When your stadium sits 5,200 feet above sea level, batted balls carry more than usual, breaking balls have a little less break, and nobody wants to pitch there.
This is the largest problem the Colorado Rockies face as a franchise. In a league that values pitching at an increasingly historic rate, see offseason signings of starting pitchers for astronomical dollar amounts, the Rockies have a hard time finding pitchers who can be successful in Coors Field’s dimensions.
In their most recent attempt to correct this issue the Rockies acquired talented relief pitcher Jake McGee and a minor league pitcher German Marquez for outfielder Corey Dickerson and minor league infielder Kevin Padlo.
On the surface, this trade makes plenty of sense. The Tampa Bay Rays needed some firepower for their lineup and had a surplus of pitching, and the Rockies needed young, talented, hard throwing pitchers and had four starting outfielders.
Approaching this trade in this simple matter ignores one huge issue. Dickerson is a much more valuable asset as a baseball player than McGee is.
To start with the obvious, McGee is older than Dickerson, and he becomes a free agent two years before Dickerson does. These extra two years of club control are of the utmost importance for any club, especially for a rebuilding team like the Rockies, or a small market club like the Rays.
McGee instantaneously gives the Rockies a better bullpen, but, does a rebuilding team like the Rockies really need a potential lock-down closer? McGee could prove vital if the Rockies find themselves in contention in 2016 or 2017, however that does not seem to be the most likely scenario for the rebuilding franchise.
It would be more valuable for the Rockies to have four years of an everyday player in Dickerson than two years of a closer like McGee.
Dickerson is also a great hitter, with a career .879 OPS. While this number is certainly inflated by Coors Field being his home ball park, it is still an impressive number.
Before a seemingly season-long battle with plantar fasciitis in 2015, Dickerson appeared to quietly be on the cusp of stardom. In 131 games in 2014 he posted a .312/.364/.931 slash line to go along with 24 HR’s.
The plantar fasciitis issues of 2015 slowed down his production and lowered his trade value, but, going to the AL where he can DH occasionally will help with that issue.
McGee himself could also be seen as an injury risk, as he missed the start of the 2015 season after arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow.
The Rockies also received a slight edge on the prospect front, especially considering their desperate need for pitching.
In the 20-year-old Marquez, they received a young, hard-throwing, high upside starter. Something that is of great value to the Rockies considering their problems with developing competent pitching at Coors Field.
In return the Rays received a young third baseman in Padlo. Padlo opened up this season by struggling in Low-A ball. He rebounded nicely, albeit at a lower competition level, with short-season Boise where he posted a .904 OPS in 70 games. At age 19 Padlo has plenty of time to develop into a productive major leaguer.
This edge on the prospect front is not enough to make up for the value difference between Dickerson and McGee. Both of the prospects included in this deal are very young, and have yet to play in the higher minor-league levels, meaning they are more risky prospects.
Although Marquez appears to be the more valuable prospect, there is a possibility he will never be a productive major leaguer. Something that Dickerson has already proven to be.
McGee is a great relief pitcher, something that has more value to a contending team than a rebuilding one like the Rockies. Dickerson is younger, has more years of club control, and could have been a dominant force, especially playing his home games at Coors.
Ultimately the Rockies desperate need for pitching saw them lose a great hitter for a sub-par trade return.