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By Will Korn 

Talking Sports: Tulowitzki and CarGo are the foundations of the Rockies, should be untouchable

 


Since their inception into Major League Baseball in 1993, the Colorado Rockies have always featured one player or a pair of players who have defined the franchise.

In the early to mid 90s it was Dante Bichette, who ventured to the Mile High City for the inaugural ’93 season as a 29-year-old in the prime of his career. Over his seven seasons in Colorado he totaled 201 homers and 826 RBI. After those seven seasons, his combined slash line was .310/.351/.540.

Then Larry Walker and Todd Helton joined the franchise in 1995 and 1997 respectively and between the two they carried Colorado’s torch for a over a decade.

They were two of baseball’s most feared hitters and together were a monster one-two punch from the left side of the plate.

Current franchise cornerstones Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez joined the purple and black in 2006 and 2009 respectively. Since then, Tulowitzki as become undoubtedly the best shortstop in the majors—it’s not really even close—and Gonzalez has morphed into one of the best all-around outfielders in the game.

No we all know that every year the MLB trade deadline presents a crazed month or so-long period beginning in late June, where all kinds of rumors and trade scenarios—however ludicrous—are passed around online platforms and social media like hot, fluffy rolls at the dinner table.

It’s always exciting until you hear that some team has called your favorite team’s front office to “check in” on your team’s superstar. Then things can get a bit scary.

There isn’t a team in the majors who wouldn’t immediately replace its shortstop with Tulowitzki. There might be a couple of teams who couldn’t find a starting spot for Gonzalez in their outfield.

So it makes a world of sense for half or more of the league’s teams to call longtime Colorado General Manager Dan O’Dowd with a whopping offer for either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez.

On the other hand it makes no sense for O’Dowd to even consider those offers, which 99.99 percent of the time will not be fair value.

Zip. Nada. None. Forget it.

The simple fact is that any team always wants to keep their best prospects while attempting to lure the prized superstars. Just like Christmas it seems, no one likes giving up talent. But everyone loves receiving talent.

But outside of that those two guys aren’t even 30 and can be rocks of the team for at least the next handful of years. Gonzalez is owed about $53 million over the next three seasons. He’s 28—why not utilize three more prime years of his career?

Tulowitzki is owed a much more straining $129 million over the next seven years. He’s only 29 and has been a legitimate MVP and batting title threat for the last three or four seasons. By the time that contract is up, he’ll have just turned 35. His prime years will likely be concluded at that point.

So why would O’Dowd be okay with letting any other team come back and use Tulowitzki to kill Colorado. Bottom line: when you have the world’s best player at a certain position, you just don’t trade him.

End of discussion.

Still it’s seemingly been tough for O’Dowd to turn away from a couple of potential mega offers for his superman shortstop recently. Over the last few days there have been reports of the New York Mets—who have been described as ideal trade partners for Colorado—as according to Matthew Cerrone of metsblog.com, possibly being prepared to offer some combination of super pitching prospects Zack Wheeler, Noah Snydergaard, elite backstop prospect Travis D’Arnaud as well as former Mets ace Jon Niese.

O’Dowd, if he wants to truly dangle one of the biggest carrots in baseball history, could reasonably demand a package of Wheeler, Snydergaard and D’Arnaud—easily New York’s top three prospects. You know, just to see how badly New York’s brass might want Tulowitzki.

Assuming that Colorado picked up some of Tulowitzki’s remaining salary, that would be fair deal considering the very likely outcome that one or more of those three players becomes a stud in the future.

One tiny problem however: the Mets, as just a borderline .500 team, won’t want to part with that much talent for just one player when they have many other glaring needs. O’Dowd hauling in this kind of return would be nothing short of a minor miracle.

Also, the Rockies are clearly not in rebuilding mode. They aren’t in win-now mode quite yet either, but they are very close. Wheeler is ready. Snydergaard and D’Arnuad are still young and developing, miles away from proven status.

O’Dowd wants ready-now talent in return, not prospects who are two or three years away. Trading for that package from the Mets bolsters the Rockies’ rotation, as Wheeler could step in immediately and produce, especially in the National League.

But then you remove the best all-around shortstop in the league from your lineup. As the San Francisco Giants have twice proven, championships are built on pitching and defense—specifically with a strong defense up the middle.

No sir. Sending Tulowitzki off is not a bright idea. Who would replace him at possibly the most demanding infield position? You tell me.

Trading Gonzalez is a much more viable option. The Rockies are more likely—but still relatively unlikely—to get a fair return for him since he isn’t on the same level as Tulowitzki. His contract is manageable, particularly to team like the Mets who have a boundless financial pool.

But again, why would you even think about trading a guy who’s in his prime, is producing as a middle order threat and is a fantastic value for the production?

He’s been banged up and his having a down year right now. But you better believe he’ll be back to being a .300, 30 and 100 hitter again in 2015. He’s signed through the 2017 season and when it comes time, the team should offer him a contract extension.

Tulowitzki led the majors in batting average for the first two months of the season and is still hitting .340 with a .432 OBP. Colorado’s offense might be the best in the National League and they can be darn near unbeatable at Coors Field when their whole lineup is clicking.

Getting a fair return for either of these guys is just out of the picture. If you know you’ll get fleeced, take your finger off the trigger. This team should keep its star players together and give itself the best chance to win in the foreseeable future.

Playing in a winnable, often balanced division the Rockies have a reasonable shot to get in the playoffs as a wild card. From there anything can happen.

Remember “Rocktober?”

 

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