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Yankees potential trade partner: Colorado Rockies

Might the Yankees find bullpen help in Denver?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Colorado Rockies are a bit of an enigma. Then-interim general manager Bill Schmidt took over in the middle of last season with their ace and best hitter, Jon Gray and Trevor Story respectively, both on expiring deals. The new regime appeared to mirror the old one, as it failed to trade either player at the deadline and didn’t even extend a qualifying offer to Gray, who ended up signing with the Rangers.

Trevor Story went to the Red Sox, and a year after paying to help deal franchise icon Nolan Arenado, the team brought in Kris Bryant for even more guaranteed money than either Story’s contract or Arenado’s extension. The Rockies had a rather surprising start to the year at 15-10, leading some to even speculate if this team was truly in a rebuild, but have since come back to earth and now have a rather mediocre 35-45 record.

The lack of clarity about the path the Rockies will take moving forward is important to highlight, primarily because that affects how the team will handle its players ahead of the trade deadline. They’re an infamously insular front office too, and seem to trade with other teams less than most. In a packed NL West, even with the extra playoff spot, the Rockies don’t have much of a shot of contending, but who exactly is available on that roster? Could they be a realistic candidate to be work with the Yankees at the deadline?

The oft-injured Bryant of 2022 and his contract aren’t going anywhere. Infielder Ryan McMahon recently signed an extension. Brendan Rodgers seems to be finally putting it together after a terrible start, but is controllable through 2025, and is hardly being shopped around. Connor Joe is building off a nice 2021, but he doesn’t even reach arbitration for a few years. The Rockies won’t be trading any of these players.

In an ideal world, Colorado would probably want to trade Randal Grichuk and veteran Charlie Blackmon. However, Grichuk is having a really poor season despite being brought in to provide some pop, and at this point, Blackmon is a DH-first player with a limited no-trade clause and a $10 million player option for 2023. He has a modest 109 OPS+, but even if he accepted a trade to New York, he’s not all that enticing a target.

The only intriguing hitter who might be attainable is C.J. Cron, and his availability is at best questionable right now. The likely sole Rockies All-Star representative has 20 homers already this year, a 133 OPS+ since 2020, and is under contract through next year at a bargain. Cron signed a two-year $14.5 million extension before this season.

The fit with the Yankees and Cron would basically take away their DH flexibility, but with the righty bat’s current production and the low salary he’s set to make next year, one can easily the merits of pursuing his acquisition. Of all the reasons that make this move a longshot, there’s also the Rockies' willingness to deal him, which may not even exist, and the fact that they may want a substantial package to pry him away. Cron is hardly a one-year wonder, even though this is likely to be his best season in the big leagues, and the first baseman is under control at a great price for 2023.

The Yankees’ rotation is as far away from being in need as any staff can be in this current climate. However, one mustn’t be blind to market opportunities. If the right starter is available for the right price, that opportunity should be considered, and the Rockies don’t really have that.

Hometown product Kyle Freeland and former trade target favorite Germán Márquez are signed long-term and not exactly having impressive seasons; they’re likely off the table. Chad Kuhl is the latest Pirate to find success outside of Pittsburgh, but what makes it impressive is that he did so in the toughest pitching environment in the world. However, there isn’t enough in his pitching profile to advise a move.

If the Yankees are going to make a move with Colorado, the likeliest sector to explore is definitely bullpen help. Two names stand out in that department, and both are on expiring deals: Daniel Bard and Alex Colomé. Coincidentally or not, these two former AL East products, currently find themselves in the middle of solid seasons in the hitter’s paradise of Coors Field.

Bard is once again thriving as the Rockies closer, with only 7 earned runs allowed in 30.2 innings pitched (a 2.05 ERA). The former Red Sox bullpen ace returned in 2020 from seven years out of Major League Baseball, and over the past couple years has regained at least a semblance of his former greatness.

Bard is in the midst of his best season since 2010. The Rockies closer has a career-high 30.4-percent strikeout rate, and opponents can hardly do anything with his high walk rate, as the right-hander is allowing a minuscule .271 opponent’s OPS. He also has 16 saves and is the only competition for Cron to be the Rockies’ All-Star representative this year.

Meanwhile, Colomé has regained form after an awful 2021 with the Twins. The former All-Star has a 2.70 FIP, as he has yet to allow a single long ball in 2022. Colomé is succeeding despite a career-low strikeout rate, by keeping the ball in the yard. His 2.45 ERA is second only to Bard in the Rockies’ bullpen.

Neither one of these players figures to cost much at the deadline, given they're both on expiring contracts. They’re the exact type of bullpen depth contending teams look for at the deadline. Bard, especially, should provide a significant boost to any ‘pen he joins, and he comes with flexibility, having had success as a closer and also in other roles.