Given the recent moves, I'm sure all of us have been mulling over potential trade targets for much-needed help at second base. After reviewing all the options, one team in particular has constantly shown up on the radar: the Colorado Rockies.
The interesting part is that they fulfill both ends of the buyer/seller market. If the front office believes they can still contend, they may be looking for pitching help. In which case they have tremendous middle infield depth from which we can hopefully plunder. If the team believes, however, that it's time to give up and rebuild, then even more options open up, with the only issue being whether or not we have the assets to trade given our farm system has been laid pretty bare.
Even as early as spring training, there was already a brewing battle for second base on the team, with both DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge showing signs that they could be everyday second basemen. While Rutledge was the incumbent, having started at the position for the latter half of 2013, a dismal showing on both ends of the ball this year provided LeMahieu with the opportunity to take the job; nearly halfway into the season, it seems as though LeMahieu has solidified his place as the starter, while Rutledge has been going up and down the minors trying to find a place on the team. Even though Rutledge clearly has the better bat, LeMahieu is known for gold-glove-caliber defense and high baseball IQ (a.k.a. "this guy is a baseball player").
Here are their respective numbers so far this year:
.276 AVG / .334 OBP / .347 SLG / .681 OPS
82 OPS+ / .300 wOBA / 74 wRC+
.290 AVG / .355 OBP / .450 SLG / .805 OPS
115 OPS+ / .355 wOBA / 113 wRC+
The interesting thing is, although he crushes the baseball for a middle infielder, Rutledge has only received 100 At-Bats this year, owing largely to the presence of Charlie Culberson and Nolan Arenado (and Walt Weiss's weird roster decisions). Which leads me to another reason the Rockies are a good bet to be trade partners - they have middle infielders, utility infielders, and near-MLB-ready farmhand infielders up the wazoo. None of those guys may be better than Rutledge, but he has clearly lost the faith of the organization and right now is fighting just to stay on the major-league roster at any position, let alone second base.
This does, however, bring up the problem with him - he's terrible at defense. As in, if a ground ball was hit between first and second, there would be even money on whether or not Rutledge would get to it or he would run into Grant Green in the process and get an error instead. To put it in perspective, in nearly 500 innings in 2013, he put up an UZR/150 of -7.4. In a limited sample of over 100 innings this season, he has a glaring UZR/150 of -56.4. You read that right: -56.4.
Now Nubmonger, you might say, why would we want a great-hitting, terribad-fielding second baseman? Isn't that what we already had in the aforementioned Grant Green? Why yes, yes it was. But Green was not a proven MLB hitter, and for all his struggles Rutledge has the pedigree and the numbers (including the peripherals) to back up the notion that he can hit the ball, even outside the thin Colorado air. In addition, Rutledge's presence on the team also indicates that the Rockies may feel comfortable moving LeMahieu instead. And while LeMahieu isn't a top-tier second baseman, he is definitely everyday starter material, and represents a clear upgrade from our current motley crew.
Which brings me to the much, much more intriguing name, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Yes, the 4x All-Star, 2x Gold-Glover, 2x Silver Slugger. He of the gaudy .350 AVG / .441 OBP / .608 SGL / 1.049 OPS in 2014. While those numbers are almost certainly unsustainable, they aren't too far off from his still-rosy projections (PECOTA = .896, ZiPS = .940) nor his proven history in the majors.
Given recent grumblings, it's possible that both the team and the player are on the same page, and feel that it's time to throw in the towel and move on. If he is actually available, then this opens up the incredible opportunity for the A's to pick up a phenomenal shortstop (on both ends of the ball) and move Jed Lowrie to second, where his limited range is less of a liability (yes, I know, he's doing much better this year). This would also solve the positional problem longer-term (or more importantly, through our contention window), since Tulowitzki is signed through 2020, and Lowrie is a free agent after this season.
Even if the answer is "none of the above", as mentioned before, the Rockies have tremendous depth at the middle infield position and are potential partners to be involved in a multi-team swap of some sort. Given how few true, active sellers there are in this market, and how most teams seem only willing to nibble at the margins, having the Rockies in the mix may help to keep the action alive enough for Billy to pull off something more meaningful.