Next month as the MLB trade deadline approaches on July 31, you are going to see many teams trade away veteran players for prospects. A handful of those veteran players will go on to help the team they were traded to win a World Series.
Many of the veteran players that will be dealt will be fan favorites or former top pieces for their given team. But with contract statuses always in flux for certain players, teams have to decide what’s more important long-term.
Keep the veteran player that’s a fan favorite for another year or the rest of the season and possibly not go anywhere in the short/long term? Or trade away that player in hopes that the team will be better off and fans will eventually understand the move when it results in more wins?
That’s where teams have to decide on whether they are contending or not and if they should deal those veteran players. On the flip side of that, many of the prospects that were traded for in return will go on to help their new club in the future get to a World Series and win it. These are scenarios the Rockies should keep in mind in the upcoming month of July, especially when learning from the D.J. LeMahieu scenario this past offseason.
If you haven’t noticed yet Rockies fans, LeMahieu is absolutely tearing it up for the Yankees in the American League after he walked in free agency this past offseason and signed a deal with the Yankees. LeMahieu plays every position in the infield, he’s hitting for average, he’s hitting for power and he’s coming through in clutch situations.
Of course, none of this is a surprise to those who have seen every LeMahieu at-bat the last handful of years at 20th and Blake. He was a fan favorite and a key part of the Rockies the last few years. I’m sure most Rockies fans still would have wanted him here in Colorado and I’m sure a lot of fans would have been upset had he been traded last year or the year before near the deadline.
But the Rockies should have handled this situation much differently and could be paying for it now. What did the Rockies gain from LeMahieu’s time in Denver? Absolutely nothing. That should have been different.
The Rockies should have signed or traded LeMahieu a year or two ago. He is a hitting machine and the Rockies let him walk for nothing and without winning anything either.
LeMahieu would have been very valuable to the Rockies this season. He would have been a huge upgrade over Ryan McMahon and/or Brendan Rodgers for this season. The club would have been well-suited offering him a new deal.
I understand that you can’t keep every player, as some want more money or to test free agency. Plus, the future plans for the Rockies seems to be giving McMahon and, probably more so, Rodgers everyday playing time at second base. Which is perfectly fine, as well.
Honestly, I’m all for letting Rodgers be the team’s starting second baseman instead of paying a veteran player. If that was the case, though, the Rockies could have dealt LeMahieu for prospects or something else the past couple of seasons.
What could the Rockies have gotten for LeMahieu? Two years ago, the Rockies probably could have gotten a pretty decent haul. Maybe not a top prospect, but they probably could have gotten a top-10 prospect along with some other prospects that could have gone a long way in building for the future.
Why did they not trade him? Well, they were going for it, trying to get to the playoffs and make a push. Once again, perfectly fine.
If you didn’t trade him two years ago, you could have still traded LeMahieu last year knowing he might not be back. The haul for LeMahieu last season would not have been as much as two years ago, as he was on the last year of his deal and a “rental” player. The club could have still gotten something for him, though, that could have turned into something bigger.
For instance look at the Marlins. They traded away Christian Yelich a year ago to the Brewers. Miami got back a pretty decent haul for Yelich, including pitcher Jordan Yamamoto who was considered “a throw-in piece”. A year later and Yamamoto is pitching well in both the minor leagues and now major leagues.
Even if the Rockies would have gotten a “throw-in piece,” they possibly could have used that player in the long run. Instead, now the Rockies are pushing for a wild card spot with inconsistent production at second base and nothing to show for their former batting champ LeMahieu.
This is something the Rockies and fans should keep in mind this season and years to come. There won’t be a player like LeMahieu every year that is worth trading away as his deal winds down. Even this year, there aren’t a ton of good examples on the club for this. Maybe outside of trading away Ian Desmond or newly acquired Daniel Murphy, there aren’t a ton of veteran players on this team that may walk if not traded away.
This is a lesson though for the Rockies: Next time, sign or trade the player away. It does nothing for ball club to hang onto a veteran piece until he walks away for nothing.
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