What Are The Rockies Doing With Dexter Fowler?

The Colorado Rockies have been active in the hot stove league although they have yet to make a trade or sign a free agent. They have holes to fill, particularly at second base, having lost Mark Ellis to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and on the mound. The Rockies made a run at Jamey Carroll — who played at Coors Field in 2006 and 2007 —  to fill the hole at second but Carroll signed with the Minnesota Twins to play shortstop.

Reports out of Denver have the Rockies aggressively pursuing a trade for Martin Prado of the Atlanta Braves to be their everyday second baseman. So far, the Rockies have offered outfielder Seth Smith for Prado but the Braves apparently want more. Two names floated to be included in a Prado-to-Rockies deal are rookie outfielder Charlie Blackmon or minor league outfielder Tim Wheeler but the Rockies have said no, so far. The Rockies are also one of eight teams who’ve expressed interest in former Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore. The Rockies would move Sizemore to left field, to make it easier on his oft-injured knees. Although reports have not been specific on this, I assume a Sizemore-to-left move would then shift Gold Glove outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to right.

Through all of these rumors, the Rockies have made it clear that center fielder Dexter Fowler is off-limits. Not available. Ring a different doorbell. Why? Why would the Rockies refuse to trade Fowler if it meant getting Prado or another necessary piece?

I don’t know why.

Fowler debuted with the Rockies late in 2008 and has played 130 games or so in each of the last three seasons. His career slash to date is .262/.355/.412 for a wOBA of .339 and wRC+ of 99. He walks a lot but strikes out more, leading to a .54 BB/K ratio. Fowler spent time in AAA in 2010 and 2011 after struggling in the first half in both seasons. Fowler did have a nice second half in 2011, posting a wOBA of .392 in 271 at bats. The question with Fowler has been whether he can sustain that kind of offensive production over the course of a season.

Moreover, none of the defensive metrics has particularly good things to say about Fowler’s play in center field. His career Defensive Runs Saved is -17 and his UZR/150 is -11.2 over more than 3,000 innings. Granted, Coors Field isn’t the easiest outfield in the world, but that hasn’t stopped Carlos Gonzalez from saving 24 runs and posting a 4.6 UZR/150 over more than 3,000 innings in left, center and right combined.

And what about Seth Smith? He had an excellent year in 2011 as the Rockies regular right fielder. He had a slash of .284/.347/.483 for a wOBA of .357 and a wRC+ of 115. Smith’s defense falls somewhere in between Fowler’s and Gonzalez’s, according to DRS and UZR/150, over 2,500 innings split fairly evenly between center, left and right.

Gonzalez and Fowler will be in their age 26 seasons in 2012; Smith in his age 29. While Gonzalez is signed to a lucrative long-term deal, both Smith and Fowler are first-year arbitration-eligible heading into 2012.  Why protect Fowler and make Smith available for trade? If the Braves want more than Smith, why not offer Fowler? He’s younger, likely has a higher ceiling than Smith and is an Atlanta native. He’s also primarily a center fielder, which is apparently the Braves’ focus.

Gonzalez is more than capable of handling center field for the Rockies. Smith can man the post in right. And if the Rockies are able to nab Sizemore, he fits in perfectly in left. Charlie Blackmon, who is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured foot, is expected to be ready by spring training and to be the Rockies’ fourth outfielder in 2012.

Sweetening the pie for Prado makes a lot of sense for the Rockies. Until they acquired Mark Ellis in early July, second base was a black hole offensively and defensively with Jonathan Herrera and Eric Young, Jr. Prado would be a substantial upgrade. If it takes Fowler to get Prado, the Rockies would still come out ahead overall.

Perhaps the Rockies are saying Fowler is unavailable to drive up his trade value. I suppose that’s possible. And if it works, good for the Rockies because Fowler is a player worth trading if the Rockies can acquire Prado or another player would provide a significant upgrade at second base.



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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


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Friedman
Member
Friedman
4 years 8 months ago

Seth Smith has HUGE platoon splits…can’t hit lefties to save his life

AndyS
Guest
AndyS
4 years 8 months ago

He also got pretty lucky with BABIP last year IIRC.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

he’s also never been given a real chance, after demonstrating no such issues in the minors

black_knight101
Guest
black_knight101
4 years 8 months ago

that’s actually incorrect. Smith never hit for power in the minors against lefties, and he hasn’t hit for power in the majors in the chances that he’s had.

