Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

charlie blackmon rockiesWith the Chicago Cubs likely buyers this year for the first time in the last several Trade Deadlines, we thought it would be appropriate to take a brief look at some of the teams that could become sellers. These teams could present possible fits for the Cubs should they look to improve externally.

Previously: Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds.

Possible Seller

Colorado Rockies

Record and Standings

  • Current Record: 39-49 (.443 W%)
  • Projected End of Season Record (PECOTA): 73-89
  • Standings: Last place in NL West, 8.5 games back of second Wild Card

Why They Might Be Sellers

The Colorado Rockies starting pitchers have been pretty terrible. They are second to last in ERA (4.82), last in FIP (4.47), second to last in xFIP (4.20) and last in WAR (3.1). With six teams ahead of them for the second Wild Card, plus the Pirates and Cubs, the Rockies have just a 0.1% chance of reaching the playoffs.

How Soon They Could Be Ready to Sell

The Rockies don’t necessarily need to fully rebuild, but they certainly need to think about selling off some pieces this deadline. The Dodgers, with their seemingly unlimited budget and solid group of young players, will likely stand in the way for *at least* the next 2-3 years, so a miniature retooling may be in the cards. I wouldn’t look for the Rockies to be too desperate to make a move, but they will not likely stand pat at the deadline this July.

Realistically Available Players That Might Interest the Cubs

  • John Axford
    • Position: Reliever/Closer
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 32
    • Contract: $2.6M in 2015, Free agent at the end of the 2015 season
    • 2015 Stats: 26.2 IP, 2.36 ERA (3.38 xFIP), .273 BABIP, 12.3 K-BB%, .5 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: None
  • Carlos Gonzalez
    • Position: Outfield
    • Bats/Throws: L/L
    • Age: 29 years
    • Contract: $16M in 2015, $17M in 2016, $20M in 2017
    • 2015 Stats: 323 PAs, .259/.314/.452, .286 BABIP, 7.7 BB%, 19.8 K%, .8 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Not much, briefly mentioned in the offseason, here.
  • Charlie Blackmon
    • Position: Outfield (has played some CF)
    • Bats/Throws: L/L
    • Age: 29 years
    • Contract: $.5175M in 2015, three years of arbitration eligibility, free agent after end of 2018 season
    • 2015 Stats: 380 PAs, .291/.360/.463, .330 BABIP, 7.4 BB%, 17.1 K%, 2.9 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: None.

Overall Fit with Cubs

I had originally considered including Jorge de la Rosa in this conversation, but ultimately decided to exclude the aging lefty. At 34 years old, de la Rosa has pitched 76.2 innings with a 4.34 ERA (3.86 xFIP). His strikeout rate is up slightly, but his walk rate is way up and his velocity is about 1 MPH slower than his career. No, his decline hasn’t been terrible, but when you are declining from an already so-so baseline, there is not much to get excited about. Also: he’s making $12.5 million each of this and next year. I think the Cubs could do better.

There have been essentially no real rumors or smoke directly connecting the Chicago Cubs to the Colorado Rockies. There has been speculation that the Cubs could have interest in Carlos Gonzalez in the past, but that has mostly been just that: speculation. Moreover, I’m sure plenty of teams, at the time, would have had interest, in a young, lefty slugger, so I’m not sure any of that past smoke carries any weight here.

Blackmon’s trade value is a more difficult to pin down. He is performing at a very high level in 2015 after performing at a pretty good level in 2014. He can play all across the outfield, but 2014 was his first full season in MLB. He is not old, but at 29, there isn’t a lot of projection left. What you see right now, is probably the best he’ll ever be. To me, players on the right side of 30 having career years for the first time are some of the most difficult players to trade for. What one front office sees as an outlier, another sees as corner-turning. While I think Blackmon could fit nicely, moving across all three outfield spots, I’m not quite sure the Cubs and Rockies will value him equally.

On Axford, the story is pretty much the same as the other older, back-end reliever types. I can definitely see the Rockies wanting to trade Axford – as they should – because he is a pending free agent closing out games for a last place team. He doesn’t make a lot of money, so there isn’t a ton of need or urgency to trade him right away, but that make him all the more valuable to teams with tighter purses. I doubt Axford winds up with the Cubs, but I will be fairly surprised if he is on the Rockies come August 1.

Given that the Rockies don’t figure to be in a full rebuild, they are likely not in a simple talent acquisition mode. Instead, they are likely to focus on areas of need. Eleven of the Rockies top thirty prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, are pitchers, including number one overall prospect Jon Gray and number three overall, Kyle Freeland, but you are never comfortable with the amount of pitching you have. That seems to be perennially true for the Rockies, and they might be most focused on picking up ML-ready pitching. Not sure that’s the best alignment for a deal with the Cubs.

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