Let me fix that for you: “Rockies make embarrassing trade.” https://t.co/XSRXSAaQZS
— Dillon Atkinson (@DAtkinsonOU) January 29, 2016
This trade is perplexing, just as the entire Rockies’ offseason has been. Dickerson is a 26-year-old outfielder with four more years of team control. McGee is a power-armed closer with two more years of team control. The Rockies are not in win-now mode — far from it. Both players dealt with injuries in 2015. Dickerson played in only 65 games, but was kept out of the lineup by plantar fasciitis and broken ribs. These are the types of injuries that do not have lingering effects from year to year. McGee pitched in only 39 games last year. The 29-year-old left-hander did not start his 2015 season until mid-May after offseason elbow surgery. His season ended in August because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. These are the types of injuries that could potentially affect performance from year to year.
If you’ve been following along at home, so far this offseason, the Rockies, a 68-win team in 2015, have added an extra outfielder for over $9 million per year while also signing past-their-prime relief pitchers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls. Their starting pitchers had another abysmal season, pitching to a 5.27 ERA. Rockies relievers were equally bad, turning in a 4.70 ERA. Cheer up — things might get better. They could sign Yovani Gallardo.
No one has ever figured out how to pitch well in the thin air of Coors Field, and there’s a good chance no one ever will. So why exactly are the Rockies trading their youngest controllable outfielder for a relief pitcher that could add three wins to a 75-wins-at-best roster? That’s a great question.
Having seen the king’s ransom paid for former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ken Giles, the only possible explanation for this trade is that the Rockies hope to flip McGee at the deadline for a bigger package of prospects than Dickerson could command. This is a somewhat reasonable course of action. If McGee is healthy and does not get lit up pitching 5,280 feet above sea level, he may be the best closer available at the trade deadline. A fireballing reliever with swing-and-miss stuff and a propensity to induce weak contact should stand a chance in Denver.
If the plan is not to flip McGee, then there is no defending the Rockies’ decision-making process. Short of a miracle, the Rockies will not field a winning ballclub in the two years before McGee hits free agency. Adding a possibly elite closer to a team with a staff full of 5.00 ERA pitchers is akin to putting spinning rims on your 1995 Geo Metro. It’s still a crappy hatchback (albeit one that gets 45 miles per gallon), but at least it’s got something shiny sitting out in the bullpen on the off chance that a three-runs-or-less lead can be delivered.
This trade also sets the bar extremely low for a potential Charlie Blackmon trade. Blackmon is a very similar player to Dickerson, with a similar discrepancy in his home-away splits. Best of luck, Colorado, in demanding a better package for a very similar player. Overall, the trade reeks of desperation — after signing Gerardo Parra (never mind the fact that the Rockies have several top outfield prospects and have never had trouble getting outfield prospects to hit big-league pitching), the Rockies just had to do something. Entering the season with four outfielders having overpaid for Parra would almost have been more embarrassing than selling Dickerson incredibly low.
If this trade was born out of some delusional belief that the Rockies can contend in the next two years, perhaps it’s time to start studying the long-term implications of living in a city where front-office staff may face exposure to second-hand fumes of the giggle smoke.
There’s really no way to fully evaluate the trade at this moment. If they flip McGee for top prospects, the trade could become easier to stomach. If not, and especially if Carlos Gonzalez and Blackmon are not traded, there’s nothing to say but ‘What the hell, Rockies.’