Awesome
Guest
Awesome
4 years 8 months ago

except of course in 2009

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

yup, in 2009 smith posted a .376 wOBA against lefties

Mitch
Guest
Mitch
4 years 8 months ago

he’s done nothing but produce whenever he plays. I have no clue why the Rox would have to add anything to Smith in order to get Prado.

Tim E
Guest
Tim E
4 years 8 months ago

Fowler’s second half also coincided with a noticeable mechanical adjustment with the addition of a leg kick. Not saying it is completely sustainable, but rather it didn’t come from just plain luck.

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 8 months ago

I think the thinking is that 1. Fowler has a higher ceiling than Seth Smith and 2. Fowler’s production (and potential) would be harder to replace.

Even in 2011 which was kind of a ‘meh’ season for Fowler, he still gave the Rockies a .363 OBP out of the leadoff position and as you mentioned, following being called up from AAA, Fowler’s second half of the season was tremendous. There’s hope that he can build on that.

griggs
Guest
griggs
4 years 8 months ago

>>>Why would the Rockies refuse to trade Fowler if it meant getting Prado or another necessary piece? <<<

Probably the same reason Atlanta doesn't trade Freeman for say Spilbourghs. One is a potential star player and the other is a good(ok very good in Prado's case) utility player.

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 8 months ago

Honestly, Prado fits the teams needs perfectly. He can play average to above average defense at 3b and 2b (both holes), he is a high-contact hitter who bats from the right side, and would be a perfect #2 hitter in between Fowler and CarGo.

The biggest reason that dealing Fowler for Prado doesn’t make sense is that it’s much more likely to just be a lateral move. Take ~3 WAR out of CF and gain ~3 WAR at 2b.

Given Smith’s meh defense and good-not-great offense, it’s likely that Blackmon and a solid right-handed platoon partner (Andrew Brown?) could meet or exceed Smith’s performance…

Also for the record, given how much UZR hates Coors outfielders, I’m not convinced Fowler is as bad as his numbers suggest. Not saying he’s necessarily a positive at defense, but there’s definitely something flukey in how advanced defensive stats handle Coors’ outfield.

griggs
Guest
griggs
4 years 8 months ago

I agree Prado would be good in Colorado if he can return to his pre 2011 form and Smith is a fair comparison. Fowler is still a blue chip on the trade market, it would be silly to trade that for Prado.

ecp
Guest
ecp
4 years 8 months ago

Freddie Freeman already has a better major league track record than Dexter Fowler. I don’t get the comp.

griggs
Guest
griggs
4 years 8 months ago

I think they both project to be similarily valued players. I see Fowler as a good defensive CF hitting with a slash line like 270/370/465 stealing 30 bases and hitting 12-15 HRs a year. I see Freeman hitting 280/375/500 with 35 HRs and 110 RBIs.

To me these are similarly valued players but opinions and other circumstances can differ. Fowler was rushed to the majors so his numbers are not indicative of how good he could be and he is a good defensive player regardless of those so called advanced defensive outfield stats.

Awesome
Guest
Awesome
4 years 8 months ago

Fowler who was on pace for 93 XBH after adding that leg kick in late July his .901 OPS from then on is intriguing enough to not want to move him for a role player in Prado.

mister_rob
Guest
mister_rob
4 years 8 months ago

Never seen so much excitement over a not so young middle inf/util man coming off a bad year

Why is it fact that prado is worth more than fowler would be?

Is it really that hard to find a 2b with a sub700 ops? I’m sure they can find a non-tenderee to do that and not give up anything

GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
Guest
GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
4 years 8 months ago

Prado’s career line of .293/.341/.434 combined with positional versatility probably has something to do with it.

Undocorkscrew
Guest
Undocorkscrew
4 years 8 months ago

One season with a sub-.700 OPS……..

Awesome
Guest
Awesome
4 years 8 months ago

says Garret Atkins

GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
Guest
GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
4 years 8 months ago

Can’t see the Braves wanting Fowler, when they already have a much better Fowler in Michael Bourn.

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 8 months ago

They have Bourn for one more year only. The Braves have expressed interest in adding a CF.

GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
Guest
GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
4 years 8 months ago

Why would they add a CF with similar skills who is only a couple years younger and will cost about the same?

Might as well just keep Bourn, a superior hitter, fielder, and base runner.

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 8 months ago

…because they only have Bourn for one more season?

Additionally, I believe technically the Braves were asking for a minor league CF – someone to take over in 2013.

Undocorkscrew
Guest
Undocorkscrew
4 years 8 months ago

Bourn being a Boras client, I don’t see the Braves signing him to an extension. This organization has never really valued speedy defensive wiz’s, at least not enough to hand out high-dollar extensions.

GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
Guest
GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat
4 years 8 months ago

I wouldn’t think Bourn would be a $10M+/yr guy, but I guess the Braves have become more thrifty in recent times.

Still, Fowler will start getting paid big in ’13, too. Doesn’t seem like a lot of difference.

Ira
Guest
Ira
4 years 8 months ago

Why don’t they give Chris Nelson a shot at 2nd?

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 8 months ago

Generally because Jim Tracy enjoys managing like an asshole, and specifically because Chris Nelson hasn’t quite succeeded much in his trials…

Ira
Guest
Ira
4 years 8 months ago

“Trials” – they’ve barely given him an opportunity to succeed, mostly because of your first point.

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 8 months ago

This.

Resolution
Guest
Resolution
4 years 8 months ago

@ Ira: Bingo.

razor
Guest
razor
4 years 8 months ago

This is absolutely correct. Jim Tracy really is terrible. It’s good to see that someone else is on board with this. Good organizational men don’t always make good managers. Just reading his name again sends chills. I need at least three more months before I can muster up some additional Jim Tracy antidote for myself.

Lodo Bro
Guest
Lodo Bro
4 years 8 months ago

If Fowler hadn’t had that second half I’d say send him off. However, he looked very good after getting called back up and adding the leg kick.

Coors field metrics are always a bit off and Fowler is a very good fielder for the most part.

He doesn’t seem to be a great base stealer though which is a shame. I expect the Rockies to try to add some muscle/weight to the kid. He is a triples machine as well and seems to have a good attitude.

That said I’m not super excited about Prado. EY or Nelson if given enough AB’s could probably be just as good as Prado at 2B. Of course Prado could jump in and fill in the Ian Stewart disaster.

Seth isn’t ever given a chance. I second the Tracy is an idiot motion

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 8 months ago

Was going to comment about his massive home/road range splits. Not sure how a guy magically goes from average at worst on the road to Jason Bay at home. Not to mention that if you average out the three year span he gets murdered by a ludicrous -15 in 2009. I’ll roll with the aggregate ratings and the FSR with a guy who has those kinds of tools.

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 8 months ago

I’m highly skeptical about the “reports” of the Braves interest in Smith. Do they need another lefty hitter? Um, no, actually they’re already lefty heavy with Prado. Of all the mentions of this deal I’ve seen they’ve all been pure speculation by some writer somewhere, or a note that Braves officials “like” Smith. So what, I like vanilla ice cream, but I wouldn’t trade Martin Prado for a gallon of it. And the Charlie Blackmon mention is just gratuitous geography-shopping. There is no way the Braves see him or Wheeler as a CFer. Dexter Fowler is the deal or there is no deal. And the Rocks are smart to pass.

ofMontreal
Guest
ofMontreal
4 years 8 months ago

Well, the Rockies could tell the Braves to kick a pitcher and then we can talk Fowler.

To reiterate above stuff, Fowler is a quality starting CF who could be high quality. Prado is a solid 2B and way way below average for the bat LF. What is hard to understand? Actually what is hard to understand is this Braves negotiating in the papers thing. Which I don’t put much stock in because they never operate that way. The deal with the Indians is much more their style.

shred the gnar
Guest
shred the gnar
4 years 8 months ago

“Prado is a solid 2B and way way below average for the bat LF. ”

Prado 2010
wOBA .352
wRC+ 118

If Prado was a LFer in 2011 with 2010 numbers he would have ranked 7th in the MLB in wOBA and 8th in wRC+. If you factor in regression you can presume at least a top ten MLB LFer for a ceiling and probably middle of the pack if he’s reasonably worse than that.

Essentially, I feel like a player with that fairly conservative projection is worth a Dexter Fowler.

Matty Brown
Member
Member
Matty Brown
4 years 8 months ago

Fowler just has the air of a toolsy starish player. I have always been a big fan. I can’t help but see him as a .350 wOBA hitter, with average centre field defense, and 30 steals through his prime years (the next 4 of his career).

As we all know, that is an incredibly valuable commodity considering he is just now entering arbitration.

Mark
Guest
Mark
4 years 8 months ago

UZR hates Coors Field. Period. And to suggest Seth Smith is a better fielder than Fowler is to massively miss the point. He just isn’t. It’s not even close.

Fowler’s fielding figures have been depressed by 1) Coors and 2) his extreme range. He’s penalised for the ability to get close to balls most fielders wouldn’t. He’s certainly not flawless, and isn’t an elite fielder, yet, but he is destroyed by UZR more than any other player I can think of.

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