UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Assessing Schmidt’s trade deadline choices

Sellers or buyers? Or neither?

That’s the decision hanging over Rockies General Manager Bill Schmidt as next Tuesday’s Major League Baseball trade deadline fast approaches.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that Colorado will, or should, be a seller, with Julio Iglesias and Daniel Bard the most likely players to be moved for younger talent. Alex Colome and Chad Kuhl have been mentioned, too.

Iglesias, who is among the leaders in batting average and is a slick defender, makes some sense, if only because Ezekial Tovar is looking like the shortstop of the future here. Garrett Hampson could fill in until Tovar is promoted, whether that’s later this season or to start the next.

And Bard is enjoying a stellar season at the age of 37, the best of his resurrected career. He’s one of the most successful closers in the Majors so far in 2022—his All-Star Game omission notwithstanding.

No question these two, in particular, could help a contender.

But the optimism emanating from the Rockies clubhouse at the All-Star Break didn’t sound like anyone in pinstripes had given up on this season just yet.  Though, the team’s performance in Milwaukee upon resumption of play following the All-Star Break did nothing to validate it.

“We’re in a good spot,” Kris Bryant declared after Colorado won two of three from the Pirates to conclude the figurative first half of this season on a 121-8 run. Never mind that the Rockies lost that last game before the Break.

It’s hard to see how any trade involving Iglesias, Bard or any other member of the current roster would make the Rockies more competitive. 

Hampson is not Iglesias, and subtracting Bard—or Colome, for that matter—exacerbates the team’s most pressing need if it is to have any chance down the stretch.

For sure, the Rockies could use an upgrade or two in the bullpen. But what team with post-season aspirations doesn’t want that? 

Adding an arm for two months is not worth any of Colorado’s most promising prospects, especially not Tovar, Zac Veen, Drew Romo or Michael Toglia.

It can be argued, in fact, that the Rockies had already added two difference-makers as they embarked on their remaining 69 games. Jose Urena’s first three starts were as good as any the alleged “Big Three” of German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela produced up to the All-Star Break. And there’s Bryant himself, if he stays healthy for the duration after missing 52 of their first 93.

Last year’s improbable finish by the Braves and this season’s streaks by the Mariners and Orioles are reasons those in the Rockies clubhouse think a miracle finish is possible.

Atlanta beat Washington 8-4 last August 6 to climb above .500 for the first time in the 2021 season at 56-55. From there the Braves went 32-18 to win the National League East, then went on to win the World Series.

This year, Seattle finished the first “half” with 14 straight victories to raise hopes that the Mariners would make the postseason for the first time in 21 years.  And Baltimore reeled off 10 wins in a row to reach .500 (after losing 110 last season). As play resumed after the American League’s 3-2 All-Star victory, the Orioles were only three-and-a-half games out of the last Wild Card berth.

None of this is to say the Rockies will rally to make the playoffs, only that it’s not yet totally out of the question. 

The task ahead is formidable.

Starting play last Friday, Colorado was six-and-a-half games behind Philadelphia and St. Louis, who were tied for the last Wild Card spot. The Rockies’ record was 43-50.

For them to sneak in as the last Wild Card, the four teams ahead of them (Phillies, Cardinals, Giants and Marlins) all have to play .500 ball the rest of the way. 

If that happens, the best of them will finish with 84 victories, which means it will take 85 victories to make the expanded playoffs in the National League. For the Rockies to get there, that requires them to go 42-27—against the toughest remaining schedule in baseball based on the composite winning percentage of the opponents each team had left to play following the All-Star Game.

Highly unlikely. But don’t tell the players that.  That 12-8 to close the “first half” was a .600 winning percentage.  To go 42-27 the rest of the way is .608, and they considered that achievable, at least before the series in Milwaukee.

I think Bill Schmidt wants to think positively,  the way his players do. But realism (10 left against the Dodgers, including six to end the season in Los Angeles, and a 10-game road trip with four against the Mets and three in Atlanta) dictates that he look to next season and beyond.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net