On a day full of trades, the Colorado Rockies might have just pulled off the biggest headscratcher of them all by trading outfielder Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later to Houston for outfielder Brandon Barnes and pitcher Jordan Lyles.
Dexter Fowler has never lived up to the star potential that he has flashed from time to time, something that has been a source of great frustration for Rockies management. Apparently it got so frustrating that they just up and decided to dump him for two spare parts. Fowler isn't a star, but he has been a very solid player, posting OBPs of .363 or higher and fWARs of 2.2 or higher each of the last three seasons. That is a player a lot of teams could use that should have been able to return a nice player or two, but Colorado instead settled for a reserve outfielder and a back-end starter.
The Rockies could always use more starting pitching, but adding Lyles isn't going to solve anything. In 377 career innings, he has a 6.18 K/9, 5.35 ERA and 4.54 FIP. He is only going into his age 23 season, so there is still plenty of time for him to realize his potential, but that is not something the Rockies are known to help young pitchers do. As for Barnes, he is nothing more than a defensive specialist who should battle for a bench spot.
What is even more strange from the Rockies perspective is that this actually creates another hole in their lineup. The Rox have already spent much of the off-season trying to find a way to replace Todd Helton at first base. Now they can add a hole to their outfield, too. Heck, it might even be two if they decide to move Michael Cuddyer to first base (which they should do, by the way). Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon could be used to fill one of those holes, but that still leaves a big hole in their lineup. There aren't a lot of teams that can lose a leadoff hitter with a .365 career OBP and not take a hit to their offensive production.
The only way that dumping Fowler might make sense if if it is viewed as a salary dump. Colorado only had about $9 million to spend this offseason, but Fowler was slated to earn $7.85 million in 2014, so they now have considerably more spending ability since Lyles and Barnes are both pre-arbitration players. If that translates to Colorado making a run at Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli or Shin-Soo Choo, then the trade might be somewhat worthwhile. Yet it still seems like the Rockies could've gotten a vastly better return for Fowler and still unloaded his entire salary. This really is one of those trades that makes you wonder if the GM even bothered to call more than one team… or was drunk… or both.
This deal is even a bit odd from Houston's side as well. Lyles and Barnes weren't going to be part of their future, but with Fowler two years from free agency, he isn't likely to be either. With their minimal budget, they can easily afford Fowler these next two years, but it remains to be seen if they will be willing to extend him before he hits free agency. With their TV deal in limbo and no certainty as to when they will be truly ready to contend, getting Fowler now seems a bit premature. The only way it makes sense, other than the Astros just wanting to be a bit more competitive, is that they are hoping they can be the ones to get Fowler to blossom and then flip him for a much more substantial bounty of prospects. Considering that Fowler, like most Rockies, has been considerably less productive away from Coors Field (.329 career wOBA on the road versus .365 at home), that seems like a losing bet. Then again, you can't really blame Jeff Luhnow for jumping on this offer as the talent and potential in the deal is heavily lopsided in the Astros favor.