What If the Rockies Aren’t Sellers?

On Sunday, news broke that the Rockies were ready to call up top prospect David Dahl following his 2016 minor-league stints at both Double-A and Triple-A, both of which were incredibly successful. For a prospect who looked to be thrown off his fast track last year thanks to a spleen injury, the news is joyous for Rockies fans. The high-school standout reaches the majors in his fifth professional season, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t really that far off course.

While plenty of players from his draft class have already found success in the majors — Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Corey Seager and Marcus Stroman, and Michael Wacha are other 2012 first rounders who have done well — some still haven’t debuted at all. That list includes three players taken ahead of him — Kyle Zimmer, Max Fried and Mark Appel — and Albert Almora, taken four picks ahead of Dahl, was only just recently promoted.

I think Dahl will be a monster, but don’t take my word for it: read what Eric and Chris have to say about him. As cool as Dahl’s promotion is for the Rockies, it wasn’t his actual promotion that was the most interesting tidbit to come out of his news report. The Rockies, 7-3 since the All-Star break at the time of his call-up (and now 7-4 following a loss last night), suddenly are not yet ready to give up on 2016. Per Thomas Harding of MLB.com:

The callup comes with the Rockies challenging themselves to become a contender. They are 47-51, six games back in the National League Wild Card race.

The Rockies wake up this morning in sixth place for a National League wild-card berth, behind the Dodgers, Mets, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates, whom they trail by 4.5 games. The Rockies are sort of floating in their own tier, as they have a bit of separation between themselves and the next team in the queue (the Phillies at 8.0 games back).

The odds on them making the postseason would seem quite low. According to our methodology here, they have just a 0.4% to get there, and they haven’t been above 0.5% since July 5th. But with six NL teams already at 0% for the season, the Rockies are nominally more alive than these six that have slipped into the ether.

The Rockies have seen long odds before. At this point in 2007, the Rockies sat 3.5 games behind the Padres for what was then the lone NL wild-card berth — and the Cubs, Diamonbacks, Braves and Phillies all stood in their way. This has happened before.

Despite these facts, the prospect of Colorado clinching a wild-card berth this year is still hard to fathom. While the Rockies are 7-4 since the break, they didn’t exactly take it to the ’27 Yankees. They took six of seven from the woeful Braves, dropped a three-game series to the equally woeful Rays and dropped their first game in Baltimore last night.

With a negative-six-run run differential and a positive-one BaseRuns run differential, the Rockies aren’t much better or worse on paper than they have played, and they have played like a middling team that is just below the ranks of playoff contenders. To be frank, that’s better than a lot of people thought they would be this year. In Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story, DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies have had a solid offensive core. Tyler Chatwood has made an impressive return to the majors, and Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Carlos Estevez have all shown flashes in their rookie campaigns. Chad Bettis, Chris Rusin, Boone Logan and Adam Ottavino have also proven useful on the mound. There’s a beating heart here.

Still, it seems like the most prudent thing to do would be to sell off either Blackmon or Gonzalez. Dahl is obviously ready for big-league duty, and Blackmon and Gonzalez have both been mentioned as players of interest as we approach the trade deadline. But if they’re not available, then who most benefits?

The answer is probably the Yankees — that is, if they actually want to trade Beltran. Gonzalez has been the best player among the group of 11 outfielders that I’ve seen most bandied about in trade rumors, and is expected to be the best moving forward as well. Beltran — and to a lesser extent, Ryan Braun — come up right behind him. Braun isn’t necessarily as desirable due to his contract and PED baggage, but the Rockies taking two outfielders off the market has to help Milwaukee.

There are plenty of other players in the mix as well, depending on the fit a particular team is looking for. Jay Bruce still hits well, and Josh Reddick is still a quality player. There are a bunch of options out there on teams that have definitively moved into the sellers column, and perhaps that’s influencing the Rockies’ decision. If they want to hang onto Gonzalez and would prefer to trade Blackmon — well, he’s just another face in the crowd. Similarly, if they want to net a large package of players in exchange for Gonzalez, they might find that harder to do with the other talented players on the market. Gonzalez is clearly better, but teams may be hesitant to overpay for him knowing they have other options.

Of course, there’s a chance that the Rockies will do poorly on the road this week, and reconsider. Because July 31st falls on a Sunday this year, every team has an extra day to consider their options. That might sound ridiculous — after all, you’d hope a buy or sell decision wouldn’t come down to one game — but teams want to have as much information at their disposal as possible. The Rockies are no strangers to road troubles, though they have actually posted a positive run differential on the road thus far this season. Still, they won’t be playing the Braves and Rays this week; they’ll be playing the far tougher Orioles and Mets.

For now, the Rockies have called up David Dahl to beef up their lineup as they see if they can really jump into the wild-card fray. If they play well, they likely won’t be sellers — and may even look to add pitching help (though given the current cost of pitching that might be a tall order). If they don’t, they could end up sellers and deal off Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon just before the trade deadline. No pressure, rookie.

Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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5 years ago

I’ve beat this drum many times, but they really should be shopping Tyler Chatwood. No idea if they are or they aren’t, there has not been any “reports” stating either way, but they would be foolish not to.

I would say between his cheap additional control year and his very strong career numbers away from Coors, he is one of the better back-of-the-rotation options out there (assuming he was available).

5 years ago
Reply to  zachbuccos

Dave Cameron likes to lazily posit he has no idea what the Rockies are doing, but if you start with the assumption “The Rockies believe they are close to being good” you will be right more often than not.

Travis Lmember
5 years ago
Reply to  ap0001

You may hold your own opinions, but please do not create an atmosphere where the authors here act like ESPN authors, pushing out a half formed opinion because the readers get up in arms when they say “I don’t know”.

In reality, I Don’t Know is the best thing someone can say when they don’t know.