In August, I wrote a piece titled The Rockies Future Hinges on DJ LeMahieu, in which I argued that LeMahieu was an enigma whose trade value wouldn’t be fully formed until July of 2017. In that piece, I argued that Trevor Story and recent third overall pick Brendan Rodgers would form the future of the Rockies middle infield, thus forcing LeMahieu off the roster. I argued that LeMahieu’s play would dictate his trade value with a possible return somewhere between what his 2016 WAR suggests he’s worth (Jake Arrieta) and what his pre-2016 performance suggests (Jon Niese).
Well, fast forward 4 months and not much has changed, except that LeMahieu’s fit with the Rockies is even worse now.
The Rockies recently signed Ian Desmond in a deal that didn’t make sense on its own. Ian Desmond is a former shortstop turned utility man, penciled in to play first base, where his athleticism will be wasted. He only further complicates the Rockies middle infield conundrum as the they are similarly crowded in the outfield. The signing just makes a DJ LeMahieu deal all the more likely.
Immediately following the Ian Desmond deal, the Rockies reportedly called the Blue Jays on Marcus Stroman and my money is that they were looking to quickly flip their outfield pieces for rotation upgrades. I think they would be better served to shop their second baseman, slide Desmond to second and sign a basher to play first base. Given the strong lineup and Coors Field Effect, the Rockies don’t need a batting champion of a second baseman. They can get by with Desmond playing 50% at second and his other at bats sprinkled at various positions. Desmond would split time at second with a replacement level guy.
So something like the following equation makes sense:
LeMahieu + prospect = Good pitcher + replacement level second baseman
Obviously, that equation has entirely too many variables to effectively solve. Even LeMahieu is a variable as I’m not sure that other teams value him as an All-Star just yet. Still – it provides the framework with which we can think about a potential deal. Here are a few that seem to fit that equation.
I really wanted the Brewers to have better pitching to make this deal work, but they simply don’t. (I’m sure the Brewers wish they had better pitching as well.) Junior Guerra came out of the Mexican League to put up a 2.88 ERA in 20 starts as a 31 year old. If LeMahieu is an enigma then Junior Guerra might be a ghost. I like this deal, though. The Rockies would be buying the potential that Guerra is actually good. They would also be buying in on Scooter Gennett’s April-June, when he managed a .763 OPSthat would surely play up at Coors Field.
This deal would be a swap of a whole bunch of wild cards. I imagine that the Brewers like their wild cards just fine given all the years of control, but DJ LeMahieu would look good batting in front of Ryan Braun.
I guess there’s a theme here. The DJ LeMahieu second base enigma feels like it should be traded for an enigmatic pitcher. Shelby Miller is certainly one such, and the Diamondbacks would be getting back an All-Star for a player who spent parts of last year in the Minor Leagues. Want to really mess with Shelby Miller’s psyche? Let’s make all his home games at Coors Field!
At this point, since none of us know what to make of DJ LeMahieu, it seems unlikely that other teams know what to make of him either. Could he fetch an All-Star? It certainly behooves the Rockies to call around and ask. It seems far more likely that the Rockies hold on to LeMahieu to cement his status one way or the other, just as I suggested in August. I want to find a good match for the Rockies, but I’m just not sure that one exists just yet.