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Yankees potential trade partner: Colorado Rockies

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Two high-impact pieces highlight the roster, but can the Yankees afford either?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I admit a morbid fascination with the Colorado Rockies. They don’t behave the way that other MLB teams do, with one of the smallest analytic teams in the game, and a team that is often also asked to be clubhouse workers. They’ve been able to produce legitimate stars, who often see their time in Denver end messily — Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado, to name just two. And in the midst of another uncompetitive season, they boast some trade pieces that multiple teams will be inquiring on as we approach the deadline.

The big name, of course, is shortstop Trevor Story. The impending free agent sports one of the best combinations of speed and power in the game, and after a slow start to 2021, has rebounded with a 120 wRC+ in June, and swiped 14 bags with a 78 percent success rate on the year. He has graded out as neutral defensively, zero OAA, but since the start of 2018, has been the eighth-best shortstop in baseball with 17 OAA. For context, the player probably most similar to Story in terms of power and speed is Trea Turner, who’s notched six OAA in that same span.

Story represents the kind of all-around upgrade that would be impactful for the Yankees, but his $13.8 million salary, even prorated, would make it difficult for the Yankees to do anything else and still stay under the $210 million CBT threshold, and that’s before discussing prospect cost. Story’s the best rental position player available, and while position players never really command the haul that pitchers do, the Yankees will still need to make a serious offer, especially if they want Colorado to retain any money and stay below that CBT mark.

After Story, the Rockies’ best offerings come on the mound, headlined by Germán Márquez. It’s tough to evaluate Márquez on ERA, since Coors really does a number on that metric, but by ERA+, which controls for ballpark, he’s been above average every year since 2017, and broke out in a big way last season, where he lead the majors in innings pitched and notched a 138 ERA+. Averaging six full innings a start over the past two years, he’s blossomed into about as reliable a No. 2 pitcher as you can find, but comes at a sky-high cost being under team control until the end of the 2024 season.

If you want to shop more on the bargain end, Jon Gray is an obvious option, an impeding free agent who has struggled with health and varied between being rather good — 114 ERA+ this year, 133 in 2019 — and rather bad, with a 78 and 92 ERA+ in 2020 and 2018, respectively. He seems almost too perfect for Brian Cashman, relatively inexpensive and low-risk, with the potential for upside.

The last factor in discussions around the Rockies is what I talked about above, the general weirdness of the organization. They’re a team stuck in 2007, and that influences how they value their own pieces, and those of other teams. They took what many considered to be a soft return for one of the greatest home-grown talents in franchise history, dumping Nolan Arenado over the winter and prioritizing as much salary relief as possible. When they dealt Troy Tulowitzki, the previous “one of the greatest home-grown talents in franchise history” to the Blue Jays in 2015, the main pieces going back, Jose Reyes and Jeff Hoffman, were also seen as rather light. How that affects trades in 2021 remains to be seen.

The Rockies have built a legacy of stars and scrubs roster, and indeed, there are two bright stars on this team that the Yankees would be interested in. Prospect cost, and perhaps more importantly, the looming CBT cap, might stop them from making impact moves with Colorado, and force them to look elsewhere.