Michael Cuddyer might not be activated from the disabled list by MLB’s July 31 deadline. If he’s fully recovered from his shoulder injury, several playoff contenders could show interest in his right-handed bat.
However, that’s apparently irrelevant because the Rockies don’t want to trade him. Owner Dick Monfort made that clear in an interview with the Denver Post‘s Patrick Saunders this week.
The 35-year-old is set to become a free agent after the season, but Monfort wants to bring him back, saying “He brings value to this team.” According to Monfort, Cuddyer has said he’d like to stay in Colorado as well.
This is puzzling, considering the Rockies’ current position in the NL West standings. After looking like a possible fringe contender during the first two months of the season, the team has cratered in June and July. At 39-53, Colorado holds fourth place in the division, just a half-game ahead of the Diamondbacks for the worst record in the league (and percentage points from the worst in MLB).
Not only does Monfort insist that the Rockies won’t trade Cuddyer, but he believes the team won’t be sellers at the trade deadline.
Pitcher Jorge De La Rosa is reportedly drawing interest from the Orioles. Yet Monfort says his team intends to keep him. “He’s won our last three,” the owner points out.
Well, that’s true. De La Rosa has won his past three starts, despite allowing 10 earned runs and 17 hits in 19 innings. He’s also 33 years old, has a 4.78 ERA, walks nearly four batters per nine innings and his contract expires after the season. De La Rosa is not going to be the cornerstone of the Rockies’ starting rotation for years to come. Yet to Rockies ownership, this is apparently the sort of player the team should keep.
For a pitching-starved team like Colorado, maybe you could argue that hanging on to De La Rosa makes sense. He’s had success pitching at Coors Field, which can’t be underestimated. And though the Rockies have young pitchers like Tyler Matzek, Eddie Butler and Tyler Chatwood, along with top prospect Jon Gray, a fledgling rotation likely benefits from a veteran presence to provide some guidance. (Perhaps Colorado will bring back Brett Anderson and Jhoulys Chacin as well.)
But why would the Rockies feel they have to keep Cuddyer? Yes, he’s still a productive hitter, batting. 317 with an .866 OPS when he went on the DL. But the team has assembled a productive outfield in his absence.
Carlos Gonzalez is an All-Star left fielder (though will play right field when he’s activated from the DL this week). Charlie Blackmon has had a breakout season and can play all three outfield positions. Corey Dickerson has also emerged this year and earned the opportunity to be the starting left fielder.
On the bench, Drew Stubbs is having a career-best year as a hitter and provides above-average defense in center. Brandon Barnes has struggled after a strong April, but is a capable reserve. And Kyle Parker has bounced between Triple-A and the majors this season.
Yes, Cuddyer makes Colorado’s outfield better. And he might provide a stopgap until prospects like David Dahl and Raimel Tapia (both currently in low Class A) are ready. But the Rockies already have a powerful lineup — leading the NL in runs scored, home runs, team batting average and team OPS — without him. And Cuddyer’s performance also makes him an appealing trade candidate.
A team with no hope of contending this season should trade off some pieces to get some prospects in return, especially when those players are expendable.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Rockies front office figures Cuddyer wouldn’t yield an elite prospect anyway, and thus see no point in trading him. But even a lower-tier prospect could develop into a major leaguer or be part of a future deal. Maybe the thought is that dealing Stubbs or Barnes could get a similar return.
Monfort could still bring Cuddyer back next year if he trades him this season. Perhaps Cuddyer just doesn’t want to go to the trouble of switching teams and cities — and it’s easy for fans and media to suggest a player just accept a trade without considering what effect it might have on him and his family.
But it seems silly and short-sighted for Colorado to not even consider the possibility and hear what other clubs might offer in exchange for Cuddyer. Maybe this is a ploy by the Rockies to invite an offer they can’t refuse. Or maybe this is an attempt to placate fans by showing them that the team will do what it can to retain popular and talented players.
What this also seems to show is an apparent lack of a plan or vision by the Rockies front office.
Can this team realistically contend next season with Cuddyer and De La Rosa on the team? How much of a difference did they make this year? A better question is whether or not Colorado can compete with the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West without those two players, since capable replacements are already on hand. And if that’s the case, why not trade them for anything that could help the team’s future?
That’s how most successful MLB teams typically run their operations. Unless the Rockies have a more innovative direction in mind — and Monfort’s interview with Saunders doesn’t convey that impression — going with what’s yielded positive results seems like the best approach. The status quo certainly isn’t working.