The Rockies have dealt shockwaves throughout Colorado as news broke earlier this week that their superstar and face of the franchise, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tulo, along with reliever LaTroy Hawkins, was sent to Toronto in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes, reliever Miguel Castro, minor leaguer Jesus Tinoco and the Jays’ 2014 first round pick, pitcher Jeff Hoffman.
There’s clearly quite a bit to examine here.
The Big Picture: To me, the most important aspect of this trade is the Rockies’ front office is committed to reshaping the team to the World Series caliber squad that was the 2007 Rockies.
In other words, I think that by shipping away the face of the franchise, management has accepted that the current M.O. of the Rockies—being superb in hitting and awful at pitching—is not going to earn the team a ticket to the playoffs.
And the adjectives “superb” and “awful” are no exaggerations. As of right now, the Rockies are second in Major League Baseball with a .273 team average, trailing only the Detroit Tigers. But their pitching ranks dead last. The Rockies’ team ERA is a frightening 4.97.
In 2014, Colorado again trailed only the Tigers with a .276 team batting average, but pitching was again worst in the league. The team ERA was 4.84 to be exact.
My head is starting to hurt from sharing these bad pitching stats, but for the sake of argument, I’ll continue. In 2013, pitching ranked third worst, while hitting ranked third best.
The year prior, Colorado’s team batting average was second best in the Majors, and team ERA was the worst. Check the stats if you want. It’s not pretty to look at, but it is worth seeing that since the Rockies were last competitive (I’ll say in 2010, the year of their last winning season) hitting has been easy and pitching has been killing them.
So what I see in the Tulo trade is the Rockies’ willingness to change course. It seems they have accepted the Tulo-led Rockies would never have a shot at a playoff run in the next few seasons. Trading him away was smart. The return value that the Colorado will see in the next handful of seasons is going to be dramatic.
The trade pieces: When news of the trade broke, I think a lot of Rockies fans out there were outraged, and horrified by what the they got in return for their beloved Tulo. I feel like swapping Jose Reyes for Tulo was borderline insulting to some people. The two are very different players.
As we have all seen since Tulo came up to the Majors in 2006, the guy is a defensive wizard. He owns his position tremendously, and from the start, his competitiveness and leadership earned him the respect of teammates, managers and fans. Not to mention, he is in the rare breed of being a power hitting shortstop.
Reyes, on the other hand, is a defensive liability compared to Tulo. His career fielding percentage is a .972, which compared to Tulo’s lifetime percentage of .985, is underwhelming.
Reyes earned a reputation as a speedy leadoff guy who hits a lot of triples and steels a lot of bases. He’s still got some fuel in the tank, but he’s been plagued by injuries and the climax of his career is certainly behind him.
But as I hinted at earlier, Reyes is not the key in the trade. Sure, he could be an impactful player by the time the Rockies are (hopefully) in the playoffs again, but the three other guys the Rox acquired—Castro, Tinoco and Hoffman—are who Rockies fans should be excited about seeing.
Miguel Castro is a 20 year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic who is playing for the Rockies’ AAA affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He struggled a bit with the Jays this season, recording a 0-2 record and a 4.38 ERA in 13 games, with a good amount of his playing time coming from the bullpen.
But Castro throws in the mid 90s and has built a reputation in the minor leagues as a strikeout machine. Being a 20 year old in the MLB speaks for itself. The Rockies’ management is confident they can shape him into an effective Major League pitcher in the near future.
Jesus Tinoco is also just 20. Playing for the Blue Jays’ A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts (what a name), Tinoco is averaging 7.5 strikeouts and only 2.4 walks per nine innings pitched.
That in itself is good to know. It hopefully implies Tinoco does not have control issues, something that has plagued young Rockies’ pitchers lately. Jordan Lyles, Eddie Butler and Tyler Matzek were all posed to be part of the starting rotation in 2015, but various issues—lack of control being prominent among them—changed that. Now only Butler is left in the Rockies’ rotation.
But regardless, Colorado has high hopes for Castro and Tinoco and hope to see them playing at Coors Field in a few years, maybe shorter.
Jeff Hoffman is the key here. If the Rockies getting into the playoffs in the next few years were labeled the Chamber of Secrets, Jeff Hoffman could very well be Harry Potter. Like I said before, he was the Blue Jays’ first round pick in 2014.
In time split between the Jays’ High A and AA Minor League teams, Hoffman posted a 2.93 ERA. He struck out 46 batters in 67⅔ innings pitched and had a 3-3 record.
If you’re thinking to yourself “OK why has this guy been hyped up so much? His minor league stats are good, but not mind blowing,” I hear you. I pondered the same.
I think that by the time Hoffman gets to the majors, he will be the Rockies’ Gerrit Cole. Just an FYI, Cole is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ ace and is leading baseball in wins with 14. He’s also fourth in ERA.
Hoffman reminds me of Cole because of his insane velocity. He routinely throws in the mid-to-upper 90s and has an impressive ERA at a young age in the minors. I think he will develop his curveball and slider in the minors. Maybe he’ll even add a changeup or another fastball to his repertoire. He’s going to be explosive when he makes it up to the Majors. Trust me.
What’s next for the Rox? Rockies fans: the biggest thing to take away from this trade is that your management has made a significant investment in the future of the team and has finally addressed the elephant in the room that has plagued the team since 2010.
Signing mediocre free agents like Kyle Kendrick (who pitched badly with the Phillies…at sea level) is not the key to success. Colorado has tapped into the minor league pipeline and has acquired some nice young talent to develop into professional baseball players.
It was hard to say goodbye to Tulo. But unfortunately, a Troy Tulowitzki-led Rockies playoff appearance was definitely not in the cards. I think a couple more years of losing would drive a guy as competitive as Tulo absolutely insane.
Seeing his youth disappear and playing for bad baseball teams for the next few seasons would have been hard for him. Plus, I think his eventual departure from Colorado would have been much more bitter and unpleasant.
So Rockies fans, if I’m being honest, I don’t think that the Rox are going to make the playoffs in the next three seasons. But I believe that management will continue to make smart moves regarding getting much needed pitching help in the near future.
Imagine in a few years when guys like Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu are hardened veterans. Now add a good pitching staff. It’s a beautiful thought. If that could actually happen, I think Rocktober can happen again.
Contact CU Independent Rockies Beat Writer Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo