With reports of the Rockies being willing to listen to offers for Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Finkel and I decided to have a little fun while still being informative for today's VEB Daily post. Below, you will find a pretty thorough conversation on the topic of the Cardinals potentially acquiring Gonzalez this offseason. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? At this point, I don't really care...so, enjoy!
Aaron Finkel: Good afternoon, Joe! Red Baron's post this week got me thinking that I'd really like to see the Cardinals try to upgrade in right field this offseason. I wouldn't mind watching Peter Bourjos in center while Jon Jay platoons with Randal Grichuk next year, but I don't think that's likely to happen, and I'm not comfortable with Grichuk starting every day given that he hasn't consistently shown the ability to hit right-handed pitching. Piscotty is a fine prospect, but he didn't exactly burn down the minors last year. While it's possible for the Cardinals to get decent production in right internally, given the aging nature of their Holliday-Yadi-Peralta-Wainwright core (and Matt Carpenter celebrates his 29th birthday later this month), I'd like to see El Birdos try to find a clear upgrade somewhere. A few extra wins would do a lot to help their chances of cashing in on the final few years from that group. And so my ears perked up when I read that the Rockies were willing to listen to offers for Carlos Gonzalez. At 29 years old with 3 years on his contract, that time-frame seems to fit nicely. There's a lot to talk about here. He's coming off surgery on his patella tendon and is owed $53 million, but he's a true difference maker with the bat when he's healthy. Let's talk about this! Are you interested?
Joe Schwarz: Good afternoon, Aaron! I hope the weather down/over in CoMo is a lot better than it is in Indianapolis right now. The fact that minor leaguers are playing baseball somewhere in the United States (Arizona) right now seems hard to believe as I look outside my window. Am I interested in such an addition to the Cardinals starting lineup, you ask? Absolutely! However, with just about any potential big acquisition in sports, there are risks and benefits to evaluate first. As you stated, CarGo has proven to be a difference maker, especially with the bat in his hands. However, he can only be a difference maker when he is healthy, and his health is something he has struggled with over the course of his seven-year big league career.
Last season, he mustered less than 300 plate appearances due to extended stays on the disabled list after having surgeries on both his left index finger (tumor removal) and his left knee (patella tendon repair), which ended his season in mid-August. While some may be concerned about the long-term health of Gonzalez's left knee post-surgery, I am not. Given that Gonzalez had been suffering from nagging knee tendinitis prior to the injury, I think surgery will actually make his overall knee health stronger going forward. What about you? How worried are you about his knee health? And overall health for that matter?
AF: It's in the 40's and cloudy, which is quite lovely as far as I'm concerned, but it is nice picturing the fall league taking place under more suitable conditions. You know, I'm not too concerned with Gonzalez' health. As was widely reported at the time of his surgery, Ellis Burks had the same procedure done prior to his monster 1996 season, and many productive years followed. Also, this in depth article from Beyond the Box Score is encouraging. I think the Cardinals should feel pretty confident about CarGo's health assuming he looks good in a physical. The other concern about acquiring a player from Colorado is questions about the Coors factor, and Gonzalez has been better at home over his career, but the guy had a .424 wOBA away from Coors in 2013. I'm not too worried. What do you think?
JS: It is reassuring that at least a handful of people aren’t all that worried about his long-term health. I keep reading tweets stating that CarGo is "made of glass," and I will be honest, this phrase kind of makes me cringe. Has he had more than his fair share of injuries? Absolutely, but many of them were of the freakish variety and relatively out of his control. In my opinion, the surgical repair of his knee is one of the best things that could have happened to him physically.
In terms of his home versus road splits, I am not worried in the slightest. That swing (refer to the main picture above) is a thing of beauty, and it is not like it just magically disappears when he leaves Colorado. Hitting in Coors undoubtedly amplifies his stats, but as you pointed out, he had a .424 wOBA (174 wRC+) away from Coors in 2013. Did he struggle mightily on the road last season? You bet, but I would just assume throw out all of 2014 as an outlier given he battled injuries from start to finish. Plus, prior to arriving in St. Louis, Matt Holliday had a pretty noticeable disparity between his home and road splits, and we all know how that turned out—as Holliday is going to end up being one of the best outfielders in Cardinals history.
