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Prospecting the Rockies for the gold remaining on the roster

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Since Nolan Arenado’s trade appears to signal that the Rockies are entering a rebuild, the Yankees should target this impact duo.

New York Mets v. Colorado Rockies

I have to admit, I am still reeling from the Nolan Arenado bombshell. Last Friday, Jeff Passan broke the news that the Rockies were sending Arenado and $50 million to the Cardinals in exchange for four prospects and the right not to pay Arenado’s salary. It was long reported that Colorado wished to free themselves of Arenado’s mega contract, while the star third baseman has at times been blunt about the perceived lack of support he has received from the Rockies organization, leading many to speculate about a possible blockbuster in each of the last three seasons.

These rumors never came to fruition, due to a range of factors from the money left on the deal, Arenado’s ability to opt-out following the 2021 season, and the limited no-trade clause in the contract. Many, myself included, never imagined that the Rockies would find a trade partner willing to take on the nine-figure sum remaining, nor that Colorado would receive a return offer enticing enough to part with their All-Star third baseman. But here we stand, with Arenado poised to don a St. Louis uniform and the Rockies on the cusp of a rebuild. The shockwaves of the Arenado swap are still reverberating around the league, and those tremors can be felt 1,800 miles away in the Bronx.

Granted, the Yankees were never reported to be major players in the Arenado sweepstakes, however they will be keenly aware of the aftereffects of his trade. For the last few years, it seemed that Colorado had been teetering on the edge of trying to compete and entering a rebuild. Now that they finally found their trade partner for Arenado, a logical assumption would be that they are angling toward the latter. This can take many forms; for all we know, the Rockies may be done shedding players and payroll — on the other hand this could be the first move of a full-scale teardown.

Arenado’s move to St. Louis can be boiled down to two things: money and value. The Rockies did not feel Arenado’s production on the field and value to the organization in the bigger picture justified paying him the roughly $200 million left on his deal. And with the specter of his potential opt-out looming, coupled with his well-documented dissatisfaction with the direction of the franchise, the Rockies did not want to risk losing him after the 2021 season for nothing. So they squeezed as much prospect capital out of the Cardinals as they could, even sweetening the pot to the tune of $50 million.

If the Rockies do opt for a teardown, one would expect the highest paid and highest performing players to dominate the conversations. Indeed, the most likely names to be shopped next are the Rockies’ best two remaining players: Trevor Story and Germán Márquez. With Story, the Rockies are likely eager not to pay the $17.5 million he is due in 2021, and will look to recoup the most value possible by trading him rather than letting him walk in free agency. As for Márquez, he is perhaps the team’s most valuable trade asset, as he is a top-15 starting pitcher with multiple years of team control.

In December, my colleague Joshua identified Trevor Story as the bombshell target the Yankees should pursue. He is one of the top slugging shortstops in the league entering his age-28 season and final year of his contract. He hits the ball as hard and as far as anyone in the league, and plays sterling defense to boot.

Then last month, my colleague Andrés recommended Germán Márquez as a trade target candidate for the Yankees’ vacant number-two spot in the rotation. Márquez has true top-of-the-rotation stuff, and has an eminently affordable three years and $36 million guaranteed remaining on his contract. He has been one of the most consistent starters in the league since his first full season in 2017, which is made even more impressive by the fact that he plays half his games at Coors Field. He would instantly solidify the top of the Yankees’ rotation for the next three years, and at only 25 years old, he would be entering his prime during that span.

A trade for either or both of these players would have to cost some of the Yankees’ highest valued players. Gleyber Torres and Jasson Dominguez are the first two names that jump to mind, and have been discussed in speculation that linked the Yankees to some of the highest profile players that have swapped teams (Blake Snell) or are rumored to be available (Luis Castillo).

Week before last, I investigated the merits of listening to trade offers that include Gleyber Torres. On the surface, it would seem foolish for the Yankees to include Torres in any trade. He is 24, with perennial All-Star potential and multiple years of affordable control.

However, Gleyber is a player with concerning batted ball metrics, whose outlier 2019 power surge coincided with the use of juiced baseballs. Even assuming continued offensive output at a 2019 pace, Torres’ value is hard-capped at a roughly four wins by his porous defense. Meanwhile, Story has played at a five-win floor level in each of the last three seasons, and has flashed the potential of a six-win ceiling. As Josh showed, his approach at the plate is perfectly tailored for Yankee Stadium, all while cementing himself as one of the premium defenders in the league at short. So, in a hypothetical swap, you would be gaining around two wins, but losing a younger, more affordable player. By no means an easy decision in either direction.

As for the other centerpiece that Colorado may ask for, Jasson Dominguez is an even more polarizing figure among Yankees fans when it comes to trade speculation. When the first rumors of the Rays shopping Blake Snell surfaced, Josh took a stab at determining Dominguez’s theoretical trade value. The verdict: inconclusive. On one hand he has drawn comparisons to Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout, but on the other, he is 17, has yet to step foot on a minor league field, and is years away from the majors. Some might argue that the zenith of his value to the team would be as a trade chip landing am impact player, while others are content to wait and see how his career plays out.

If the Yankees are serious about maximizing their championship odds in the next few years, they have to strike while the iron is hot. The Rockies entering rebuild mode means players such as Story and Márquez are likely at their lowest price. Earlier this winter, we saw what happens when a team would rather save money than pay their premium players. The Indians sent Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Mets for a relatively light return, so it is fair to question whether the Yankees and Rockies could match up for a similar deal.

Make no mistake, acquiring one or both of Story and Márquez would certainly hurt on the Yankees’ end. That is the sacrifice one has to consider when assembling a squad that can compete for a World Series title. Such a deal would swiftly dispel any attempt to sneak below the luxury tax threshold, and would complicate any efforts to do so in the future. But when it comes to a potentially franchise-altering move, that is the price the Yankees ownership should be willing to pay.