Will CJ Cron be on the trading block?

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Denver Post sportswriter Patrick Saunders with the latest episode of his Rockies Mailbag.
Ask a Rockies – or MLB – related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

CJ Cron is almost gone next year, isn’t he? It doesn’t make sense to keep him, especially when we have to go all-in on the rebuild and Michael Toglia has more playing time. The kid is our ‘first baseman of the future’ as everyone says. .

—Mike, Denver

Mike, I understand why you would assume that given that Cron will “only” earn $7.25 million next season. The idea is that the Rockies should trade Cron for pitching — if they can.

That’s what I would try to do if I was the general manager, but there are layers to that premise.

First, we can’t assume that Togila or Elehuris Montero are primed to be productive major leaguers on a day-to-day basis. The Rockies like the potential in both players, but Montero has struggled to break balls and Toglia’s strikeout rate is nearly 35 percent.

But if I was in charge of the Rockies, I would sink or swim with the Kid Rockies next season. If the Rockies surprise and become a wildcard contender in 2023, make a few trades by the deadline and go for it.

But I’m not sure the Rockies think the same way. They still want some stability in the roster and if the Rockies were to trade Cron, the roster would lack proven power, even though Kris Bryant has a rebounding season.

Second, although Cron had an All-Star season and hit 29 home runs and hit a career-high 102 runs, his home/road splits are drastic and potential business partners will take notice. At Coors Field, Crons cut .302/.354/.601 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs. On the road, Cron reduced .216/.279/.322 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs. So, I don’t know how much Cron would bring in a trade.

Hi Patrick. It’s Don de Dolores. I have a theory about the Rockies battling runners on base. My view after 50 years of training is that many, if not most hitters struggle with the “fear of failure”. I think a sports psychologist might be more helpful to them than a hitting coach. What do you think?

Thank you and have a good off-season!

– Donald Story Jr., Dolores

Well, hello Don de Delores. I had a college buddy from Dove Creek.

I think you are partly right. I think kicking in the clutch is all about confidence and mindset. But the fear of failure? I’m not sure about that. In many ways, baseball is a game of chess, and players who make it to the majors know failure well.

But there’s a saying that when players don’t hit well, they start “grabbing the bat too hard.” I really think there’s something about the idea that failure creates tension and it starts to feed on itself. Is it the fear of failure? I am not sure.

But also consider this. The Rockies have hit .325 with runners in scoring position at Coors Field this season, but are hitting .191 with RISP on the road. Without going into detail here, my theory is that the approach Colorado hitters use at home is often rewarded (bloop hits, double into the gaps, etc.) but that same approach often fails on the road.

Do Rockies coaches know that Justin Lawrence, if the automated strike zone was in play, would have retired three of the four batters he faced?

— Lévy Padilla, Littleton

Levy, I believe you’re talking about a specific round in a specific game. So it’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t know the details. I will say the Rockies believe Lawrence has made great progress this season, even if his 4.19 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 4.64 walks per nine innings don’t show it. He now has better control of his fastball and slider and it’s clear that right-handed hitters don’t like facing him because of his handgun.

Patrick, how does Connor Joe fit into the team’s plans moving forward? It looks like we have a ton of guys in the outfield who deserve playing time – Kris Bryant, Yonathan Daza, Randal Grichuk and, most recently, Sean Bouchard. I hope Joe doesn’t become the odd man out, especially with Zac Veen just a year later. Also, after his performance, Sam Hilliard must be gone, right? That .182/.280/.264 slash isn’t going to cut it.

—Mark, Arvada

Mark, Joe’s season ended with him on the injured list and I can’t help but wonder if he played injured for much of the second half of the season. He never said it, and neither did the Rockies, but his drop in performance has been dramatic.

As things stand, Joe will have a hard time making the roster next spring, especially given the way Bouchard and Yonathan Daza have been playing for the past month or so. Also, Kris Bryant will be back, and a center fielder who could take the lead is near the top of Colorado’s offseason wish list.

As for Hilliard, I’d be surprised if he’s still on the 40-player roster by next season. The Rockies gave him a lot of chances.

Patrick, how is Scott Oberg? I loved watching him pitch. Any improvements in his blood clots? Thanks.

—Bennett, Denver

Bennett, I’m glad you asked the question. This prompted me to call Oberg.

Here’s what he told me: “I haven’t pitched and I’m back home (in Sewell, NJ) with my wife and two daughters. All is well. I have occasional doctor’s appointments in Denver and everything has gone well for me.

FYI, the Rockies have an option on Oberg’s $8 million contract for 2023. Nothing is official yet, but I can’t imagine the Rockies choosing that option. But, in my opinion, Oberg would be a great addition to the organization as a pitching coach or coordinator. He is smart, knows the game and is an excellent communicator.

What are the Rockies’ plans for Dinelson Lamet? I think he looks pretty good since he joined us. He had a 3.00 ERA in relief for us before that Dodgers game. We need help from the bullpen and he could be a steady hand there.

—Ron, Parker

Ron, as you probably know, the Rockies took a flyer on Lamet, the former Padres right-hander. He’s been an unstable pitcher with the ability to pull batters out, but also prone to fits of insanity. A look at his stats with the Rockies shows that. In 18 games (18 innings), he has a 4.50 ERA and averages 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He also walked an average of 5.0 steps per nine.

I don’t know if Lamet provides “a steady hand,” as we saw Saturday night at Dodger Stadium when he walked three batters in a row. But he has a great arm and he certainly has potential.

He is under Rockies control for 2023 and will be eligible for arbitration for the final time. He avoided arbitration last year by signing a one-year, $4.775 million contract with San Diego and was later traded to the Brewers on August 1. But the Brewers designated him for an assignment on Aug. 5 and the Rockies claimed him.

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