So, Aaron, what in particular stands about the current state of the Rockies that puts them in a position to hear offers on both CarGo and Tulo?
AF: The Rockies are in an interesting position. It's not ideal to trade away a major asset coming off a poor partial season ending with injury and surgery, but they run a risk that if Gonzalez has a rough 2015, they're going to get a whole lot less, and they have to be staring at the Dodgers and thinking they have an awful lot of long-term work to do. They claim they're not willing to sell either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez at a discount for their health, but of course they're not going to come out and say "Yeah, we'll sell him cheap!" The contract is a bit of a negative, but at a going rate of $7ish million per free-agent WAR, he only needs to be worth 7.6 wins over the next three seasons to be worth that money, and he was valued at 10.6 over his last three healthy seasons. But "worth the contract" is quite a different statement than "worth the contract and what talent it would take to acquire him." Then again, let's talk about that potential lineup. I'll let you start off that sultry notion.
JS: Honestly, the thought of inserting CarGo into the two-hole of the 2015 lineup brings a huge grin to my face. As you all know by now, I am very much a fan of Jon Jay, and I think he does a solid job in that spot, but the pop (.226 ISO) and on-base percentage (.351) CarGo provides makes him an even better fit. A Carpenter-CarGo-Holliday-Adams-Peralta-Yadi-Jay-Wong lineup? Goodness gracious, that’s dangerous. Though I believe both Piscotty and Grichuk have potential to be pretty good in the future, their bats do not at all compare to CarGo’s at the respective stages of their young careers. What would you like to add regarding the lineup?
AF: Hard to add much to that lineup other than, "Yes, please." Like I said, sticking with internal options isn't necessarily bad, and there are cheaper choices out there in free-agency and the trade market, but Carlos Gonzalez is in another stratosphere. Therefore, I don't think he'll come cheap, even if 2014 does depress his value a little. There are few ways more likely to make one look like an idiot than to publish theoretical sports trades, but you and I are clearly comfortable looking like idiots. Let's give it a shot. As always, the Rockies want pitching. As noted twitter personality @grobot05 reminded me yesterday, Shelby Miller was reportedly mentioned as part of a Troy Tulowitzki trade that didn't happen last winter. Shelby Miller plus Piscotty or Grichuk plus a pitching prospect seem like enough to you? Too much? Would you consider Wacha instead of Miller if the rest of the package was light? Marco Gonzales seems like an enticing piece given that he grew up pitching in Fort Collins. I wonder if Gonzales and an OF plus a high-ceiling youngster like Alex Reyes or Rob Kaminsky gets it done. Cooney, Petrick, and Jenkins could be in play as well. Where do you start? And what's the most you'd offer?
JS: Unfortunately, I do not currently have an accurate gauge of Grichuk's trade value. Though he reached the big leagues before Piscotty and has considerably more home run potential as well, I still believe organizations see Piscotty as the brighter prospect. After all, roughly one year ago, Grichuk was considered, by some, a mere extra in the David Freese-Bourjos trade, so who really knows when it comes to other organizations? Then again, maybe
Dan O'Dowd Jeff Bridich and the Rockies are drooling at the possibility of having Grichuk swing for the fences one mile above sea level.
Either way, I think Shelby and Piscotty/Grichuk plus a mid-level pitching prospect would be a good value for both the Rockies and the Cardinals. Would it be an offer that the Rockies just could not refuse? Not necessarily, but it would a good return nonetheless. Personally, it would be a much tougher pill to swallow if the trade included Gonzales, Reyes, Jenkins, or Kaminsky. Of course, as Jason Parks always said, "prospects will break your heart," but when I look at those four pitchers, I see incredible promise. Thus, to answer your question, my maximum offer would probably be Shelby, Piscotty, and Cooney/Petrick, but I would prefer a deal including Grichuk instead of Piscotty. Losing 24-year-old Shelby is not ideal, but parting with him is made easier when you realize that Marco or El Gallo will finally get a real opportunity in the starting rotation.
AF: That sort of package makes sense to me. I'm kind of torn on Shelby/Piscotty/Petrick versus Gonzales/Piscotty/one of the hotshots you mentioned as the better value. Either way, we're in the same neighborhood here. Perhaps the Rockies' and Cardinals' front offices will be as well.
We look forward to your thoughts in the comments section. Happy Friday!