Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado trade adds to long list of disasters

One could say that the recent trade of Nolan Arenado is the kick-off of a major rebuild for the Colorado Rockies, but that would mean there was something to tear down in the first place.

With inept leadership continuing to run the show in Colorado, the Rockies have now traded away their franchise player and not only arguably the top third baseman in baseball but one of the top overall hitters in the game right now for a fringe major league starter and a small handful of lower-ranked prospects.

A long list of recent free agent disasters for the Colorado Rockies.

The deal is a culmination of a variety of factors, one of which being half a decade of disastrous free agent signings by the Colorado Rockies, failing to surround a small core of talent with the help needed to win the franchise’s first NL West crown ever.

To be fair, MLB teams hand out big contracts to players who just don’t pan out all the time and the Colorado Rockies have always needed to pony up a bit more to attract high-quality pitching help, but when you take a look at the list of free agents the Rockies have signed since 2015, it’s a long list of unfortunate and near-sighted signings.

The biggest chunk of that $281.6 million pie belongs to 35-year-old Ian Desmond who sat out the 2020 season, but is looking to return in 2021. Desmond’s five-year deal came after an All-Star season in 2016 with Texas, but the results in Colorado have been a disaster from the start.

Posting a wRC+ of 70, 82, and 87 in each of the last three seasons, Ian Desmond has been worth -3.2 Wins Above Replacement for the Colorado Rockies since 2017. You won’t find many other hitters across baseball with worse production over that span.

There was also the $52 million decision to bring in Wade Davis after the 2017 season. Davis was coming off three-straight All-Star seasons, two of which were sub-2.00 ERA seasons. But the 32-year-old closer quickly lost favor with the Colorado Rockies and his role as the team’s closer.

Davis led the league with 43 saves in 2018, but saw his ERA balloon to 4.13. Overall, Davis was 4-13 with 60 saves, a 6.49 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and averaged just over 4.5 BB/9 over the course of his three-year deal with the Rockies. We can file the Davis contract as terrible luck, taking a gamble on a highly volatile position. But that $52 million could have been used to bring in multiple quality pieces instead.

The list of failed free agent signings is long, but there’s one more major chunk of spending gone wrong we have to highlight.

The Colorado Rockies handed out a combined $105.5 million for RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Jake McGee, OF Gerardo Parra, and IF Daniel Murphy.

Shaw spent two seasons in Colorado (2018-2019), recording a 5.61 ERA and 1.55 WHIP across 126 innings. He was worth -0.7 bWAR. Fellow reliever Jake McGee was worth -0.3 bWAR from 2016-2019, pitching to a 4.78 ERA over the course of his $26 million contract.

For a cool $26 million, the Rockies received three seasons of sub-par play out of Gerardo Parra. In 359 games Parra slashed .283/.320/.407 and was worth -1.4 bWAR. Murphy, who was 34 years old at the time of his signing, played in just 172 games over the last two seasons, hitting .269 with a .742 OPS.

Nothing will likely change as long as Jeff Bridich is the general manager, meaning more trades that only set the franchise back and misguided free agent signings. Combine that with minimal talent in the farm system and the Colorado Rockies have set themselves for a long, tumultuous road ahead.