It is no secret that the Rockies should look to be sellers at the trade deadline and perhaps the two players most likely to be dealt are Wilin Rosario and John Axford. Speculation revolving around the big names, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, has floated around for quite some time now, but due to their exorbitant salaries and high price tag, no takers have emerged quite yet. Back in March I competed in the Diamond Dollars Case Competition and our case was to find the perfect Cole Hamels trade. See this article for more info. To find his perfect trade we created a methodology which I used for both Rosario and Axford and will use for Cargo and Tulo to come.
Wilin is in the best season of his career after his brief stint in AAA earlier this year. He no longer is a catcher, and is still a liability in the field but his bat will earn him a spot on a MLB roster. Most likely a team will covet him as a bat off the bench, or platoon DH/1B type.
While Wilin’s number jump out as warranting a high return in terms of prospects, his home and away splits will scare off many teams. At home this year Wilin has hit .365 while only hitting .205 on the road… And this in no anomaly, last year Wilin hit .343 at home over 198 plate appearances versus just .185 on the road over 184 plate appearances. So while he’s an All-Star when playing at Coors he’s worthy of being released when playing on the road.
This season Wilin has posted a WAR of -0.5, largely due to his defense and his slow start. Any team acquiring him would be acquiring more of a lottery ticket than a sure thing to come in a help. Fangrpahs projects Wilin to be a 0.1 WAR player the rest of the season. Fangraphs estimates each win above replacement to bring $7 million dollars in value putting Wilin’s value for the rest of the season at $700,000. To determine a player’s surplus value (trade value) for this WAR value we subtract the rest of the contract owed to the player. Because Wilin is still owed $1.4 million the rest of the season, he has a negative surplus value of $700,000 thus meaning in theory the Rockies would have to pay half of his remaining contract just to give him away to a team. Wilin is under team control next year but is arbitration eligible. Even if Wilin were to be a 0.7 WAR player next year with him same $2.8 million dollar contract he would still only have a surplus value of $2.1 million. This WAR projection is favorable and his contract will most certainly increase in arbitration, so this $2.1 million is about his max thus furthering the argument why he isn’t a hot commodity on the trade market.
While several teams such as the Rays, Pirates and Cardinals would have serious interest in trading for a 1B/DH type, Wilin doesn’t possess the value to make a trade worth it as the Rockies would at best receive a C-/D+ prospect with little chance of making it to the big leagues. Even though Wilin is having arguably the best year of his career, it still isn’t in the best interest of the Rockies to sell “high” on him. Instead they are better off letting him tear it up at Coors and then just giving him off days when they hit the road.
John Axford has been having his best season since 2011 with the Brewers making him another interesting sell high candidate for the Rockies. At age 32 Axford has brought himself back into a closer a role and has elevated his trade value significantly from the start of the season when his expectations were very minimal seen in his non-guaranteed contract.
So far this year Axford has been a 0.5 WAR player but despite the strong start to the season, Fangraphs projects Axford to regress and be just a 0.2 WAR player the rest of the year. At this 0.2 projection Axford has a value of $1,400,000 and when his $1,300,000 remaining on his contract is taken out he only has a surplus value of $100,000. If Axford is able to keep up his current pace his surplus value jumps up to $2,200,000. At this value it makes it much easier for the Rockies to find a trade partner.
I identified three teams that could really use Axford and get the most value out of him as he would step in to be there closer. I had three criteria to dwindle the teams down:
1. Within 5 games of the wild card
2. Ranked in the bottom 10 of bullpen FIP
3. Lack of a go to closer
These three criteria led me to three AL teams, the Blue Jays, Tigers and Rangers.
Because Axford’s value differs greatly between what projection is used, a deal is only going to get done if one of these teams values him highly enough and intends to utilize him in their closer role to max out his value. The best case scenario for the Rockies would be to sell high on Axford and bring back a C level prospect, usually carrying a surplus value from 3 to 5 million.
A few names to look out for if Axford were to be dealt to these teams based off their C level rankings.
Blue Jays: Jairo Labourt (21) LHP from the Dominican Republic. Projected starting pitcher currently in High A ball.
Jesus Tinoco (20) RHP from Venezuela with a huge 96-97 mph fastball but with little else developed at the moment.
Tigers: Joe Jimenez (19) RHP from Puerto Rico with mid 90s stuff. Very high ceiling for a reliever and has been apart of several Tigers rumors as they try to trade their younger prospects for established veterans.
Adam Ravenelle (22) RHP from Vanderbilt. Can hit 97 with the fastball with a good slider.
Rangers: Brett Martin (20) LHP from Walters State, projects as a mid rotation starter at best with a crafty feel for off-speed pitches.
Jose Leclerc (21) RHP from the Dominican who has put up huge strikeout numbers but projects as a reliever due to his slight build.
The Rockies would be doing extremely well in my opinion to be able to sell high on Axford and get any of these C level prospects. Unless Rocktober 2.0 rolls around, the Rockies will be missing the playoffs yet again and they would be best suited to get younger. Any Axford trade however revolves around how a team will project him/ use him. Because according to Fangraphs Axford has little to no trade value.
Axford is much more likely to be dealt than Rosario in my opinion based off their respective surplus values but the Rockies would be wise to feel out the market for both players as they are having some of the best seasons of their careers.