The ascent of the Royals and Pirates was bad for business. My business, specifically. The business of hackneyed baseball jokes. It was so comforting and easy to have two different teams, one in each league, in the middle of a two-decade fit of incompetence. Then they had the nerve to get better.
Don't give me the Phillies. They were the class of baseball just a few years ago, and they're on the Astros' path to acceptance. And, yeah, where did the funny Astros go? There's too much parity in baseball these days.
And then there are the Rockies, who are weird.
Who have always been weird. Who will always be weird. They traded one of their most coveted assets -- Corey Dickerson, a young, cheap outfielder under contract for several years -- for a reliever, Jake McGee. A great reliever, mind you. But the Rockies were a reliever away from contention like you're a mandolin away from a platinum album. To exchange something of value right now for a reliever? Seems very cart-before-the-horse, and some of the cart's wheels are on backorder.
But you need to remember the Rockies' plight before judging them too harshly. Figuring out how to succeed in Coors Field is still a Hilbert problem, and if baseball is a trigonometry class, the Rockies got the only book that was printed in Cyrillic. They have to learn how to translate an unfamiliar language first, while the rest of the class is six chapters ahead. The thin air will mess you up. How to play when you're in it, how to play when you're away from it, how to build a team that will succeed in it, how to develop a farm system to produce players who will transition well to it.
My guess is that the solution doesn't involve an extra reliever or two. But who knows? Maybe the solution to Coors Field is weaponizing a bullpen, focusing on unhittable fastballs that the thin air can't mess with. Maybe the Yankees built the bullpen the Rockies should have gotten around to years ago, but at least Jake McGee is a start. Build a fastball-heavy bullpen, keep producing the sluggers and outfielders, and shorten the game.
It could be one solution. The Rockies have tried sinkerballers, and they've tried team speed and contact. They've tried power, and they've tried (are trying?) pitchers who pitch to contact for some bizarre reason. They've spent big on pitchers from outside the organization, and now they're focusing their resources on developing pitchers from within. And the bullpen could be a part of that.
Which is all to say, I'll wait until it fails to retroactively laugh at the Rockies for this deal. I'm in the throwing-hypotheses-to-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks stage, too. Applying what I know about normal baseball teams, it sure looks like the Rockies pulled a reverse-Ken Giles trade, which is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. People are laughing at them. Even Ken Rosenthal, who isn't primarily known for his fiery takes, wondered what in the heck is going on in Colorado.
But there's no reason for me to apply what works for normal baseball teams. The Rockies are weird. Their situation is weird. Shortening the game with a dominant bullpen is the wackiest idea they've ever come up with, except for all the others.
That's the long, Rockies-specific answer to why they're dealing young outfielders away for relievers. They might be in the lab, swirling crap around in beakers and taking data. Good for them. There's another answer, though, that makes sense for all 30 teams. It goes like this:
This offseason has taught us that there are too many outfielders out there. They all want money, and they're all getting way less than they were expecting. Yoenis Cespedes got a three-year deal with an opt-out. Justin Upton didn't reset the market with a blockbuster. Jason Heyward didn't get the $200 million deal he was supposed to, and he's making just a few million more every year than Wei-Yin Chen and Jeff Samardzija. Dexter Fowler is still looking for work. If you're an outfielder looking for work, note that there aren't a lot of teams with openings.
What, then, should a team expect to get in exchange for an outfielder in this market, even if he's young and cheap? Especially if he has dramatic home/road splits. Especially if he has ghastly, unmistakeable platoon splits. The Rockies weren't going to get Francisco Lindor back in a deal. They weren't going to get a top-50 pitching prospect. They were on the wrong side of the market.
Relievers, though. Now those things are hot. If they're not allegedly hurting women and shooting up their garage, the price of relievers is on an upward trend. The Red Sox gave up a bounty for Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees were asking for a bounty for Andrew Miller. Hyper-elite relievers are all the rage, and teams will give up actual prospects for them. If McGee makes it to July with a strikeout every inning and a walk every nine, and if he's navigating the Coors seas with aplomb, the Rockies will get more for him than they would have for Dickerson alone.
That makes sense, exchanging players based on what the market is valuing. It makes sense for everyone, not just the Rockies.
Or this could be the Rockies getting weird. Staying weird. Eternally being weird. Being that weird because the normal strategies and solutions didn't work.
It looks like the Rockies got a reliever for no particularly good reason, a reliever who isn't going to do much good closing out a portion of their 72 wins next season. But they could also be trying something novel that makes sense in only their park. And they could also be exchanging a buyer's-market player for a seller's-market player, which is something that could work in every park.
They might be the same ol' Rockies. But I'd hold off on judging this trade too harshly. Until there's confirmation that someone in the front office is giddy, just giddy, about the new reliever, there are a couple of ways this deal could make sense in the future.
As long as we agree that the Rockies are eternally weird, everyone. They have to be.