Amid rocky July, could Colorado deal Blackmon?

Rays in position to become buyers at Deadline despite recent slide

July 23rd, 2019

The Colorado Rockies are 3-12 since the start of July. That is the National League’s worst record this month. They’ve allowed the most runs in the Majors over that span -- an alarming average of 8.1 per game.

Understandably, the Rockies aren’t focused on adding short-term rentals as their NL Wild Card hopes fade. The focus is on the future, meaning Major Leaguers acquired before the July 31 Trade Deadline almost certainly will be under contract beyond the end of this season.

Which brings us to Charlie Blackmon.

Blackmon, fresh off a third consecutive All-Star selection, is a major part of Colorado's identity. Among all Major League outfielders to play at least 500 games since the start of 2016, he ranks fifth in adjusted OPS. Blackmon is also under contract through '21, with player options through '23.

Still, sources say that the Rockies would listen to offers for Blackmon, even though the chances of a trade before next Wednesday’s Deadline are remote.

Blackmon, who turned 33 this month, has a 15-team no-trade clause, which would complicate any trade negotiations. Colorado would need to consider the reaction -- inside and outside its clubhouse -- to trading a cornerstone player so soon after signing Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension through 2026.

Yet the Rockies’ need to substantially upgrade their pitching staff is undeniable, and Blackmon may be one of their most valuable trade assets in the effort to do so. Colorado could gauge interest in Blackmon over the next week and then revisit the possibility more extensively during the offseason, when a greater number of teams would have the flexibility to add a corner outfielder due to earn $21.5 million in each of the next two years.

The Rangers, Reds and Cardinals are among the teams who could pursue Blackmon via trade, although there’s no indication that serious talks have occurred.

The Rangers hope to make an impact acquisition prior to the opening of Globe Life Field next year, and Blackmon would provide more consistent production in right field than incumbent Nomar Mazara. Texas is likely to be a seller, with starter Mike Minor serving as its most popular player on the trade market. While unconventional, it’s possible that the Rangers and Rockies could build a need-for-need deal around an exchange of Minor and Blackmon.

Texas' lineup is already left-handed dominant, which could work against the acquisition of the lefty-swinging Blackmon. While it’s unclear how the new Globe Life Field will play, Blackmon likely would have less ground to cover in Arlington than at the expansive Coors Field.

While some might say Blackmon’s significant home-road splits make him a Coors Field creation, it’s important to note that many players given a similar label have thrived when they left the Rockies, notably Matt Holliday with the Cards and DJ LeMahieu with the Yankees. Studies have shown that while Coors helps players at home, leaving the high altitude for away games can negatively affect Colorado players in a way road trips don’t impact players whose teams play in more modest home environments.

As a team with strong Major League pitching, the Reds profile well as a trade partner for the Rockies. Cincinnati is looking for a long-term right fielder, with Yasiel Puig headed for free agency after this season.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are in danger of missing the postseason for a fourth consecutive year. That would be their longest playoff drought since 1988-1995, immediately prior to Tony La Russa's arrival as manager. As such, the Cards may determine they need a dramatic roster remake; with Marcell Ozuna heading to free agency after this season, the corner outfield positions are a general area of need.

Trades for Tampa Bay?

The Rays have gone more than three weeks without winning a series against a team other than the Orioles. Even in a front office known for its objectivity, sentiment exists that a trade may be needed to turn Tampa Bay’s momentum.

The Rays are 1-6 over their last seven games and have failed to score more than four runs in any game during that stretch. A rental bat is the most straightforward solution; accordingly, they have spoken with the Rangers about designated hitter Hunter Pence, who owns a .930 OPS this season.

Tampa Bay also must replace indispensable right-hander Ryne Stanek, who is on the injured list with right hip soreness. The Rays have spoken with the Giants about their relief pitchers; even with San Francisco’s recent surge in the standings, the Giants could send a reliever to Tampa Bay in exchange for an infielder such as Joey Wendle or Michael Brosseau.

Deadline musings

The Red Sox's interest in trading for relievers Ken Giles, Shane Greene or Kirby Yates isn’t necessarily linked to their standing in the American League East or the AL Wild Card races as of July 31. They need a closer for 2020, too, and all three options are under control beyond the end of this year. ... The Pirates have taken a close look at Braves prospects in the last week, an indication that Atlanta is among the most serious candidates to trade for Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vazquez. ... A significant scouting presence is expected Tuesday night in Detroit, for Matthew Boyd’s penultimate start before the Trade Deadline -- and possibly his last one as a Tiger at Comerica Park. The evaluators are sure to be monitoring Boyd’s struggles with home runs, after giving up 14 over his last eight starts.