Shortly after their World Series defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, it became clear that the St. Louis Cardinals needed to make subtle changes in their starting line-up to reach the next level. Some of the shuffling was accomplished in house, like moving Matt Carpenter from second base to third, and giving the full-time duties at second to top prospect Kolten Wong. The Cardinals then used their excess at third (David Freese) to upgrade their outfield, which had just lost Carlos Beltran to free agency (netting Peter Bourjos from the Angels).
One position of weakness the Cardinals had that most around the game knew they would upgrade from outside of the organization was shortstop. Pete Kozma was the definition of a replacement-level player in 2013, playing to a 0.0 fWAR. He is a fine defensive shortstop, posting a 8.0 UZR/150, but a complete loss at the plate, coming in with a 50 wRC+.
Entering the off-season, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Cardinals would come away with one of Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew, the two best shortstops on the open market. They would eventually sign Peralta to a four-year, $52 million contract, but not before St. Louis explored a much bigger avenue. Over the weekend, it seemed that those rumors between the Cardinals and the Rockies were more legitimate than anyone thought.
It has been non-stop for the better part of the last 18 months for sports writers to plug in Colorado Rockies stars Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez into potential trades. The Rockies have struggled the last few seasons, but every team would love to have either CarGo or Tulo, despite their long injury histories. The price tag has been and always will be high on both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, but how high? And at what point would the Rockies say yes to a trade offer?
In 126 games last year, Tulowitzki posted a 5.5 fWAR with a 143 wRC+. The trio of Miller/Adams/Kozma posted a combined 3.8 fWAR, but would offer significant financial flexibility to the team and a controllable, power pitcher, which the Rockies are constantly seeking. It’s also worth pointing out that Matt Adams, in 108 games last year, posted a 136 wRC+ and .220 ISO, which would translate to a much better fWAR over the course of a full season.
With the Cardinals offering Miller up front, I would imagine the Rockies had to have some level of interest. While I may have eventually said yes to the Cardinals original offer, I would have at least asked for an upgrade from Miller to Michael Wacha. The justification in that would be plain and simple: the Rockies are giving up the best player in the trade and not getting an acceptable replacement back at shortstop, so a better pitching prospect would be needed to make the trade more even for both sides.
Maybe the Rockies did counter by asking for Wacha, and maybe the Cardinals said no and decided to sign a free agent instead. It’s possible. We may never know for sure, since either party can say whatever they want after the trade discussions fell through. Had Wacha been a sticking point, I still believe Colorado should’ve taken Miller/Adams/Kozma. Miller would’ve become one of the two best pitchers in the Rockies Opening Day rotation (depending on your view of Jhoulys Chacin), and would serve as a core member of team for the foreseeable future.
What I do know is this; if the Colorado Rockies want to build their organization back up to contending status, they desperately need an influx of starting pitching talent. Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler will be ready soon, but they’ll likely need more. Someone like Shelby Miller or Michael Wacha is needed as well, and if they also had an opportunity to bring in a power-hitting first baseman to replace the retiring Todd Helton in Adams (instead, the team signed veteran free agent Justin Morneau), I think the juice would be worth the squeeze.
Trading someone like Troy Tulowitzki is never easy, injury history or not. However, Troy Tulowitzki isn’t going to win a World Series by himself in Colorado. The Rockies organization needs more talent.
Making a trade with the Cardinals would’ve been a significant step in that direction.