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The Other Rockie

The Rockies are in a bit of a precarious situation. The contract extension they gave to the face of their franchise (and the 3rd or so best 3B in the NL) has put them in a bit of a payroll pickle. They are committed to paying four of their players a combined $88MM in 2020, including the Charlie Blackmon extension and the signings of Wade Davis and Ian Desmond. After making the playoffs and unceremoniously bouncing the Cubs from the 2018 playoffs, they slumped down to a 71-91 record in 2019. The club has invested heavily in their bullpen, probably a great idea given the pitcher challenges that exist at 5200 feet altitude.

It’s pretty clear why 29 other teams will want to try leveraging the Rockies payroll troubles to grab someone like Jon Gray. His results haven’t jumped off the page but the former #3 pick (and someone I wanted the Cubs to take in front of our dreamy 3B back in 2013) sure still has had a ton of success and still possesses the type of potential you can dream on for your rotation for years to come (his inconsistency on the majors would probably make him an affordable extension candidate but he’d probably choose to bet on himself anyway).

I’m guessing that if the Cubs were to make a move for Gray, they would need to part with something like Ian Happ and Brailyn Marquez to make it happen.

I wonder, though, what it would take to trade for a swiss army knife from the Rockies. A guy who played 3 positions around the infield in 2019 (and I have faith that he’d be able to learn to play in the OF corners as well) and hit 250/329/450 while playing half his games in Coors Field, good for a whopping 88 wRC+ and a .6 fWAR in 539 PAs. What if I told he went in the second round of the 2013 draft?

Wait…what? I know I should probably stay away from the whiskey this early in the morning but hear me out. Ryan McMahon, precisely because of those lack of results should be attainable as a throw in to any Gray trade. But why would the Cubs want him?

First, the bad. McMahon has carried a nearly 30% K-rate in his professional career (last year, he was in the bottom 6% of the NL). He hits the ball on the ground more than 50% of thew time, a death-knell for hitters in Coors.

So, what’s the good? Pretty simple. He hits the shit out of the ball when he makes contact (h/t baseball savant). Javy Baez had an average exit velocity of 91 MPH in 2019, in the 86th percentile in the NL. McMahon averaged 91.4 MPH, in the 90th percentile. His hard hit rate was in the 91st percentile in the NL, Javy was in 78th. He also walks at a better than average 10% rate.

Frankly, the Cubs already have a similar player who has proven to get better results so far at the highest level, David Bote. Bote walks more, strikes out a bit less, and, at least in 2018, put up very similar hard hit and exit velocity rates. He regressed a bit in his batted ball profile last year but his 12% walk rate carried him to a 106 wRC+. That will certainly play at the highest level.

However, major league teams never spend too much time worrying about having too many good players. If they can make one out of McMahon, everything will get sorted out.

While I’m certainly not anywhere near suggesting McMahon is Baez (or even Bote at this point) , I am certainly suggesting that he has the tools that a team like the Cubs can work with and his professional baseball history would certainly make him attainable, at worst as a throw in to any trade for Gray.

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