The Rockies need to steal a page from the Mets master plan
After Wednesday’s loss to the Mets at Coors Field, the Rockies now have only nine games remaining this season. It’ll be interesting to see how the front office approaches things once the 2019 campaign comes to a merciful end.
I’ve laid out much of my thoughts in recent articles on how the club should approach this offseason. Only time will tell if Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich elects to change the way he approaches this offseason or if he does anything splashy to change the future of this franchise.
One thing I’m definitely now sure of, though, is that the Rockies can take a page out of what the Mets did this season and in the past. It’s not often you use those same words in a sentence. “Take a page out of what the Mets did this season.” Actually, you’ve probably never heard those words in the same sentence. But for the example I’m about to give, it’s never been more true.
I’ve written about it on other occasions. Others have written about it, as well. It’s more clear to me than ever after watching the Mets this season, the Rockies absolutely need to find their first baseman of the future. The Rockies need to do what the Mets have done with Pete Alonso: Find their starting first baseman for the next five-plus seasons.
The Mets stumbled into a goldmine with their rookie first baseman. Thus far this season, Alonso has crushed the baseball to the tune of a .264 average, a league-leading 49 home runs (second most by a rookie all-time), 111 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .362. Alonso, dubbed “The Polar Bear,” should be the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2019. He’s been something really special to watch all season. This is something the Rockies need to look to replicate to a certain extent.
Will the Rockies find a caliber of a player to what Alonso has been this year? Probably not. After all, those numbers from Alonso are from another planet. But the Rockies can find something pretty close most likely, which should be the teams goal in 2020.
This past offseason and spring training, the Mets had a huge decision to make. The year before, they had players such as Jay Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez, Dominic Smith and Wilmer Flores at first base. Some of those players were aging. Others were underperforming and not giving the team a lot of power production out of the first base position. The team had to decide: Do we play our prospect early on and give him the keys to the position right away? Or, do we plug in another veteran or player that has underwhelmed there to start the season?
Alonso helped his cause with a great spring training, but the team decided to give him the keys to the position right out of the gate. And, boy, did it help the team this season.
The Mets are four games out of the final National League wild card spot. Without Alonso, I would argue the Mets would be 10 games or so out right now. Again, this is an extreme example of how a talented, young, power-hitting first baseman can vault your team. But, it’s still something the Rockies can look at as a way to vault the team into success moving forward.
The Rockies this past offseason tabbed veteran Daniel Murphy as the team’s starting first baseman when the club signed him to a two-year deal. Murphy had a lot of intangibles coming into Colorado in 2019. He played on some pretty good playoff teams the past few seasons. But with his age, power shortage and lack of experience at first base, it’s led to a lot of fans and media members to scratch their head a little.
To make matters worse, Murphy was a flop statistically this season, as well. So far, Murphy has a .281 average, 13 home runs and 77 runs batted in. While these numbers aren’t terrible, they aren’t major league starting first baseman numbers, especially when you consider that Murphy was the team’s top free-agent splash last year.
Yes, he missed some time this season which hurt some of these numbers, as well. But considering his age, track record of sub-30 home run seasons and lack of experience at the position, what did anyone expect? After you calculate all of this together, you once again realize that the Rockies front office basically put a Band-Aid on first base.
That’s what they’ve been doing since 2005.
Since Todd Helton hit 32 home runs in ’05, the Rockies have not had a first baseman hit 30 or more home runs. Helton still had some really good seasons average-wise and some decent power-hitting seasons following his 2005 season. But, it doesn’t change the fact that a team playing in a hitter-friendly park has basically had second base/centerfield type power production from a power position for the past 14 seasons.
It’s time the Rockies get some more power production, mixed with a decent average hitter, plus longevity out of the first baseman position at 20th and Blake. The good news is that the Rockies may already have their solution in the team’s organization for both the short- and long-term.
For the short-term, it’s simple: Cut or trade Murphy this offseason and play Ryan McMahon at first base next year. So far this season, McMahon has hit for a decent average .253. He’s also hit 22 home runs. This is while playing games at second base and also coming off the bench for spurts this season. If you play McMahon every day at first base, he should belt 30-plus home runs and hit for a .240 to .270 average each season. Plus, he’s only 24 years old. He’s the guy that needs to be your everyday first baseman next season. To be honest, he should have been the team’s everyday first baseman this season.
For the long-term future at first base for the Rockies, it could also be McMahon. But most likely, it will be the team’s first-round pick from the 2019 draft, first baseman Michael Toglia out of UCLA. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound switch-hitting power first baseman will be a sight to see at Coors Field when he makes his big-league debut within the next few seasons. Toglia will bring a ton of power and a decent average to the first-base position for the Rockies. Maybe even more so than McMahon, which is a very scary thought.
The bottom line is the Rockies have some power hitting, young first-base options for the years ahead, so the time is now to make the transition. No more 20 home run seasons with a good average at first base.
Colorado needs to see 30 to 50 home runs coming out of that position at Coors Field. It’s something the Mets did this past year, transitioning to Pete Alonso, and look how it’s carried them this season. The Rockies need to make that similar transition in 2020.