Carney Column: Trading Charlie Blackmon doesn’t fix Rockies’ overwhelming issues
If things surrounding the Colorado Rockies weren’t bad enough mired in a 3-12 stretch in July that has all but knocked them out of playoff contention, Monday’s report on MLB Network by Jon Paul Morosi that the Rockies “will listen to offers” regarding Charlie Blackmon is one of the biggest gut punches this season has offered so far.
Just a year after signing Blackmon to a huge extension, and less than 6 months after signing star Nolan Arenado to a monster extension of his own, the Rockies are now looking to sell while trying to acquire better pitching, which puts Blackmon in the trade deadline spotlight. What a mistake that would be if the Rockies moved on from a fan favorite and one that continues to put up some of the best numbers at his position in all of baseball year to year.
Putting Blackmon on the trading block and seriously exploring a move of the All-Star rightfielder is not in the Rockies’ best interests, yet general manager Jeff Bridich appears set to do that in hopes of turning around a woeful pitching staff. On paper, a trade of Blackmon for young arms to work into the starting rotation or the bullpen makes a lot of sense, but it’s unrealistic to believe that they’d get anything close to Blackmon’s value on the trade market. Morosi kicked around the thought of teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, and St. Louis Cardinals though could have interest in the All-Star outfielder and could line up a potential deal for Blackmon before the deadline.
In reality though, the Cardinals, Reds and Rangers don’t have the type of high-ceiling arms that the Rockies would covet in a deal for Blackmon. Plus, the level of public backlash and criticism from fans and media alike would swamp the Rockies now, and well into the future.
If the Rockies had a young outfielder ready to take the reigns from Blackmon, it would make sense. But there just isn’t one in the system right now that’s even close to ready to fill Blackmon’s shoes. In fact, the Rockies moved Blackmon to right field to reduce the wear and tear on the 33-year-old outfielder, while also allowing them to get Raimel Tapia consistent playing time in centerfield. In Triple-A, the Rockies have Noel Cuevas, Sam Hilliard, and Drew Weeks that could all conceivably step in and take some at-bats in place of Blackmon should a trade go through, but none of those three are showing any power in Albuquerque as the trio has combined for just 20 homers, which is less than Blackmon has hit himself this season.
While the offense isn’t a problem for Colorado, losing a player the caliber of Blackmon via trade to try and fix the pitching — which has been an issue for decades with the Rockies — is just something that is too tough to swallow, and — at least to me — smells too much like a salary dump.
Everyone seems to understand that the Rockies are a big-market team that operates like a small market team, so it just seems very interesting to me that after the Rockies spent more than $800m combined in extensions for guys like Arenado and Blackmon, and free agent deals for Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Daniel Murphy and Ian Desmond, that the club is trying to shed some salary. The easiest way to do that for a club the size of the Rockies is to trade a star player with some control while his value is highest.
That’s where Blackmon comes in. Colorado can sell the fans and the local media on the fact that Blackmon is owed $43m over the next two seasons and is up there in age, but what it can’t do is truly sell the fans, the media, and even Blackmon’s teammates that they’re serious about contending in 2020 by moving Blackmon.
The Rockies have been bad this season. They’ve gone on two separate streaks where they’ve gone 3-15 or worse. That’s not bad luck or a rough patch; that’s bad baseball. Trading Blackmon doesn’t fix the team now, or into the future. If the Rockies truly do want to shed some salary, retool the farm system, and set themselves up to take another shot at free agency this winter, they should consider trading guys like Davis, Desmond, McGee, and Shaw to give them financial flexibility, rather than trading away someone who is considered one of the faces of the franchise.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. To reach Josh, please email him at email@example.com, or call his office number at 970-945-9937.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.