Nolan Arenado Trade - Rockies receive LHP Austin Gomber, INF Mateo Gil, INF Elehuris Montero, RHP Jake Sommers, and RHP Tony Locey
The Rockies clearly wanted to boost their farm system with the trade of Nolan Arenado, but they opted for depth instead of high end talent. St. Louis was likely unwilling to move their top prospects, but it’s certainly possible that Colorado could have come away with a piece better than Montero. If this happened, though, the organization wouldn’t have acquired five prospects from the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Rockies certainly got a meager return for one of the best third basemen in baseball, but they did improve their minor league depth. And they definitely needed to. At the start of the 2020 season, Baseball America ranked the Rockies farm system 29th in the league. When you finish in fourth place in your division and have a bottom-two farm system, things aren’t looking great.
Adding five prospects from the Cardinals helped the Rockies farm system improve to 25th in the eyes of BA post-Arenado trade, but that’s not exactly a leap forward. With the trade now more than a year old, much has been made of Arenado in St. Louis but let’s take a look at how these five prospects fared in the Rockies system.
LHP Austin Gomber
Austin Gomber was the only major league piece that the Rockies got back and he showed plenty of promise in his first major league season as a full time starter. It was a tale of two halves for the southpaw, though, as he had a strong 3.64 FIP in the first half of the season but then faded down the stretch as he dealt with injuries.
Gomber’s 6.66 FIP left a lot to be desired in the second half of the season. The 28-year-old missed about a month with forearm tightness, came back, and then missed the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his lower back.
Overall, Gomber had a 4.53 ERA and 4.61 FIP. When his circumstances are considered, though, he has a lot of promise. A fully healthy season could have seen Gomber put up the production of a solid mid-rotation starter. With a healthy year whenever the season begins, it is entirely possible that Gomber establishes himself as a solid #3 starter.
The Cardinals could really have used Gomber last season, but Arenado was obviously a much better prize. Still, for a return that was universally regarded as weak, Gomber is a solid player.
INF Mateo Gil
When the Cardinals traded Mateo Gil, he was regarded as a solid prospect with a long way to go. He posted a 106 wRC+ as an 18-year-old in rookie ball while receiving high marks for defense and getting a cup of tea in High-A to end the 2019 season.
That was a strong year for Gil, even if it wasn’t overly impressive. Still, it gave him plenty of promise which made Gil an intriguing prospect and a desired option for Colorado. He did not deliver on his promise last year, though, as he scuffled at the plate while being moved away from shortstop. Taking a step back positionally and at the plate doesn’t set the youngster back too far as he is still just 21 years old. Having a 79 wRC+ in Single-A while playing second and third base primarily doesn’t make someone a strong prospect, so Gil will have his work cut out for him if he wants his prospect status to recover.
INF Elehuris Montero
Elehuris Montero and Gomber were the two headliners in the package going to Colorado and both of them delivered in 2021. Gomber showed the ability to be a fixture in the Rockies’ rotation while Montero kept crushing in the minors. Montero hit his way through the lower minors before tallying a 52 wRC+ in his first Double-A stint.
After being traded to the Rockies, Montero clubbed 28 home runs between the Double-A and Triple-A levels while posting a 137 wRC+ in Double-A and a 119 wRC+ in Triple-A. He is now a top ten prospect in the Rockies system and is a former top-100 prospect according to Baseball America.
He is limited to first base and third base, but his bat will carry him to the big leagues. Another strong year could see Montero estbalish himself as a regular in Colorado, which gives the Rockies a pair of potential regulars as the return for their star player.
RHP Jake Sommers
Jake Sommers didn’t dominate in his full season debut, but he did show signs of being a productive pitcher. The right-hander was a 10th-round selection by the Cardinals and playing rookie ball in the system before heading to Colorado. He skipped Single-A entirely and pitched in High-A in 2021.
The 24-year-old had an ugly 5.59 ERA, but his 4.06 FIP and 30.4% strikeout rate give him some promise. Some of his struggles are likely due to an unlucky .424 BABIP, but he also gave up plenty of hits and walks which calls into question his contol and command.
Sommers was used solely as a reliever this year, so his lack of success while pitching outside the rotation doesn’t give him a ton of progress. He can get whiffs, but he will have to do more than that if he wants to put himself anywhere near Colorado in the next few seasons.
He would be nice for a Cardinals system that lacks some pitching depth but he’s not exactly a high quality prospect.
RHP Tony Locey
Tony Locey took a bit of a step back in 2021. After being drafted in the third round by the Cardinals, he pitched 10 of his 12 games at the Single-A level. Then after not pitching in 2020, he spent all of 2021 back at Single-A in the Rockies organization.
He pitched to a solid 3.34 ERA but his 4.68 FIP and 5.36 xFIP tell a different story. He had a high strikeout rate (28.6%), but he also struggled with control (15.7% walk rate). He also split time between the bullpen and the rotation, which isn’t very promising considering his high FIP and xFIP.
Locey certainly has a higher ceiling than Sommers and I would expect the Rockies to try and develop him as a starter, but he will need to improve his control if he wants to get anywhere. He is now over 23 1⁄2 years old with no experience above Single-A. For a college pitcher selected in the third round, that’s not much progress.
The Rockies got some interesting players in exchange for Arenado. Austin Gomber is a solid major league arm, though he is already 28 years old, and Elehuris Montero is a promising power bat in Triple-A. He should make his debut this year. Both of these players look like the cornerstones of the trade for Colorado while Tony Locey has the potential to be another strong piece.
That’s not a great overall return for a player like Nolan Arenado, though, and this trade looks just as bad for the Rockies as it did at the time. Losing three pitchers certainly didn’t help the Cardinals pitching depth, but none of the pitchers have super high ceilings. Losing Montero is also a bit disappointing but with Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt entrenched on the corners, there was no place for him anyway.
Players like Mateo Gil, Jake Sommers, and Tony Locey will need to take a jump this year if they want to establish themselves as key prospects for Colorado,