Countdown to MLB Trade Deadline: 18 Days

The All-Star break is typically seen as a time for rest and relaxation. Players and coaches spend some quality time with family. High performing talent has some fun in the summer sun of Miami. The San Francisco Giants clubhouse restocks on hair gel.

Front offices, however, are preoccupied. They are fully aware of the countdown clock at the top of this page. With every passing day, teams in divisional races get more and more desperate for a deal to put them over the top.

Every few days or so, another team throws up a white flag. Once they have surrendered for the season, the season’s leaders begin to carve through every last limb of the laggards in order to locate the meat for a proper feast. So who are these fallen franchises? What are they looking for? What can they possibly offer the Rockies, who, as established in the first article of this series yesterday, are likely to remain more opportunistic in their shopping rather than an aggressive overpay?

Based on current rumors, the White Sox, Giants, Phillies, Padres, Marlins, Tigers, Pirates, Reds, and Athletics are all fully committed to selling Major League assets for future value at this point in time. Of those nine, only the White Sox and Padres appear to have set course for a long-term rebuild. On the other end of the spectrum, it can be argued that the Pirates, Reds, and Athletics all have reasonable chances to contend as early as 2018.

The Rockies would be wise to be in the market for a reliever. If all Jeff Bridich is after is good value on a middle reliever, then the relative positioning of this year’s sellers is irrelevant. But, in the interest of extracting more premium talent, it will be a lot easier for the Rockies to expend greater efforts negotiating with franchises who are further away from contention.

This concept has less to do with what these teams can make available as it does with what the Rockies would have to sacrifice in order to make a deal happen. Realistically, no trade will be made with the Reds or Pirates without giving up controllable starting pitching at the major league level. Of course, it makes sense that Gerrit Cole would have such a high price. But even if Bridich were after something more complementary, such as catchers Francisco Cervelli or Devin Mesoraco, a name like German Marquez would be headed the other direction.

There may be merit to shopping Marquez in the offseason. At some point, a decision needs to be made as to which of the many talented Rockies rookie starting pitchers doesn’t fit in long term plans. But Marquez is still 22 years old holding his own on the mound at Coors Field. In order to protect a guy like Marquez from trade talks over these next few weeks, it’s best to avoid talks with teams who think they are set up for a successful 2018 campaign.

Despite these characterizations of each seller, completely ignoring what one of them has to offer is still foolish. The same can be said of focusing solely on traditional sellers. This is where a fun case study comes into play.

The Texas Rangers currently sit two games below .500. Like the Orioles, Cardinals, Angels, and Blue Jays (teams to watch over the next two weeks, as things can change quickly), there has been no clear indication as to whether or not they plan to be buyers or sellers at this deadline.

What is already known, however, is the willingness of Rangers brass to listen to offers on Jonathan Lucroy. Ken Rosenthal lists bullpen as a need in return. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News echoes this sentiment with two additional league sources. In reporting upon the claims of Rosenthal and Grant, Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors speculates the Rockies as a contender fit for a catcher upgrade.

Due to the fickle nature of relief arms year to year, this seemingly points to Lucroy being considered as someone to deal at the deadline despite the possibility of Ranger contention. This makes sense from an Arlington perspective. Not only can Robinson Chirinos provide relatively solid offensive production for a catcher, but he can also make up for Lucroy’s sudden deterioration of framing ability (Lucroy would still be exponentially better than Tom Murphy behind the plate).

If Lucroy’s availability is tied to contention, then the Rockies would be a curious fit. As if landing someone as talented as Lucroy wouldn’t cost much in the first place, but the fact that the Rangers are asking for relievers in return? That’s not the business Bridich is in right now. There are possible solutions to make a deal happen, but it’s hard to see the Rockies being a better team as a result, let alone one that will affect the playoff race.

Still, it’s hard to buy that Lucroy’s availability has anything to do with the Rangers’ performance. Rosenthal revealed another interesting nugget in his tweets on the matter. Lucroy is “highly unlikely” to receive a qualifying offer after the season. Assuming Rosenthal knows what he is talking about, there’s really no reason for the Rangers to keep Lucroy around regardless of what the standings say.

The difference then becomes what the Rangers will want for the future. In that scenario, however, they would fall under the same category of teams as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, on the lookout for German Marquez types. Is the development of Marquez worth two months of Lucroy? Doubtful, but not an insane claim. The case could perhaps be made if the Rangers take on the rest of Lucroy’s salary. It gets even more interesting if the Rockies think they can somehow woo Lucroy long term.

At the end of the day, the Rockies must be wary of pulling the trigger on a major deal with little effect on the outcome of the 2017 regular season. Understanding the archetypes and exceptions of traditional deadline buyers and sellers, though, goes a long way in assessing fit.

Tomorrow’s column will discuss the reliever market in greater depth.

Ben Karp

Ben is a Senior at the University of Denver, studying Geography with a triple minor in Business Administration, Business Analytics, and Economics.