Do the Rockies Have the Most Reliable Starter on the Trade Market?

In what could be a rather thin trade market for starting pitching, the Rockies may have the most reliable arm available with Cal Quantrill.

DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 22: Starting pitcher Cal Quantrill #47 of the Colorado Rockies throws against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Coors Field on June 22, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

With only five teams more than 7.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot in their league, the remaining 25 clubs in Major League Baseball are thinking hard about the postseason on June 29.

Several teams on the fringe will not go on a 16-4 run like the New York Mets. A distant 5.0 games behind the third National League Wild Card on June 3, the Mets shot up six spots from the 13th best record in their league to seventh-best, one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

That surge will more than likely take starting pitchers like Luis Severino (3.29 ERA), Sean Manaea (3.89 ERA) and even veteran left-hander Jose Quintana (4.58 ERA) off the trade market.

Of those five clubs deemed to have no chance to reach the playoffs according to FanGraphs, only the Los Angeles Angels are higher than 0.0% at 0.4%.

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The Angels’ loss of Patrick Sandoval to Tommy John surgery removes one of their best chips, as well as one of the better candidates to get moved at the July 30 deadline.

The same is true for Jesús Luzardo of the Miami Marlins, who was long viewed as one of the most likely trade candidates, bringing great value with two more seasons of club control. His placement on the 60-day IL with a lower back issue means he will not be healthy in time for a trade.

Tyler Anderson (2.73 ERA) and Griffin Canning (4.72) represent other options for the Angels to deal. Based on some of the odd decisions this club has made over the last few seasons regarding their roster, it wouldn’t be a shock if they added soon in support of their current four-game winning streak. Tied for the third-most wins in the AL since June 3, there’s no telling if owner Arte Moreno’s squad will pack in it despite their place in the standings.

The Marlins are clearly selling as witnessed when they shipped Luis Arraez to San Diego in May. Their most experienced arm is 26-year-old Trevor Rogers. He’s pitched to a 3.29 ERA over his last seven starts, but he’s still an unknown as witnessed by his 5.12 ERA since a breakout campaign in 2021 that saw him selected to the All-Star Game that summer.

Then there’s the Oakland Athletics rotation. Currently featuring four pitchers who began the year with less than a year of service time, their veteran is JP Sears, who has all of 60 big league starts under his belt to tune of a 4.63 ERA in his two years of service time.

That leaves the two worst teams in their respective league: the Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies.

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Chicago has a pair of intriguing trade candidates in Erick Fedde and Garrett Crochet, whose physicality makes him look like the second coming of Chris Sale on the mound.

But the best trade chip in June may be Cal Quantrill of the Rockies. For the first time since Ubaldo Jiménez was throwing the only no-hitter in franchise history and starting for the NL side in the All-Star Game in 2010, Colorado is legitimately fielding phone calls for someone in their rotation.

Before options like Jack Flaherty of the Detroit Tigers, Zach Eflin of the Tampa Bay Rays and Yusei Kikuchi of the Toronto Blue Jays are deemed no longer necessary for their team’s run to October, here’s why Quantrill could be the most intriguing option for contending clubs right now:

The Downside

Crochet has legitimately been one of the best starting pitchers in the American League this year. Even without the injuries to former Cy Young Award winners Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber, Crochet would be in that conversation.

Yet, even with two more years of club control after this season, there’s a major concern surrounding the 25-year-old: he’s already thrown more innings in 2024 than his previous four seasons as a big leaguer.

Without an opportunity to make his professional debut in the minors after being selected 11th overall during the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB Draft, he debuted in the Majors just three months later. Crochet stayed in the White Sox bullpen the past three years. Tommy John surgery at the start of 2022 limited his innings even further.

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This massive increase in innings could be a red flag for teams who would not only be paying Chicago for the rotation upgrade this season, but two more years of club control. Coupled with his arbitration figures being incredibly low due to his track record as a reliever, the asking price could be quite high despite the concerns.

The downside on Fedde should be lower than Crochet considering his experience as a starting pitcher. The 31-year-old started 88 games with the Washington Nationals from 2017-22 before breaking out with NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2023, winning their version of the Cy Young Award.

Questions about Quantrill center around his expected statistics this season. An xFIP of 4.46 suggests he’s benefitted from luck, something atypical for Rockies’ pitchers. There’s a BABIP of .280 that’s below the MLB average of .288, and he’s stranding runners 79.5% of the time, third-highest in the NL for those with as many as his 16 starts.

So, it’s reasonable to think Quantrill has not been as good as his 3.50 ERA suggests and a regression is bound to happen.

If you prefer FanGraphs’ formula of pitching WAR, which uses fielding independent metrics over complete on-field results, Quantrill (1.0 fWAR) isn’t even the best pitcher in his own rotation. That honor goes to Ryan Feltner (1.2 fWAR) and his 6.02 ERA. Using Baseball Reference’s version, Quantrill is unquestionably the ace, and second-best in the entire NL, with 3.2 bWAR. (Crochet and Fedde are tied for third-best in the AL at 3.8 bWAR.)

Colorado is on pace for 108 losses due to their 27-54 (.333) record. Somehow, they are 8-8 in starts made by Quantrill. The club is 5-10 for next best in their rotation, Austin Gomber. Chicago, even worse at 23-61, is 7-10 when Crochet ascends the bump and 7-10 behind Fedde.

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Are these meaningless results? Or could it be some indication that warriors behind a stronger leader fare better in battle?

The Upside

Downside aside, Crochet has the highest upside of the three pitchers being discussed. His 12.40 K/9 is tops among all starters (min. 60 innings). He’s also the youngest at 25 years old.

If you can get past the worry about a second Tommy John surgery after the massive increase in innings this year, a team might even consider him a good candidate to extend through 2028. Crochet would get guaranteed money for the next two seasons — more than what he’ll make in arbitration — to give up two years of free agency, putting him out on the open market for the first time in his age-30 season.

Could be the perfect formula. (And no, Scott Boras is not part of this equation. Crochet’s agency is CAA Sports.)

Fedde may be the second coming of Miles Mikolas, who also pitched overseas after a lackluster start to his MLB career. When Mikolas returned, he was an All-Star in his first season back in the States and posted a 3.46 ERA through his first four campaigns with the St. Louis Cardinals. Were the same fate to befall the former top-100 prospect, no one would be surprised.

His 91 strikeouts pales in comparison to Crochet’s 130, second to only Tyler Glasnow’s 135 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Compared to Quantrill’s 64 strikeouts (tied for 84th-most by a starter), Fedde is right in the middle of those extremes.

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At $7.5 million for next season, Fedde provides a lot of surplus value. Quantrill is making $6.55 million in his penultimate year of arbitration, suggesting he’ll be more costly than Fedde in 2025, especially after the success he’s having in Colorado.

Quantrill may not be as overpowering with his strikeout numbers like Crochet and Fedde, but he is rather consistent. His 10 quality starts on the season are tied for fifth-most in the NL. That figure is matched by Crochet and is two more than Fedde. 

For as often as Coors Field is held against hitters, one would think that pitchers receive the benefit of the doubt just as frequently. This, much to the consternation of anyone who has pitched half their games in Denver, has never been the case.

The 29-year-old veteran of six seasons is not a homegrown product of the Rockies. Quantrill didn’t have the benefit of experiencing altitude in Triple-A with either Albuquerque or Colorado Springs. Rather, it was a trade this offseason from the Cleveland Guardians that forced him to perform at 5,280 ft above sea level. (And with the largest outfield area in all of the Majors, to boot.)

Despite the difficult hand he was dealt, he has managed to excel. 

Quantrill’s 3.50 ERA is the lowest by a starter coming over to the Rockies in their first 16 starts of a season with the franchise since the club played at Mile High Stadium.

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Marvin Freeman (3.07 ERA, 1994) and Armando Reynoso (3.03 ERA, 1993) each came over from Atlanta and managed to find success at altitude long before the public was aware of the challenges lurking in the Centennial State.

Since then, no one — not even those who received large contracts in free agency like Bill Swift, Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle or even 2009 All-Star Jason Marquis — has figured out how to be as successful as Quantrill in their first stint in purple pinstripes.

“This is a tough park to pitch in,” he’s said. “So, why don’t we lean into the things that we can do to try and either mitigate that or things that are positive.”

Challenge the Canadian, and he will accept it. And excel.

In six starts at Coors Field, Quantrill has a 3.09 ERA. Over a full season, that mark would be fifth-best in the 30 seasons Colorado has played on the corner of 20th and Blake.

The Harsh Reality

Will the Rockies deal away a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, something they haven’t done since 2011 with the Jiménez deal?

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Could Quantrill’s selection to the All-Star Game further reduce the likelihood of some swap?

When Elias Díaz was chosen as the first catcher to ever represent Colorado in the Midsummer Classic, it put the front office in a precarious situation just weeks before the trade deadline.

Then, when he hit the go-ahead home run that gave the National League their first win since 2012, earning him MVP honors (also a first for the franchise), it became almost a foregone conclusion that the Rockies would not be dealing their most valuable chip. Five others were sent packing for prospects, but not Díaz.

Just as Quantrill is heating up along with the temperature, the Rockies are cooling down. Over his last nine starts, he’s 6-2 with a 2.48 ERA, tied for fifth-most in the NL in wins and seventh-best in ERA. The Rockies, however, are 6-18 in June, worst among any squad this month.

Already 23.0 games back in the NL West of the first-place Dodgers and 14.0 games behind the final Wild Card spot, the worst first-half in team history should make a trade of Quantrill about as likely as a deal for Fedde or Crochet.

Nevertheless, we are talking about the only club in all of MLB to not make a single deal at the trade deadline in 2022. 

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Chicago has a new front office and is undoubtedly rebuilding. By dealing both Crochet and Fedde — frankly, there’s not a single player that’s untouchable on the South Side — the White Sox can begin to focus their attention on contention in 2026 or 2027, at the soonest.

Colorado, who has yet to have a winning season with GM Bill Schmidt at the helm since his predecessor Jeff Bridich left in April of 2021, would love to regain some relevance without having to admit three consecutive 90-plus loss campaigns — and possibly two 100-loss seasons in a row — constitute a rebuild.

For an owner who thought they could chase .500 ahead of a season that brought 103 losses, it’s not unreasonable to think the Rockies top brass view the 2025 rotation as their best since 2018, their last playoff year. Pairing Quantrill with a healthy Kyle Freeland, Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela and Austin Gomber could bring them back to relevance.

Quantrill, who has a career 3.79 ERA in 660.2 innings, fits the needs of many postseason contenders. His two postseason starts with the Guardians in 2022 are also a bonus for inquiring clubs. But the Rockies aren’t known for selling when a player’s stock is high. Or selling at all, for that matter.

Are the times changing in Denver? Is there truly a package of prospects that will allow owner Dick Monfort and company to accept the battle has been lost, but the war is yet to be decided?

The best answer any Rockies fan can hope for after last summer’s flurry of trades is a hearty maybe.

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If you are curious where Quantrill could land if traded, check out our trade landing spots article.