The Rockies Take on Final Boss

The first of what will likely be several Blue Jays players to depart Toronto before the deadline has been traded this evening: right-handed reliever Seung Hwan Oh is headed off to Planet Coors. While the majority of the Blue Jays’ most likely trade candidates — Josh Donaldson, for example, and basically all the starting pitchers — have generally been disappointing this year, Oh was one of the legitimate success stories for Toronto in 2018. Coming off a 4.10 ERA/4.44 FIP campaign in St. Louis, a significant decline from the 1.92 ERA he put during his first season in the United States, Oh signed with the Blue Jays for just one year and $2 million this offseason — with a $2.5 million club option for 2019 after his contract agreement with the Rangers fell through. Oh needs his slider working to have sustained success and, by and large, it’s worked this year.

Burned by bullpens that ranked among the bottom-third of baseball each year from 2014 to -16, the Rockies have spent on relievers recently, an effort which led to the seventh-best reliever WAR among clubs in 2017. The team doubled down last winter, spending $106 million to bring back Jake McGee while adding Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw to replace Greg Holland. These moves worked out less well, to be generous: McGee and Shaw have combined for an ERA well past six, while Wade Davis is in the midst of an unremarkable, though less disastrous, season as the closer. With Nolan Arenado creeping towards free agency, the team’s window to contend is now, so bringing in Oh, who can also help in 2019, is a good add, and one that didn’t require an obscene amount of money. Colorado has more problems, but they did address one of their pressing needs.

Of the players included in the return, first basemen Sean Bouchard and Chad Spanberger, the latter is interesting enough — and probably sufficiently low in the organization’s pecking-order — that I tried to acquire him for the Orioles in exchange for Adam Jones this morning. This is the preferable haul for the Rockies, though. Not likely being able to play outfield professionally — and certainly not in a large outfield like the one Coors possesses — Spanberger is probably limited to first or designated hitter. Simply put, with other first basemen in the system and no DH in most games, he didn’t have a great deal of utility for the Rockies. In Toronto, he’ll have more of an opportunity. The Sally League is a long way from the majors and McCormick Field in Asheville is the second-best home-run park in the league (behind Greensboro), but Spanberger’s shown enough raw power that he merits some attention. For a relief pitcher in whom you’ve only invested a couple of million dollars, that’s good enough.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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5 years ago

I have heard Bouchard is not in the deal. Also, wouldn’t it be cool if an elite MLB reliever came out to Raining Blood by Slayer? I’d love to see someone like Jordan Hicks (even if he’s unpolished) or Edwin Diaz come out with that as his walkup song.