At the end of the season press conference back in October, St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak stated that a decision in centerfield would be the necessary first domino to fall for the team’s off-season plans.
“I think for us, it’s going to be what can we do to upgrade in center versus keeping Grichuk there,” answered Mozeliak at the time. “If we don’t find a good solution then you just keep Grichuk there and you put someone else in left. But I feel for us, it’s really going to be exploring what that trade and free agent market looks like before we make that determination.”
While Dexter Fowler is the most notable free agent at that position, there are also a variety of candidates to consider via the trade market–including Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon.
“Early in his career he had some injuries and really for two or three years didn’t actually participate all that much,” explained MLB.com’s Thomas Harding, who covers the Rockies. “Then his rookie year, he ends up making the All-Star team, tails off at the end of the year. Two years ago, or 2015, he’s a better player–more consistent throughout, has 42 stolen bases. Then last year, he sets career highs for home runs, batting average, and for everything else and wins the Silver Slugger award. He’s 30 years old. This is a guy who’s entering his 30’s, but it doesn’t look like there’s a drop-off here.”
In 2016 against lefties, Blackmon hit .331 and had a .392 on-base percentage. He also had splits of .313/.363 on the road.
“He checked off a lot of boxes on his list and I’ve seen this throughout his career–if there is a weakness, he usually addresses it and comes back the next year,” said Harding.
Overall, Blackmon hit .324 with 29 HRs and 82 RBIs. He stole 17 bases and had a .381 OBP.
So besides the above numbers–and the consistency that Blackmon has brought to the lead-off spot for the Rockies–if Colorado is looking to contend in the near future, why would they want to trade away such a player?
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has expressed a couple of holes he’d like to fill this off-season and obviously, you have to give to get.
“If I’m on the phone with the Cardinals, do you have an impactful first base bat and what can you do for me pitching wise? I’d love a power arm in the bullpen,” posed Harding in a mock representation for Colorado.
With the Cardinals recent announcement of Matt Carpenter starting at first base, that makes Matt Adams a trade candidate. And imagine what Big City could do with 600 at-bats and playing at Coors Field for half of his games. In terms of power arms, while he could be an Andrew Miller-like contributor, teams are certainly going to at least ask about Trevor Rosenthal with Seung Hwan Oh remaining as the closer. Both Adams and Rosenthal also have team friendly contract situations.
“This is why a Jeff Bridich can’t afford to turn down anything,” said Harding. “I think he would have to listen to that particular deal. Matt Adams batting left-handed, this is a very left-handed hitting roster but Jeff Bridich has not been too concerned with that…certainly a Trevor Rosenthal could fit here. Something like that would make some sense, but what happens at the top of my batting order? That would be a nagging question if I were the Colorado Rockies.”
An in-house candidate could be DJ LeMahieu, who Harding noted has hit in a variety of positions. The Rockies also have a pair of outfield prospects in David Dahl and Raimel Tapia, with Tapia in particular expected to play centerfield.
“That could matter,” said Harding. “Right now, the Rockies, their history says they hoard guys like that and they figure out where to play them later.”
The prospects could in fact, result in Gerrardo Parra being moved to the bench. But the idea of Dahl leading off isn’t out of the question.
“I like the idea of Dahl as the lead-off hitter, but I saw really special power when he came up,” said Harding. “Now could he be a Charlie Blackmon-type or could he even give you even more home runs? That’s something you could attempt to talk me into on that.”
In a related note, what kind of value could Jaime Garcia’s 4-inning, one hit, 5 strikeout performance at Colorado towards the end of the season have through a Colorado lens?
“The $12 million would be a question,” answered Harding. “That would be an issue for the Rockies. Beyond that, he’s a pretty good pitcher.”
Whether it’s the names mentioned above or some additional/other players from within the organization, the Cardinals may have what Colorado is looking for–but it’s not a perfectly clean match. With the Rockies legitimately interested in Matt Holliday–who could see some time at first base, they may be able to address that need through free agency. Same for an additional power arm.
But, it’s obviously worth the phone call. The combination of what Blackmon could bring to the lead-off spot, allowing Carpenter to slide down in the order, and play center with Randal Grichuk sliding to left could be an overall upgrade for the Cardinals.
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