Time Is Not Right To Trade DJ LeMahieu

dj.jpgUsually I wouldn’t do this.  For these other sports blogs that proclaim to be experts at whatever sport, team, or imaginary event they claim, I often read them for entertainment value alone.  However, Rox Pile recently released an editorial suggesting that Colorado Rockies’ second baseman, DJ LeMahieu, would never reach as high a value as he has this year and therefore is a prime candidate to be traded.

I do not disagree with the premise that DJ LeMahieu will be unlikely to duplicate the season he had in 2016, taking the batting title with a whopping .348 BA.  His defensive prowess is above average, and overall can be relied upon for consistency at a position that has given the franchise problems in recent history.  However, there are many reasons why trading LeMahieu would be a mistake.

First, the idea that his “barrage of singles” may not be helping the team is a a myth.  Baseball is a very simple game: you throw the ball, you catch the ball, and you hit the ball.  More importantly, if you continue to hit the ball, good things tend to happen.  Sure, LeMahieu doesn’t have the power that leadoff man Charlie Blackmon has displayed.  And perhaps he’s not the best at swiping a base.  But the man comes through with clutch defensive plays and the reliable at bat.  Perhaps moving LeMahieu would benefit from a change in the batting order to the leadoff spot, allowing someone like Blackmon to pad his RBI numbers a bit more.

Secondly, infield depth is an issue for the Rockies.  While the outfield is packed with potential All Stars waiting in the wings, the infield has very little to choose from in a time of need.  The main reason for outfielders being placed at first was a simple one: they had no one else to choose from.  And although the first base position is definitely a weak point, if the Rockies were to part with LeMahieu, there would be an even bigger hole to contend with.  From AA up, there are only two players whose primary position is second base.  And while folks like Christian Adames can fill in from time to time, they are certainly not the players you want in that position  full time.  So even if LeMahieu was traded, there would be very little upside, as the entire right side of the infield will be decimated.

Lastly, you have a much better option if your goal as GM is to trade your way into hole fillers: Carlos Gonzalez.

Carlos Gonzalez just celebrated his 31st birthday, and although it’s not yet time to blow out the candles on his retirement cake, he’s not getting any younger.  The last season and a half have been great for Gonzalez, hitting 40 home runs last season and bringing in 100 RBIs for the first time since 2010 this season.  However, his stats do seem to be in decline, as one would expect for an aging player.  He’s not likely to gain any more value than he has right now, and the Rockies are not likely to expect him to resign after the 2017 season.  And with a crowded outfield, a change may be needed in order to fully utilize all of the talent.

Charlie Blackmon is a good player.  Perhaps not a great player, but above average.  He currently mans the center field, but is not the greatest defensive player.  Recent call up David Dahl’s main position is in center field and, from my perspective, would likely produce a better quality outfielder than Blackmon.  Assuming Gonzalez is traded, but Parra stays (only because no one wants to pay the price tag on someone who performed as badly as Parra in 2016), it may be wise to see Blackmon in left, Dahl in center, and Parra in right.

What could a team reasonably expect for both LeMahieu and Gonzalez?  This could be the defining question that decides who stays and who goes.  Neither player will likely be worth as much as Tulowitzki was to the Blue Jays, but it could reasonably be assumed that either player could produce a replacement player and at least one prospect.  Given LeMahieu’s lack of power, the Rockies would likely receive more if Gonzalez were traded.  Of course, this all is contingent upon other clubs’ needs, as well.

There’s also the issue of acquiring a desirable piece.  The Rockies are looking for two main things: a first baseman and pitching.  I’m not as bullish on the Rockies’ rotation as others and do not believe that they will be significantly better playing for Colorado anytime soon.  I do believe, however, that they can be good enough to eat innings and give the batters a shot to outscore the opposing team.  A true first baseman, one with greater power than the outfielders used to fill the void this season, would certainly go a long way in the quest for a playoff berth.  Pitching will be a challenge, as this offseason will have very little to work with.  Although some great relief pitchers may be acquired by paying a hefty price, it may not be enough to bolster the Rockies’ bullpen, as one player cannot make a team.

The Rockies need to decide two things: who they want to go after, and who they’re willing to trade in the process.  Who those turn out to be, only time will tell.


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