things: 1. They have a prospect on the farm in Colton Welker, who many compare him to Arenado in how he hits and such. He is in High-A Lancaster and putting up decent numbers. It’s possible that he may be a September call-up in 2019 and then ready to take the reins in 2020. 2. The Rockies, well, are the Rockies. Since their inception 25 years ago, Colorado has been a team that will live and die from the Beer League ball games. They’ll tear the cover off the ball with their hitters and hope that their pitchers doesn’t stink as less as the opposing team. In other words, they will always have a strong offense, but one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball (this year, dead last in ERA at 5.13), thus making them a team religiously of an 82-80, 81-81, 80-82, or a 79-83 squad. “But, but, Arizona and Los Angeles haven’t ran away with the division!” Yet. And it looks like both are slowly picking it up while the Rockies are 8-15 in their last 23 games.
I don’t see Colorado just pick it up with their staff. The problem is that there isn’t an established veteran on the rotation (and probably for good reason as nobody wants to pitch at Coors). Your live arms (as a couple of my friends put it) may have a good fastball but without movement or location and not mixing up the other pitches, is nothing more than a glorified pitching machine (Jon Gray anybody?) The pitchers are talented, but you have to think with a group relatively young and no real veteran presence in the rotation may have that “block” of being in Coors Field. And like last year, the pen was upgraded, but unless the last name is Ottavino it is already overworked and struggling, especially their prized pickup Wade Davis. So at this point, seeing a division title for the first time since ever won’t happen, seeing a Wild Card is also slim at this time as you probably expect the Nationals and Cubs (both not in first place right now) to turn it on while the Braves, Phillies, and Brewers don’t expect to go anywhere). So to me it is more feasible to sell for the Rockies at this point, which means trading Arenado does come into play.
The Rockies main question is going to be, can they be strongly competitive in 2019 and hope the pitching staff improves by a wide margin. If the answer is yes, they can do two things: 1. Keep Arenado and go World Series or bust in 2019. 2. Trade Arenado for MLB ready prospects and top ones at that. The one advantage that Colorado has assuming if they trade Arenado away THIS year opposed to Baltimore, Kansas City, or Toronto with their star third basemen is that Arenado has one more year left on his deal and is possible to signing an extension. That means the Rockies could get a great deal in return than what even Baltimore could get for Machado. So, there is that. Of course, from a business standpoint, Arenado is a key draw for the Rockies and their fans as Colorado is currently 5th in attendance in the NL. Trading him would have a hit at the gates from all likelihoods. So this is not the best of stances for the franchise as they have a tough decision to make. Does Colorado get high value in return for Arenado now especially if they don’t believe he can be signed to an extension while maybe adding key pieces and more arms, notably ones who can get ground-ball outs? Or do you keep him, hope that 2019 the Rockies starting pitching develops more, and make a strong run in October?
My take is that I think you keep him and keep the fans coming out and pray that the young Colorado arms improve next season to make a big push. However, if a team makes an offer that the Rockies can’t refuse, they have to make that trade. That said, the Rockies are in a bit of a rock-and-hard-place situation. If they keep him for next year and the Rockies fall flat, then they would look at it as a missed opportunity to improve the team down the road as whatever trade they do make won’t be as nice as it was the year before.
So it will be an interesting to see what the Rockies do the rest of the way.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat