September 29, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) hits an RBI single during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals, Rockies to Explore Tulowitzki Trade

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports recently reported that the Rockies and Cardinals will discuss a trade at this week’s GM Meetings that would bring Troy Tulowitzki to St. Louis. For the Rockies, this is a long overdue signal that they will  begin to rebuild, after they appeared to be in limbo for consecutive winters, despite having not reached 75 wins since 2010. This is the Cardinals’ opportunity to utilize their elite crop of young stars and prospects to fill their one major hole – shortstop – and become early 2014 World Series favorites. But never mind Tulowitzki and St. Louis, this is a prospect website; the question is what young talent can the Rockies net in return?

Rockies’ management has made it abundantly clear that they will not move Tulowitzki unless they can net a haul of comensurate value, which is part of the reason Passan predicted that Shelby Miller would be the center of any potential trade. Miller, 22, won 15 games (3.06 ERA) for St. Louis in 2013 and is a favorite – along with Yasiel Puig – for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Before that, he had been on the prospect radar, twice appearing on BA’s top 10 prospect in baseball list. Despite this, Miller appeared in only 3 games – all relief – in the postseason, and reports have surfaced of GM John Mozeliak shopping his young starter.

The switch would make sense as the Cardinals need to clear room in their rotation for the equally talented Trevor Rosenthal and the Rockies are constantly on the lookout for young pitching. The only concern is that Miller is a slight fly ball pitcher, with a fly ball percentage five points above the league average. This will cause a small spike in his home run allowed totals and, by consequence, his ERA, but shouldn’t diminish his value greatly.

Passan opined that first baseman Matt Adams could be the second major piece, which is reasonable considering Colorado started Jordan Pacheco and his .276 on base percentage for much of 2013. That being said, with Coors Field constantly forcing the Rockies to accumulate as much pitching as possible, I would expect that de facto GM Bill Geivet (Colorado’s management situation is complicated) to pursue right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez.

 

Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Carlos Martinez (62) throws against the Boston Red Sox during the sixth inning of game six of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Martinez, 22, ranked as the 38th best prospect in baseball heading into this season, according to Baseball America, and then promptly shut down both Double and Triple-A to earn a major league call up and a spot in the playoff bullpen. He pitched to a 3.08 FIP in 28.1 regular season innings, and a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 posteason innings. His stuff is electric, with a plus curve ball, an above average change and a fastball that averaged 96.7 on the gun in 2013. Although the sample size is small, he did have a 52% ground ball rate – eight points above the league average – which could play well in Coors Field. Its unclear if Mozeliak would part with both Miller and Martinez, but it’d be a huge, albeit reasonable, return for the Rockies if they did.

Trades like these almost invariably include at least one prospect, and while Rockies fan may want me to say the name Oscar Taveras, that would be unrealistic even if the Cardinals weren’t also including a pair of premium young pitchers. Instead, I’d guess that Geivet reaches for either RHP Tyrell Jenkins or LHP Rob Kaminsky. Jenkins was drafted with the 50th pick in 2012, and while he’s stats are unremarkable and he’s never pitched more than 86 1/3 innings in a season, he boasts impressive stuff. Leading with a mid to high 90′s fastball with late movement, he also flashes an above average curve and change.

The Cardinals took Kaminsky this past June with their compensation pick for the loss of free agent Kyle Lohse to the Brewers. Only 19, he’s a ways off, but he’s got two above average pitches in his fastball and curve, and more pitchability than most high schoolers. Since players can’t be traded until the August following their draft, Kaminsky would have to be included as a PTBL, in much the same way Drew Pomeranz was several years back. Both are not safe bets (which is why St. Louis would be willing to move one of them), but they could produce a big return if they pan out.

Like all trades and offseason rumors, a Tulowitzki to the Cardinals deal is unlikely to pan out, but clearly these two teams have an inherent framework to go off of. A deal along these lines could put St. Louis over the top, and finally put the Rockies on the rebuilding path. The only fear for Colorado is if this trade winds up like the Ubaldo Jimenez one from 2011, which netted the Rockies four legitimate prospects, none of whom finished 2013 in a major league uniform.