By: Noah Wright
The Colorado Rockies have made it clear that they want an upgrade at first base. They reportedly made a serious run for former D-Backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but ultimately fell short to the St. Louis Cardinals in that pursuit. Still with interest at getting an upgrade at the position, they’ll look among the free agent market and trading market to get an upgrade.
Their main 1B in 2018 was Ian Desmond. The only good thing to come out of ‘18 for Desmond was a 20/20 season. The converted-shortstop-to outfield-to first base-to multi-position option only batted .236/.307/.422 with a lowly 81 wRC+. Defensively, he was worth -6 DRS, and -1.6 dWAR. Needless to say, the contract they gave him back during the 2016-2017 season has not gone the way the team has expected. The Rox do have another in-house option with youngster Ryan McMahon. But in 202 PA’a, the lefty swinger had only a .683 OPS.
One cheap route the team could go down is platooning McMahon at first. Ryan has reverse splits, as his batting line against LHP is .286/.419/.486. Against RHP, he has just a .212/.284/.333 line. There are plenty of options like Justin Bour, Matt Adams, and Lucas Duda who are RHP crushers on the market. Plus, all 3 would thrive in the coors field environment.
On the other hand, the team could go and acquire a big name 1B who could take over duties full time. Most of the market is filled with platoon-at-best players, so they could go and sign an unconventional 1B. The first option the Rox could go with is Mike Moustakas. Moustakas batted a solid .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs, and 105 wRC+ between the Royals and Brewers. Defensively, the third baseman posted average overall numbers with 2 DRS, 1 UZR, and .5 dWAR. Since he can handle 3B easily, it would be interesting to try him out at first. Moustakas also played 35 innings over at 1B this season with the Royals. Another unconventional possibility to solve the team’s 1B issues is Nelson Cruz. The former outfielder-turned-designated hitter turned in his 6 straight very productive season. He batted .256/.342/.509 with 37 home runs and a 134 wRC+. While Cruz hasn’t played first base in the minors or majors, he was reportedly working some at 1B last off season. The Rockies also don’t have a bad farm system. They likely won’t be willing to part with anyone like Brendan Rodgers, but Peter Lambert (#99 on mlb.com’s list), Garrett Hampson (who batted .311/.382/.432 with 36 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A), Raimel Tapia, and possibly previously mentioned Ryan McMahon could be involved in a deal to acquire a first baseman in a trade. The Rockies have been in talks with the Mariners about Carlos Santana, who is one bounceback candidate the team could take a chance on. However, I think a better candidate for the team to pursue is Yonder Alonso. Alonso batted .250/.317/.421 with 23 home runs and a 97 wRC+ in 574 plate appearances with the Cleveland Indians. Plus while he could be the primary 1B, he has better numbers against RHP (.258/.330/.446 line in 2018), so they could also go down the platoon route as well. Alonso would almost certainly thrive in the Coors environment. Acquiring Alonso over Santana is beneficial for both teams as well. The Indians would be loosening up some payroll (nearly $8 million to be exact), something that they’ve been looking to do this off season. Plus, the Rockies wouldn’t be taking on a contract the size of Santana’s, and would acquire a quality first baseman.
The Rockies need to solve their first base issue. Currently, they don’t have a good answer at the corner infield position. Internally, they do have a young option, but in the end, it may be better for the team to acquire an outside source. In a trade, the Rockies and the other team involved could both benefit. On the free agent market, while the there may not be too many regular conventional options, there are some other choices that could be converted to 1B.